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City of Peoria Press Release

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Non-traditional telephones cause concern for 911 centers

Police warn could be a delay in getting help


As budgets get tighter more and more families and individuals are trying to cut costs everywhere they can and one area where public safety is seeing this occur is switching from a traditional corded telephone to a cell phone or VoIP(Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone. While on face value both the cell phone and the VoIP telephone sound like a great deal as there may be no charge for long distance calls there is a potential problem if you need to call 911.


In the Phoenix Metro area we are served by the Enhance 911 System. What this means is when you call 911 from a telephone connected to the standard home phone line the system recognizes the call and automatically provides the 911 operator with your name, address and telephone number you are calling from. It also shows your location on a map at the 911 operator’s computer screen. Another major advantage to this system is that it directs your 911 call to the law enforcement agency serving you and from there the proper police, fire or medical services are sent.


With cell phones much depends on your service provider, the type of service you decide to pay for and how new is your phone. But no matter how new and advanced your cell phone might be when you call 911 it’s only going to give the 911 Center an area in which you are calling from. Hopefully it will be close enough for the emergency responders to locate you. Cell phones also have another drawback. They work off hitting the closest tower. You could be at a location in Peoria but the tower it hits is in Glendale or Phoenix so that’s where your 911 call will go. It would then be necessary for that 911 Center to transfer the call to the Peoria 911 Center. This doesn’t take much time but in an emergency time can be critical.


The other phones are VoIP. VoIP phones are web or computer line based and in order for your phone to show up in the 911 Center when you call you have to have it registered for the location you are calling from with your provider. But if you move and fail to update your profile with your provider your call will show you are calling from the location you registered it for and you in fact could be cities or states away. This recently occurred in Peoria. A subject called 911 and the call came in to our 911 Center and it showed an address in Peoria. When confirming the address, which is part of the standard procedures, the 911 operator discovered the subject was calling from Avondale.



The Peoria Police Department would like to remind everyone one using cell phones and VoIP phones that in an emergency if you can’t tell us where you are located we may not be able to get to you. It’s vitally important that with VoIP phones you make sure your address is correct with your provider. On cell phones, there’s nothing you can do to make sure we have your address. Cell phone calls do not provide an exact address to the 911 Center, only a radius of where the call is coming from. This information can be several miles in diameter or it can be several blocks. Always be prepared to provide the address of the emergency.


We understand that costs are often an overriding concern but the Peoria Police Department recommends you have a telephone connected to your home telephone lines. We also suggest that you have a corded phone as in a loss of power the cordless phones will not work.