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Innovation

911 over VoIP can mean life-or-death errors

Things are getting a bit more complicated for the 911 emergency dispatcher. A dispatcher must first get important information like who, what, when and where, but with the advent of VoIP telephony dispatchers are sometimes receiving false information, reports the Oregonian.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on

Things are getting a bit more complicated for the 911 emergency dispatcher. A dispatcher must first get important information like who, what, when and where, but with the advent of VoIP telephony dispatchers are sometimes receiving false information, reports the Oregonian.

In April an Oregon 911 dispatcher received a frantic call from a woman who said her son couldn't breathe. Her call went to Beaverton, OR, even though she was calling from Georgia. As it turns out the child survived. According to Vonage, the mix-up was the customer's fault. The customer took his Vonage phone with him to Georgia and plugged it in without telling the phone company of the change.

It may have been the customer's fault but when lives are at stake, that's not a very satisfactory answer. The system needs to be able to correct for such mistakes.

"With the regular copper wire calls we get, there is a very low rate of inaccuracy," said Larry Hatch, assistant director of the Washington County 9-1-1 center. "VoIP is so new, I just don't have any idea how many errors we have."

According to a report by Newark Networks, a VoIP equipment manufacturer based in England, there have been cases where Internet phone customers died when pleas for help were routed to other countries."The onus is on the customer to provide the location information," the report says.

Technology Marketing Corp., a company specializing in Internet telephony, studied the issue last summer and published a report on its Web site that concluded, "There is no single standard that will solve the emergency location problem."

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