Homeland Security and Public Safety

Obsolescence of 911 Call Systems Leads Localities to Update to VoIP
By: on January 02, 2012
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Flickr CC/amayzun

When a construction crew inadvertently cut through fiber-optic cables in St. Louis Park, Minn., last summer, things could have been catastrophic. With the city’s public safety answering points (PSAPs) out of commission, it might not have been possible to field emergency calls — but service resumed rather quickly.

PSAP traffic was rerouted to neighboring Minnetonka with only a 30-minute lapse in service. “That’s fantastic for an unplanned event,” said PSAP Manager Lt. Lori Dreier.

St. Louis Park pulled off this save thanks to a decision a year earlier to convert its telecommunications infrastructure to voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). With its portability, cost savings and the promise of enhanced functionality, Internet-based telephony is becoming the de facto choice in jurisdictions whose PSAPs are approaching the end of their five- to seven-year life cycle.

The best reason to convert to VoIP may well be the obsolescence of existing 911 call centers. The technology driving these centers has not changed significantly in decades, and is now so far behind the times that upgrading existing infrastructure is impractical.

Go to Government Technology to read more about 911 call systems updating to VoIP.

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Adam Stone is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine.


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