VoIP / WiFi Phones & 911

Calling 911 Via VoIP or WiFi Phone

You can still connect to emergency services by calling 911 with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and WiFi phones but there are very important differences and requirements for both of these calling formats. Now is the time to understand how VoIP/WiFi phones work when accessing 911 and the complications that can arise if you are not properly informed.

If your power is out and/or your internet service is not working you will not be able to dial 911 from either VoIP or WiFi phones. The common factor with VoIP and WiFi phones is that they both require access to a power source and a connection to the internet.

  • If you have backup power and your internet service is working you will be able to connect to 911.
  • If you have backup power but your internet service is not working, you will not be able to connect to 911.

VoIP Phones

Visit the FCC website for additional VoIP 911 information.

VoIP phones consist of the following variety that connect to the internet:

  • A standard wired telephone plugged into your home internet router through a VoIP adapter
  • A wired VoIP phone plugged directly into your home internet router
  • A wireless VoIP subscriber phone (looking like a regular residential cordless phone or cell phone) that uses VoIP technology, wirelessly connected to your home internet router

Requirements for VoIP Phones to Work During a 911 Call

  • Power and working internet service
  • Registering your residential address with your VoIP provider
    • It is an FCC requirement for you to register your address with the VoIP provider.
    • It is an FCC requirement for the VoIP provider to provide a means for you to easily update your e911 address. The address you register will be sent to 911 when you call. If you move your residence or are away vacationing for a period of time you need to update your e911 address (as sometimes called) with your VoIP provider.

VoIP phones used in your residence should not have any problem accessing 911, provided that your residential address (e911 address) is properly registered.

If leave your residence to shop, go to the doctor’s office, vacation, etc. you will probably take your wireless VoIP phone with you because of the many free WiFi hotspots that are available. If you should need to call 911, you may not be connected to the local 911 center where you are currently located. You may be connected to the 911 center for your VoIP-registered residential address and your location will be reported as your home address not your current location.

Complications and Solutions with VoIP Phones & Dialing 911

Make sure to read and understand your VoIP provider instructions outlining the VoIP capabilities and limitations for accessing 911 and emergency services. In addition, make sure to inform your family, guests and visitors of your VoIP phone capabilities and limitations. In an emergency you cannot afford any risks.

WiFi Phones

WiFi phones work over the same wireless local area networks that VoIP phones are used.

  • WiFi phones can be subscriber-based, like VoIP subscriber services.
  • WiFi phones can utilize free internet applications to connect person to person.
  • WiFi phones have the same capabilities and limitations as do VoIP phones regarding, need to have power and internet service active, 911 calling, location identification, etc.

Always Be Prepared for an Emergency

Whether you are using a traditional phone, cell phone, VoIP (wired or wireless) or a WiFi phone the most important piece of information you can provide to the 911 Call Taker is your current location. Know where your whereabouts. In Bucks County we can verify a location by the following means:

  • Common place (Name of the Store, Restaurant, School, Church, etc. you are at.)
  • House number and street name with nearest cross street
  • Intersection or cross street or cross road
  • Limited Access Roadway (PA Turnpike, I-476, Route 1, Route 309 Bypass, Route 202 Parkway, etc.)
    • We need which direction you are travelling on this road and the nearest on/off ramp or over/underpass road name

Have a Backup Plan

The following questions should be considered if using a WiFi or VoIP Phone:

  • Can you stop at a store or gas station and ask the attendant to call 911?
  • If you are mobile (having only a wireless VoIP phone), does your travelling companion have a cell phone?
  • Is there a payphone nearby in a safe location?
  • Is there an emergency call box available? (If travelling along toll roads, etc.)

Preparation Begins When You Purchase Your VoIP or WiFi Phone

Learn how to operate it properly, learn it's capabilities and limitations and tell your family and friends this information before you have the emergency, when seconds count.