Last week we saw the unfortunate death of a toddler due to the 9-1-1 team being dispatched to Mississauga instead of his home in Calgary. His family was exclusively using VoIP–or Voice Over Internet Protocol, a telephone system using the Internet rather than the cellular or land line system–through ComWave. They had moved and their records had been updated, but their emergency records had not been updated.
I always wondered why, when I signed on with Skype (an international VoIP system that has some level of free calls), it cautions that it is not meant to be used as an emergency system. This is exactly why. Our 9-1-1 systems that direct emergency teams when we are unable to give directions are tied into the land line telephone systems of this country.
Further discussions on this incident:
- This is a VoIP Emergency. Pay Attention! by VoIP industry expert Ben Lucier (May 2, 2008)
- 911 tragedy in Calgary reveals perils of VoIP, by Catherine McLean and Dawn Walton, Globe and Mail (May 1, 2008)
- Phone firm boss devastated over death, by Michael Platt, The Calgary Sun (May 2, 2008)
- Public safety advisory, 9-1-1 and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Important message for subscribers, Toronto Police Services (May 2, 2008) – PDF; also reposted to Ben Lucier’s website.