Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some Good Things and a Question

First, the question. I'd really really like to get rid of our landline. However, having had to call 911 on two occasions, I really really enjoyed the fact that the 911 peopleguys knew my address without me having to remember it. I mean, I was calm and everything during both crises, but still...it was nice.

My main concern is that one of the kids might call it, or slightly more likely, Brendan might be having a diabetic moment and need to call it--and his mental processes are really fuzzy when he's having a really low blood sugar.

So I'm trying to weigh the risks--the likelihood of needing 911 in the future (I'd say higher than average, but still pretty low) plus the likelihood of the caller not being able to remember our address (no idea) against the cost of having this landline. Because the primary reason we haven't given it up yet is for this 911 thing. (Another reason is the convenience of having more than one handset for those low batteries.)

I dunno. I'm pondering. My actual question--after all of this preamble--is this: how do I get information about how 911 works with cellphones? Brendan used his cell to call 911 recently when he witnessed a car wreck a couple towns over in another county and the call went to our county's 911 service (I suppose based on our billing address?). After quite a bit of explanation as to where he actually was, the 911 operator switched him to the emergency service of the county where the wreck occurred.

That took lots of minutes and lots of 'splainin'. Minutes that we don't have to spare, especially in a food allergy or diabetic emergency (the types of emergencies we're most likely to have). So if you know of a resource I could use to research the whole cellphone/emergency topic a bit more thoroughly, I'd appreciate it.

And now we're on to Good Things:

Sean is officially a toddler, as of yesterday! And he is tearing. up. my. house. As if Ryan (not to mention Morgan, but mostly Ryan) needed any assistance in this area. Seriously. He is a Force of Destruction who refuses to take "no" or "look over there!" as an answer.

I'm apparently having a LTE published soon in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution! They called yesterday to confirm my identity. It's been a long while since I've had a LTE in the paper--like maybe years. So I can't quite remember how long the whole process takes. But I'll be sure to link it! I'm all excited--I just knew as I was writing it that it was a good letter. And it's not even about parenting or food allergies or the Census Bureau any of my usual topics--that felt good, too.

My friend's 5 year old son had open heart surgery last Friday and went home today! Can you believe that someone can go home so quickly after such a procedure? I was in the hospital that long after my first c-section! This boy was born with a heart defect and this was his second or third open heart surgery to repair a valve (with a cow valve if you can imagine) and widen conduits and tinker with the whooziwhatchits and other amazing things. I've known this family for a few years (we all take Music Class together) and they are just some of the nicest people. And their little guy is such a sweetie. I'm so glad he's doing so well that I just had to share! :o)


Kevin McAllister said...

I can give some info about 911. I work as an engineer for a VoIP company, we are required by some FCC dictator to provide 911 service, so we do, and I've had to learn about it.

While I don't have specific information in cell phone 911 I do know in general the workings of the 911 system and how it all ties together.

The good thing about the landline 911 is it requires no batteries, rarely is broken (unless your wires fall prey to a tree or backhoe, or rogue child with scissors) and your address is confirmed and the appropriate PSAP (Public Service Access Point), assuming they are properly equipped, will know who you are and where you are calling from without a word from you.

Cell phone companies are also required to offer e911 services, meaning encode location information into 911 calls. They do an excellent job especially given the GPS capabilities on most modern cell phones. But even without that they can know what tower the call came from and using information from the other towers that can "hear" your phones radio make a pretty accurate guess as to where you are. All of this just happens assuming again your PSAP is properly equipped.

Based on my understanding, they may not have your exact address.

So you of course have options, you could get an inexpensive VoIP service, but you will need to have batteries to ensure you have internet and phone in the event of a power failure (this is true of the cordless phone you have hooked to your landline also) it works the same as the landline, really, in that you register ahead of time your number and address through the provider. But the Internet or a crappy provider gives you another failure point there.

Assuming you haven't already it may make sense to just scale back on the landline. Typically you can have one where you just pay for for every minute of every call you make with long distance and all the features turned off. Tell them you just want a no callerid, no call waiting, no unlimited local, nothing just dialtone. Turn the ringer off on the phone and just use it to call 911 in an emergency and you'd probably be paying about $8 - 12 a month. Most of it regulatory fees and taxes. Your phone company may even have a product for a fax/modem line that is even less expensive, and they are absolutely required to have 911 on it.

As far as resources. That's a good question, I know a company called Intrado handles a good portion of the 911 infrastructure. You can feel free to ask me any follow up questions and I can see what I can find.

Stephanie Ozenne said...

I'm pretty sure you can get the 7-digit number for your *local* 911 line if you call information. You ask for the "Fire department emergency line" - I think - this is a recollection from a child-first-aid class I took about 4 years ago. I really should get that done...

Diana Hsieh said...

About two years ago, I called 911 from my cell while driving because the person in front of me was driving very, very erratically. They asked for my address (for some reason) -- and I couldn't think of it for the life of me! I've never forgotten it ever before or since -- we'd lived in our current house for like seven years at that point. I think I was just agitated about calling 911, and I just couldn't remember. Anyway, I obviously sounded like a complete moron, and I was terribly embarrassed. However, the point of all that is that you definitely shouldn't underestimate the likelihood that an adult or child might be too agitated or distressed to properly recite their own address in calling 911. Particularly with the kids -- and the food allergies and diabetes in the house -- I would retain a minimal land line in the house.

Another Jenn said...

I don't know if this pertains to just apartments or not, but when we had no phone service, I still had the ability to dial 911 from a plugged in landline.

We currently have VOIP service through the cable company but if I were to discontinue, I would need to call them to remove and hook it back up to regular telephone service (at least that was my understanding).

Rational Jenn said...

Thanks for all of the information and food for thought.

I'm going to do a bit more research, but for now I'm leaning toward keeping some kind of landline, but going down to the bare minimum service. We can give out our cells as our primary numbers.

It will save money, give us 911 access, and even better--baffle the telemarketers who still seem to get through from time to time.

I think you have a really good point, Diana, and that is that you can't really predict how a person will behave in an emergency. I know both times I've called, I was pretty calm, but it was hard to concentrate on the questions they were asking me while trying to concentrate on Ryan and Brendan, too. Being worried is mentally distracting! I remember very clearly being relieved at not having to remember my address, simply having to confirm it to the 911 operator. Given the fact that minutes count--especially in Ryan's case--I just don't feel comfortable taking this chance. And it is possible that one of the older kids might be home with Brendan when he needs assistance. They both know our address, but I am not at all sure that they would be able to recall it in a moment of distress.

Anyway, thanks again for all of the info!

Ansley said...

I just went through all of this - and we decided to switch from AT&T to T-Mobile's VoIP line which is only $10/month. Also, they give you a $130 credit if you port your current phone number over. I'm saving us so much money per month and still have the landline for 911! It's great.

Wow, I sound like a commercial.

Yay for Sean! Charlie is still working very hard at rearranging/making a mess of our home. I hope we can do the southern museum next week! We can DO it!

Crimson Wife said...

We do not have a landline, but our home alarm system has an emergency button we could push. It works as a speakerphone to ADT, who would then alert local emergency services.

Rational Jenn said...

CW--I hadn't considered that option. We don't have a security system currently, but I'll look into that option. Thanks!