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Telephone Technology issue impacting 911 emergency calls

August 25th, 2022 by WCBC Radio

The Allegany County Department of Emergency Services is informing citizens of a telephone technology issue that can impact 911 emergency call response times and potentially hamper the speed at which lifesaving services can be dispatched. Over the years, many households have gotten away from traditional landline telephone service and now operate their home phones through an Internet Service Provider, such as Breezeline, Xfinity or Verizon. These types of phone systems use the internet as a means of data transmission and do not automatically display the caller's physical address when calling 911, and sometimes will not route a call to the closest 911 center. As a result,
dispatchers may need to depend on the caller to relay specific location information during a call. Cell phones operate in a similar manner, but technology has evolved to allow 911 operators to locate a cell phone's location
when required. This option is not available for VoIP (voice over internet protocol) calls.
911 dispatchers in Allegany County have encountered incidents where a caller has connected with 911, then set
their phone down without communicating a location to the 911 operator. It is crucial, especially in a time-sensitive
situation, that residents are aware of this important step in reporting an emergency.
Department of Emergency Services Director, James Pyles, says “When lifesaving services are required and every
second counts, Allegany County wants to remind residents of the quickest and most efficient way to
communicate with 911 dispatchers. In emergency settings, callers may be directly engaged in the crisis or may be
third parties like a babysitter, relative, or a child in the household who is not immediately familiar with the street
address of the home. Coupled with the possibility of having to transfer a call to a closer 911 center, Allegany
County EMS managers have noted this can potentially delay response times.”
Director Pyles announced that a public information program is being developed to encourage county residents to
have their physical addresses listed somewhere near their home phones to aid third parties or children in sharing
that information with 911 call center operators. Additionally, officials are looking into what safety reminders can be
developed to remind children of the importance of knowing their home street address and producing practical
reminders that remind emergency callers to state their address early in a 911 call.
"Our departmental goal includes a constant review of our response systems and their outcomes. Allegany County
is not alone in encountering issues with VoIP calls, but we are committed to being as proactive as we can to
prevent any VoIP related delays in life saving responses until we can participate in technological fixes that reduce
the problem," concluded Director Pyles.