Call three digits and suddenly help will come, right?
Not always. There's an assumption that 911 centers know who you are when you call. More importantly, there's an assumption that they know where you are. Whether 911 centers have accurate information depends highly on what type of phone the caller is using.
Cell phones are supposed to relay caller information just like land lines and for the most part they do. However, not all emergency call centers have the equipment to decipher cell calls, which makes the new technology in the phone nearly useless. Internet phones are newer and may be an even bigger problem. Not to mention that internet phones need power and a functioning broadband internet connection to work properly.
Special needs callers can present challenges to 911 centers as well. Deaf callers have the possibility of using TDY/TDD phones, but those are pretty outdated. Relay services provide hearing people to relay for deaf callers, but there have been cases of abuse using relay services to order goods and services without paying and even to make bogus 911 calls.
Making fraudulent calls to 911 is illegal and can lead to fines and jail time, but finding the callers is difficult to do with relay services. 911 abuse is rarely prosecuted in any case, but can't be prosecuted if the caller can't be found.
The safest and most effective 911 call still comes from old-fashioned switched phones. Basically, if you can plug a phone cord in and make a call to 911 (federal law states you don't have to have service to make 911 calls), you're in the best shape. Even using regular switched phones doesn't guarantee the 911 operator will know where you are, so be prepared to give your location -- maybe several times.
Knowing what to expect from 911 before you call is important. Indeed, it may just save your life.
- 911 - How it Works
- Why 911 Asks So Many Questions
- How to Call 911
- Before You Call 911 on Your Cell Phone
- Internet Phones and 911
- Teaching Kids to Call 911