Although VoIP services are becoming more reliable, and can now be used to make emergency telephone calls, you still can’t call 911 from a PC.
Most people over the age of thirty will remember the days when, if you wanted to make an emergency telephone call, you hand to call 911 from a landline. Mobile phones barely existed – certainly not in the numbers they do now – but the good news was that 9-1-1 call takers would be able to pinpoint the caller´s exact location from the fixed line they used to make the call.
As mobile phones became more popular, their use to make 911 calls increased. Last year 70% of all calls received by Public Services Answering Points (PSAPs) were made from a mobile phone. In order to overcome potential problems regarding the location of the caller – and to comply with FCC regulations – mobile phones must send Automatic Number Identification (ANI) and Automatic Location Identification (ALI) data to 9-1-1 call takers.
Why You Can´t Call 911 from a PC
Mobile carriers are increasingly using VoIP to transmit calls using Wi-Fi networks. It is cheaper for the carriers and relieves the pressure on cellular networks. However, whereas as mobile carriers have to comply with FCC regulations, VoIP-based apps (Skype, Google Voice, WhatsApp, etc.) do not. Consequently, you will not be able to use VoIP apps on your mobile phone to make emergency calls because 9-1-1 will be unable to pinpoint your location. For the same reason, you can´t call 911 from a PC.
The FCCs regulations stipulate it must be possible to pinpoint a 911 caller´s location to within 300 yards Even PCs with location-tracking features are not sufficiently accurate to satisfy FCC regulations – usually, because (without GPS software) they register the ISP´s default address rather than the computer´s location. In some cases, the two locations can be more than one thousand miles apart. Even PCs receiving an Internet signal from a nearby Wi-Fi router suffer similar problems.
The Solution? Get an Emergency Phone and Add It to Smart911
Not being able to call 911 from a PC can be a problem when your mobile battery is flat or you cannot find your mobile phone in an emergency. The solution is to get an emergency phone – a cheap one that you can leave by your computer and charge via a USB connection. The phone does not even need to be activated with any specific carrier. Provided it can receive a signal, it is capable of completing a 911 call.
In order to overcome any issues with location (a non-activated phone is incapable of sending ANI and ALI data), the emergency phone should be included on your Smart911 Safety Profile along with your regular mobile phone number. That way, if your regular mobile battery is flat or you cannot find it in an emergency, 9-1-1 call takers will be aware of your location and be able to send assistance to the correct address quickly. One important note to remember: if the emergency phone is not activated, it will not have a number assigned to it and 9-1-1 call takers will be unable to call you back.