E911 – What’s Your Emergency?
Anyone who’s experienced an emergency understands the importance of our 9-1-1 system. For a business full of employees and customers, it’s even more so; safety is paramount. The ability to automatically tie a physical location to a phone number (since the caller might not know the exact address or be too distraught to recall it correctly) saves emergency responders time when time is of the essence. As one Commio customer in the financial services industry recently noted, “we can’t even open our doors if the location information tied to our numbers isn’t accurate.”
That works great for landlines, where physical lines end at a physical address, but newer cloud and mobile technology isn’t as simple. The scenario was first complicated by the addition of mobile phones that can be, well, almost anywhere. (More than 80% of emergency calls now come from a mobile phone!)
Your mobile carrier, cell towers, WiFi, and other technology work together to help resolve these cases, which is called “Enhanced” or “E911.” The location isn’t typically exact, however (up to 300 meters), and it might take several minutes to transmit; sometimes it can provide only the cell tower location. Tracking also requires the emergency center to have the latest technology. That’s why the operator will always ask the caller to confirm their location, if possible.
E911 from the Cloud
For internet-based calls (i.e., VoIP, or “calling from the cloud”), where phone numbers aren’t necessarily tied to a physical address and can be ported from one person or business to the next – often multiple times – the location of each number must be updated with their provider and double-checked.
Your cell phone provider will usually tie your home address to your number, and you can check or update it directly on your phone with these instructions.
Your VoIP calls, whether they’re delivered to a landline or cell phone, can also take advantage of E911 through your provider. For example, when you purchase or port a new phone number (DID) to Commio, or move it to another location, our E911 solution allows you to (re)set an address for each E911-enabled phone number via our portal, as shown below. When 9-1-1 is dialed, it routes like a VoIP call to thinQ, then we route it to our E911 provider, who then sends it to the correct Public Safety Answering Point (or “PSAP” – that is, your local emergency call center).
Don’t Forget to Test
Once you’ve provisioned E911 on your VoIP lines and entered the physical locations for each, it’s a good idea to test them periodically to confirm that the correct information is shared. Commio customers can call our test line* (do not call the real 911 PSAP to test – those folks are busy!). The aforementioned financial company says they test every one of their enabled numbers monthly.
Keeping employees and customers safe is every company’s top priority, and E911 is a critical component. (In fact, VoIP service providers and unified communications partners are required to have E911-enabled numbers.) Provisioning numbers for E911 and maintaining the accuracy of their location may be a bit more work than 911 “back in the day,” but fortunately a good provider such as Commio can make it pretty easy. If you have questions about E911, our experts would be happy to provide a no-obligation consultation.
*Please don’t use the test option until you’re sure that the number(s) are E911-enabled, as there is a fee for unprovisioned numbers.