​​Dialing 9-1-​1: How You Call Might Affect You!

Cellular phones and Internet phone services are innovations that need special considerations by consumers who wish to use 9-1-1.

Internet Phone Service (VoIP)

IPS, or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), allows individuals to make phone calls over their Internet connection rather than their regular analog telephone line. VOIP phone

  • VoIP does not support traditional 9-1-1 services. Since VoIP can be portable, service providers of VoIP cannot automatically determine your location. Often, 9-1-1 calls made from VoIP phones are routed to the location of the service provider, not the subscriber's physical location. 

  • While 9-1-1 services are usually offered by the VoIP provider, most require you to activate this service before using 9-1-1. This activation requires the subscriber to note the physical location from where the service is being used. When the subscriber moves, the location must be updated. If you have correctly activated the 9-1-1 service with your provider 9-1-1 calls made through VoIP should be directed to your local emergency contact.

  • In power failures, 9-1-1 service will not function. Also, Internet congestion over broadband lines may result in lower 9-1-1 routing speeds as compared to calling through a traditional phone line. And the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not have regulatory power over VoIP network systems, unlike traditional land lines and cell phones.

Wireless Cell Phones

cell towerThe FCC has implemented the Enhanced 9-1-1 (or E9-1-1) program to ensure 9-1-1 dispatchers receive information necessary to service calls made from wireless phones. The program has two parts:

  • Phase I required wireless carriers to provide, upon request, the phone number and antenna location of the call received into the local dispatcher. This provided a rough area of where a caller was located.
  • Phase II requires wireless providers to supply much more precise information from where calls are made.​ According to the FCC, this distance is within 50 to 300 meters. Confirm with your phone provider that your cell phone is Phase II compliant.
  • Local dispatchers must also be Phase II compliant. Lee County is Phase II compliant. When you travel within Lee County and call 9-1-1 from a Phase II compliant phone, call takers should be able to track your location within feet.

If your cell phone or the dispatcher in the jurisdiction you are traveling within is not Phase II compliant, you must give the dispatcher the exact location you are calling from in order for them to locate you.​

Helpful Tips

  • Ask your phone carrier(s) if they provide 9-1-1 services.
  • Ensure you have at least one method of phone service that has 9-1-1 services.