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Tips about Voice over Internet Protocol 911 calls

Kent Fire Department officials offer tips about calling 911 through Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). - COURTESY GRAPHIC
Kent Fire Department officials offer tips about calling 911 through Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
— image credit: COURTESY GRAPHIC

With the use of computers and the Internet so common in our everyday lives, being able to make phone calls using them makes sense, and many people do exactly that using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Using VoIP, a caller uses a microphone and speaker hooked to a computer, or attaches a phone to the computer line to make calls in a more traditional manner. Regardless of which system you use, the phone call is routed over the Internet, bypassing the normal phone lines.

What about using VoIP to call 911?

According to Valley Communications (Valley Com), the local 911 call receiving center and dispatcher of police and fire departments in south King County, VoIP can be used to call 911, but there are some limitations and unique properties to using it, according to a Kent Fire Department Regional Fire Authority media release.

• If I call 911 using VoIP in south King County, does Valley Com receive it the same way as other types of 911 calls?

Yes. A VoIP call is no different than other emergency calls in this respect.

• Does caller information show up at Valley Com?

Yes, though the subscriber is responsible for keeping information current. If the caller changes residence, they must update the information with their VoIP provider. With traditional home phones, the phone company updates the information.

• Can 911 calls get misdirected when using VoIP?

In rare instances this may happen, but the vast majority of calls using VoIP are received by the correct call center.

• Can Valley Com call VoIP users back?

Yes. All the information registered to the address, including the phone number is displayed for the 911 call receiver. Again, the information has to be entered by the caller ahead of time and if entered incorrectly, can delay an emergency response.

• Are there any disadvantages to VoIP?

During any type of power outage or Internet service provider interruption, computers may not work, preventing the VoIP from making calls. Also, according to King County E911, not all VoIP phones are capable of calling 911 and may receive a “service not available” message.

Before giving up your home phone for VoIP, consider these limitations.

For more information on VoIP and its use in King County, go to kingcounty.gov/safety/e911 and click on left hand “911 and VoIP Phones” tab.

 

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