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Enhanced Emergency 9-1-1 Service

Ohio’s 9-1-1 systems

Many Ohioans are familiar with the emergency 9-1-1 system and the security it provides citizens in emergency situations. In 1985, the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation that provided for the establishment of enhanced emergency 9-1-1 telephone service across the state. This service “enhances” traditional 9-1-1 service by providing the location and callback number of those in emergency situations to police, fire, and medical responders, allowing for a more efficient response time.

Citizens should call 9-1-1 in emergencies that require immediate assistance from police, fire, and/or medical personnel. In non-emergency situations, the local police station, fire department, or hospital should be contacted.

In Ohio, enhanced 9-1-1 systems are implemented county-by-county. The PUCO reviews and approves each county’s plan for establishing enhanced 9-1-1. Local political subdivisions and telephone customers in each county share the cost of the emergency service. To determine the individual subscriber charge, the PUCO uses a formula which divides the cost of implementing the 9-1-1 system by the number of residential and business access lines in the county. This way, customers have an equal role in funding the enhanced 9-1-1 service in their county and telephone service area.

An expanding telephone industry

Over the past several years, the telephone industry has experienced rapid growth due to the increasing popularity of wireless and Internet phone technologies, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). As a result, government regulators have been faced with the new challenge of ensuring that enhanced 9-1-1 is available to telephone customers using these technologies.

Steps have been taken at the state and federal level to make enhanced emergency 9-1-1 service available to wireless and VoIP customers. Until recently, enhanced 9-1-1 service was not available to these customers, meaning that wireless and VoIP customers could dial 9-1-1, but the location and callback number was not automatically provided to emergency responders. Lawmakers recognized the importance of this lifesaving service, and measures for wireless and VoIP enhanced emergency 9-1-1 are gradually being implemented throughout the state and country.

Wireless Enhanced 9-1-1

Legislation signed into law in 2005 provided a way to fund enhanced 9-1-1 for wireless phones in the state. The legislation designates the PUCO as the agency with authority to carry out the provisions of the law.

As with 9-1-1 service for traditional wireline phones, each county is responsible for the implementation of enhanced wireless 9-1-1. There are two phases to the plan. The first phase allows for 9-1-1 call centers to receive the automatic number identification and the location of the cellular tower transmitting 9-1-1 calls from wireless phones. The second phase also provides the call center with the automatic location information for responders to have a more precise location of the caller.

Wireless customers throughout Ohio pay a monthly 25 cent surcharge per wireless line to fund enhanced wireless 9-1-1 capabilities.

Enhanced Emergency 9-1-1 for VoIP

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken steps to ensure enhanced emergency 9-1-1 service for Internet phone customers throughout the country.

Beginning in the fall of 2005, VoIP providers must include enhanced 9-1-1 calling capabilities as a standard feature of their service. Under this requirement, VoIP companies must provide the customer’s callback number and location to emergency responders when a 9-1-1 call is made. Customers must also be provided with a means of updating their location information, as VoIP service is not tied down to one location like a landline phone.

VoIP customers should keep in mind that these 9-1-1 requirements only apply to VoIP service that enables customers to make and receive calls using the traditional telephone network. VoIP providers that do not utilize the traditional network in any way are not required to provide 9-1-1 capabilities. For more information about whether your VoIP service has enhanced 9-1-1 capabilities, contact your VoIP service provider.

Learn more about 9-1-1

Enhanced 9-1-1 is a vital service that saves many lives each year. The PUCO, along with other state and federal organizations, is working to make sure that 9-1-1 is available to customers of all phone technologies in case of an emergency.

For more information about enhanced emergency 9-1-1 service, call the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO. If you have specific questions about 9-1-1 and VoIP service, contact the FCC at www.fcc.gov or (888) CALL-FCC, or check with your VoIP service provider.