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General Questions  |  Addressing Questions  |  Wireless/Cellular Questions

Voice over IP (VoIP)Questions

General Questions

What is a 9-1-1 emergency?

A 9-1-1 emergency is when police, fire or medical services are needed right away in order to save a life, report a fire or stop a crime.

Is misuse of 9-1-1 against the law?

Yes. A person can be charged with misuse of the Enhanced 9-1-1 system if they repeatedly call 9-1-1 for non-emergency reports or questions. The first offense is a civil violation punishable by a $500.00 fine. The second offense is a Class E http://legislature.maine.gov/legis/statutes/25/title25sec2931.html

Will emergency responders be able to find me?

Enhanced 9-1-1's addressing feature for wireline telephones help call takers to locate the caller and dispatch emergency services quickly to the scene. Call takers will always try to confirm the location of the emergency but this information is often difficult to obtain during a crisis. That is why it is critical that accurate addresses are available to Enhanced 9-1-1.

Who answers my 9-1-1 calls and how are emergency responders dispatched?

The primary responsibility of Maine's 26 Public Safety Answering Points, known as PSAPs, are to answer all 9-1-1 calls in their local coverage area. Each Maine community is matched with a PSAP.

Most of the time, the PSAP handles both the call answering and dispatch of the 9-1-1 call. 9-1-1 calls not dispatched by the PSAP are transferred to the appropriate agency. The Enhanced 9-1-1 system has sophisticated automatic transfer capabilities and Bureau Rules require the PSAP to initiate the transfer within 10 seconds.

When should a caller use 9-1-1?

A person should only call 9-1-1 when there is an emergency that requires immediate action to save a life, to report a fire, or to stop a crime. For non- emergencies, the public should call the telephone number for police, fire and EMS in the white pages of their local phone book.

How do the deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired persons use Enhanced 9-1-1?

9-1-1 equipment has TTY capability and is ADA compliant. If the equipment detects TTY tones, it will automatically switch to TTY mode and immediately send out a greeting to the caller. The equipment can be manually switched to TTY mode with a keystroke, which facilitates the testing of silent calls.

Addressing Questions

Street signs keep disappearing in my town, what can I do?

Theft of street signs is against the law and is a problem in many communities. They are a vital part of the 9-1-1 system as they allow responders to find callers faster.

If you see someone stealing or vandalizing signs, call 9-1-1.

Why is addressing a critical part of 9-1-1?

A 9-1-1 caller's address routes the call to the correct PSAP so that emergency services can be dispatched immediately. Knowing the emergency caller's address helps dispatchers send emergency services to the scene quickly.

Do communities have the authority to create physical addresses?

Yes. Every Maine community has the legal authority to create physical addresses under Municipal Home Rule Powers, Article VIII, Part 2, Section 1 of the Constitution of the State of Maine and Title 30-A M.R.S.A Section 3001.

What happens if a 9-1-1 caller's address is not correct?

There are procedures that PSAP call takers must follow to report and correct addressing discrepancies after a 9-1-1 caller has notified them of the error.

Wireless/Cellular Questions

Can I send text or picture messages to 9-1-1 ?

Text to 911 is available in Maine. It is designed as an alternative to a traditional call when an individual is hearing impaired or when an individual cannot make a voice call, for example during in a home invasion or a medical emergency that renders an individual incapable of speech. A phone call is still best, and texts should only be used when a call isn’t possible. Pictures cannot be sent.

What if I call 9-1-1 by accident?

If you mistakenly call 9-1-1, stay on the line and tell the call taker you called by accident and that there is no emergency. This will save the call taker from having to call you back and confirm there is no emergency or possibly sending police to check your address for an emergency depending on local policy.

Can cell phones without an active plan call 9-1-1?

Yes. If the battery is charged, calls can be made to 9-1-1, although call back information will not be available to the call taker. Old phones should not be given to children to play with. Accidental calls take up valuable time and resources, especially when there are real emergencies that need attention.

Does 9-1-1 work from my cell phone?

Yes, all cell phone companies doing business in Maine have activated 9-1-1 dialing.

When I call 9-1-1 from my cell phone will the dispatchers know where I am?

Cell phones cannot give your exact location like a traditional phone does. Try to have your address ready, or use landmarks, mile markers and road signs to describe where you are.

Voice over IP (VoIP) Questions

Can I dial 9-1-1 from my VoIP phone?

You can reach emergency assistance by dialing 9-1-1 on most VoIP phones. However, there are important differences between some VoIP 9-1-1 emergency dialing and traditional 9-1-1 service from a standard phone. Sometimes the 9-1-1 call taker may not have a display of the number you are calling from or your location. In addition, your call may arrive at a remote private call center if there is confusion over your location.

How do I know what level of 9-1-1 service I have with my VoIP phone?

The best way to find out is to research the features of your VoIP provider as it pertains to 9-1-1 on its web site. Search for "emergency calling." Once you know its features, you should notify all potential phone users, including frequent visitors and babysitters.

How is a VoIP 9-1-1 call routed to the correct 9-1-1 center?

When you sign up for VoIP service, you are asked to register your location. For a 9-1-1 call to go to the right 9-1-1 center, it MUST correspond to the physical location of your VoIP phone. This address allows the VoIP provider to route the call to the right place. You cannot use a PO Box or Rural Route address.

What if my 9-1-1 call is misrouted to the wrong 9-1-1 center?

If your VoIP call is routed to the wrong 9-1-1 center, you should tell the call taker the city, county and state where you need help. The call taker will likely attempt to transfer your call to the right 9-1-1 center, but it is always a good idea to have the phone numbers of the police, fire and rescue on hand for easy reference.

Can I call 9-1-1 from my VoIP phone when I’m traveling?

Some VoIP providers offer the ability to travel with your phone. If so, the provider should offer a way to update your registered address but the time it takes to update this address varies greatly. If you travel with your phone, the safest thing to do is use another phone to dial 9-1-1 if you need help.

Do service outages affect my ability to call 9-1-1?

They might. Just as a cordless phone may not work without power, your VoIP phone may not work without power either. As a result, you may be unable to make any calls, including those to 9-1-1, during an electrical outage. Similarly, if your cable or broadband service is interrupted, it may keep you from being able to make outbound calls.

Will my security monitoring service work with VoIP service?

It might but then it might not. Check with your provider to see if they support analog modem traffic necessary for burglar alarms and fax machines.