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VoIP phone system causes 911 caller to wait almost 9 minutes for proper dispatcher


FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – January 8th, Veronica Saluk called 911 for help and ended up waiting for close to 9 minutes to be transferred to the correct 911 dispatch centre all because her office used a VoIP phone system.

As the City Centre Trailer Park was engulfed in smoke, Veronica Saluk made a call to 911 from her office phone after her co-worker directed her that a building across the parking lot was on fire.

Saluk looked out the window and immediately called 911 “He (the operator) tells me to stay on the line, and he would put me through to the right dispatch.”   Saluk said she was then on hold for nine minutes.  “You could actually see flames by the time I got through to a FSJ dispatch person; it was already in flames.”

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Saluk said she could hear the original 911 operator while they searched for the correct fire dispatch. “Trying to find the right department/person for me to talk to I could hear them, the people he (911 operator) was connecting too, and it was “Hi, I am Operator ‘whatever’, There is a fire in Fort St. John, I am looking for the dispatch” then the reply would be “You have reached the wrong place try this number” again, you have reached the wrong place, so this number. (Saluk implies this is the course several times as 911 Operator tries to connect) “They were shuffling around like nobody had any idea who I was actually supposed to be talking to.”

“It was absolutely heartbreaking because if you are in an emergency and you call 911 you might not get the help you need in the time you need it,” said Saluk

After some investigation with E-Comm, the company hired by the Peace River Regional District to answer 911 calls, it turned out the call was never routed to E-Comm in Vancouver. Since Saluk called from her office and her office used a VoIP phone system, the call was sent to a third party service provider.

E-Comm explained because VoIP is digital, the exact location of the call is unknown and isn’t routed to the proper dispatch.  The other problem that arises with emergency calls being placed on a VoIP line is that the call is directed to a third party that transfers the call which is where Saluk’s phone delay took place.

VoIP is an acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol, which is a phone service that uses the internet, rather than a traditional provider like Telus.

It is important to know if you are using a VoIP phone service as this can affect an Emergency call. Unless you have been told, it is hard to tell by picking up the receiver of the phone if the connection is through the internet or a landline.

Experts suggest in the time of an emergency using a cell phone would be more productive for than a traditional phone, as cell phones provide your location information.

E-Comm 911 provided the following information on their website about VoIP calls.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

If you are using a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service, there are a few things you should know:

  • VoIP calls to 9-1-1 do not go directly to 9-1-1 centres. If you dial 9-1-1 from a VoIP phone, your call will go to a third-party call centre and an operator will re-direct your call to the appropriate 9-1-1 centre.
  • VoIP phones do not provide location information. It is crucial that your location information is up to date with your VoIP service provider as the operator may assume that you are at the last registered address if you are not able to speak during a 9-1-1 call.

To read more from Ecomm CLICK HERE

To read more about VoIP CLICK HERE

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