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General Questions  |  Addressing Questions  |  Wireless/Cellular Questions

VoIP Questions

General Questions

What agency directs the development of Enhanced 9-1-1 service?

The Emergency Services Communication Bureau manages both the implementation and operation of statewide Enhanced 9-1-1.

What happens if I call 9-1-1 and there is a busy signal?

Please hang up and dial 9-1-1 again. As long as your local telephone service is operating, this situation is highly unlikely. The Enhanced 9-1-1 network has several back-up systems to ensure that 9-1-1 calls are answered.

How is Enhanced 9-1-1 service funded?

Enhanced 9-1-1 was funded initially by a $3.2 million bond approved by Maine voters in 1988. In 1994, the Maine Legislature implemented a monthly telephone customer surcharge . The current surcharge is $.45 per line, per month.

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.

What number do you call for non-emergencies?

For non-emergencies, call the 7-digit telephone numbers of police, fire and ambulance services listed in the white pages of the local telephone book.

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 crime.

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

At the current time, only Verizon Wireless customers within range of a Verizon Wireless tower have the ability to text to 911 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. If you use any other carrier, you must make a voice call.

Why is Enhanced 9-1-1 needed?

Enhanced 9-1-1 is a lifesaving public safety service. The system immediately identifies the 9-1-1 caller's address and allows the public safety call takers to quickly send emergency services to the scene. Many times during a crisis, a 9-1-1 caller is unable to provide this critical information. Enhanced 9-1-1's location feature helps minimize delays in emergency response that could endanger a person's life or property.

Is Enhanced 9-1-1 available in all Maine communities?

All towns in Maine have access to Enhanced 9-1-1.

Are communities required to assign physical addresses?

While law does not require community addressing, towns are strongly encouraged to participate in the process. When physical addresses are assigned, the public can take full advantage of Enhanced 9-1-1.

What is the key benefit of Enhanced 9-1-1?

A 9-1-1 caller's location and telephone number are automatically displayed at the public safety answering point (PSAP).

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.

Under 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?

Enhanced 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

Is enhanced 9-1-1 available in towns with "RR Box" addresses?

People without a street address (e.g., 58 Pine Lane) can call 9-1-1 for emergencies. They will not benefit from the system's location safety feature until their town completes addressing.

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 Enhanced 9-1-1?

A 9-1-1 caller's address (stored in the Enhanced 9-1-1 system) routes the call to the correct PSAP so that emergency services can be dispatched immediately. With older 9-1-1 systems, calls were routed by telephone exchange and did not always reach the correct public safety answering point. 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.

What happens if a person moves?

When you notify your telephone company of a new address, their system will automatically update this change in the Enhanced 9-1-1 database.

Wireless/Cellular Questions

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.

What is Phase II 9-1-1 service?

Phase II is a requirement of the Federal Communications Commission for wireless phone companies to provide an approximation of the 9-1-1 callers location in the form of latitude and longitude. All carriers in Maine are Phase II compliant.

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.

Does 9-1-1 know where I am when calling from my VoIP phone?

Possibly. No matter where your call routes, the 9-1-1 call taker will first ask you to either provide or verify your location, name, and telephone number. If this information is not available automatically, your call routes to a remote, private call center that will determine where your call needs to go based on the information you provide.

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 some the time it takes to update this address varies greatly. The safest thing to do is if you travel with your phone on a temporary basis, 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.

Should I keep my traditional phone line after I subscribe to VoIP service?

Yes. 9-1-1 leaders recommend you keep your traditional phone in addition to your VoIP phone in order to insure you can access 9-1-1 services and have access to a phone in a power or service outage.

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.