Why a Landline Is Important In Emergency 911 Situations
By Lawrence Reaves
Accidents, life-threatening circumstances, and other emergencies require a quick response from the proper authorities. For any given situation, there may be a need for an ambulance, law enforcement officers, or firefighters. When emergencies occur, you must have a dependable channel through which to reach help.
Long ago, state governments instituted the 911 emergency calling network. If disaster struck, a call could be placed on any landline using the digits 911 and an operator would route your call accordingly. This system still works. However, as of December of 2008, one out of five people used cellular phones as their primary line. Many of those people do not have a landline connection.
Today, we'll explore why a landline phone is critical for emergencies. We'll briefly explain how the 911 system works and whether the Enhanced 911 system that is used for mobile devices is an effective alternative.
An Overview Of The 911 System
Most people realize they have the ability to perform a 911 call at any time, but they do not fully appreciate how their calls are routed throughout the network. Here's a brief explanation: When you dial 911 from a landline, your call is first received by your telephone company. Your phone number is identified before the call is transferred to a specific switch. The switch is simply a router that forwards your call to the right Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).
At the PSAP, an operator takes the call and asks for information that will clarify the nature of the emergency. It's worth explaining an important point here. The operator at the PSAP does not have your phone number or address at this point. They can retrieve it if necessary, but it takes time. After you provide all of the information the PSAP operator needs, he or she will call the appropriate party (i.e. police, fire department, emergency response units, etc.).
The process described above is how it occurs when the original 911 call is placed from a landline connection.
What About Enhanced 911?
Enhanced 911 (or, E911) is an emergency system that is used as an alternative for cell phones and VoIP coverage. Through it, you can place an emergency call. However, rather than the telephone company sending your call to a router that forwards it to the correct PSAP, it may be answered by a representative at a regional facility. When this happens (wireless carriers handle the process differently), you'll need to provide your location, phone number, and details about the emergency. Then, the representative can forward your call to the proper PSAP.
Normally, E911 will work fine. But, there is often a delay between the original call and the emergency response. What's more, through a landline connection, the PSAP can retrieve your location and phone number (though it takes a few minutes). On a cellular phone, you'll need to provide this information.
In the end, keeping your hardline connection can literally save your life or the life of a loved one. Cell phones are convenient, but the E911 system is not nearly as fluid as the 911 network used through your landline.
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