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VoIP and E911: When Every Second Counts

April 22, 2014 by

You’re working late in the back corner on the 10th floor of your office building. Suddenly, you feel the warning signs of a heart attack. You are alone, so you dial 911 as you begin to feel dizzy. The 911 dispatcher answers just as you lose consciousness. As a result, you cannot pinpoint your precise location in the large building.

Thankfully for you, Thinking Phone Networks has a unique Enhanced 911 (E911) network. All VoIP companies provide the same service, routing 911 calls to your local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), but TPN is the only VoIP provider in the cloud space that provides “native” functionality—meaning that we do not use any outside plugins—for this ability. This may appear to be a perk rather than a necessity, but in locations with a high volume of workers, having difficulty identifying the location of a crisis can increase the potential for tragedy.

As you evaluate potential VoIP providers, a multitude of considerations need to be made, and E911 services are often overlooked. As such, the FCC has derived a set of standards for E911 within the VoIP industry. While these guidelines are imperative to the health and well-being of VoIP customers, they do not require providers to identify anything more than the address of the emergency. This may be fine for single-story, compact business, but it presents a problem in multi-story or multi-unit buildings.

TPN’s unique capabilities are enabled through the configuration of IP addresses. By registering unique IP addresses with different devices, your LAN can be configured to identify geographic floors and locations within a building. For example, 10.10.1.X could be “first floor, east wing,” while 10.10.4.X might identify “second floor, west wing.” When a device is moved, its IP address changes based on its location. Having the ability to identify an exact location within a building saves emergency personnel valuable time.

As businesses continue to grow, both metaphorically with the hiring of employees and physically with the expansion of buildings, the management of 911 services will become more complex. With the advent of TPN’s identification capabilities, 911 dispatchers no longer have to wonder where you are in a building. Rather, they will be able to relay your exact location to rescuers in advance—even if you cannot tell them yourself.


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