Is ''Close Enough'' OK in a 911 Emergency?

E911 Watch

Is ''Close Enough'' OK in a 911 Emergency?

By TMCnet Special Guest
Nick Maier
  |  April 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

This month I’d like you to consider the unthinkable for a moment: Let’s say you’re having a heart attack while working and need an ambulance. You reach for the phone and dial 911. You can’t speak but the dispatcher can see an address on her screen and sends help.

If your company doesn’t manage E911 location information, that address might be the main billing address for your company’s account. Would that be enough for paramedics to find you in time? 

Even if your company manages E911 location information with the help of administrative personnel maintaining PS-ALI accounts or some third-party software products, the information could be inaccurate and help could be delayed.

How can that be, you ask? Manual updates are generally sent as part of an administrative workflow and, given how stretched many admins are these days, updates could be batched and handled infrequently. Many third-party E911 software products can automate the process of updating an organization’s location records, but they only send updates a few times a day to the PS-ALI databases used by dispatchers. And, on top of it all, the PS-ALI databases typically have a 24-hour delay in posting location record changes.

The tremendous mobility made possible by IP, Wi-Fi and SIP technologies also exacerbate the risk of not being able to find a 911 caller in need. Here are two situations in which I’d rather not have my life depend on old information:

What if you use a Wi-Fi handset in your enterprise and carry it with you from meeting to meeting? Your location can constantly change, rendering polled location data meaningless.

What if you’re traveling and using a softphone loaded on your laptop? You disconnect from the corporate network and leave your hotel, headed for the branch office. When you arrive, you re-connect with the corporate network. Should you call 911 before your location information is updated, paramedics could be dispatched to your hotel.

Real-time location information updates offer the best E911 protection for everyone using your enterprise network. It’s that simple.

Nick Maier is senior vice president of RedSky (News - Alert) Technologies (

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi