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May 2, 2008
Public safety advisory concerning 9-1-1 calls and Voice over Internet Protocol
Toronto Police, Toronto Fire and the Emergency Medical Services are re-issuing a public safety advisory to consumers. Subscribers to some VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone services may not be aware of limitations in accessing 9-1-1 during an emergency.

VoIP has been offered in Toronto since January 2004, using broadband internet connections instead of the traditional telephone network. The ever-increasing popularity of VoIP telephone service raises a number of challenges for the emergency services.

The traditional 9-1-1 system, based on the use of landlines, ensures that a 9-1-1 call will go to the correct 9-1-1 Centre. At the same time, it will provide automatic address and telephone number information to make certain help will find the caller, even if they are not able to speak. This is known as Enhanced 9-1-1.

These unique 9-1-1 features are not guaranteed with some VoIP telephone services. Voice over Internet Protocol means the phone has no fixed address and therefore Enhanced 9-1-1 service is unavailable. The call has to be answered by a "third party operator service" so that it can then be transferred to a 9-1-1 Centre.

Possible 9-1-1 limitations when using VoIP:

- the VoIP service operator may send a request for emergency service to the wrong 9-1-1 Centre or a non-emergency line causing a potential delay in response

- if a caller is unable to speak, or if the call is disconnected, the operator may not have automatic location information to give to 9-1-1 Call-takers

- access to 9-1-1 service for VoIP customers may not be available during a power failure or if the internet connection is disrupted

- VoIP services do not have to enlist the use of a Language Line interpretation service as currently used by the Toronto 9-1-1 Centre.

Consumers must be aware of these limitations when deciding whether to purchase VoIP service and equipment. Obtaining answers to the following questions may help:

- Will I be able to contact my Toronto 9-1-1 Centre without the use of a third- party operator?

- When dialing 9-1-1, will my phone number and address be readily displayed in the Toronto 9-1-1 Centre (Enhanced 9-1-1)?

Ensuring direct and immediate public access to 9-1-1 is of great concern to Toronto Police, Toronto Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Speak with potential service providers for a full description of their 9-1-1 limitations.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won more than 70 awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contacts: Toronto Police Service, 416-808-8899; Toronto Fire Services, 416-338-0763; Emergency Medical Services, 416-392-2255.



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