2014-10-17 / Front Page

Town addresses 911 issues

Less information available automatically to dispatchers
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — Last Thursday, Deputy Chief Kurt Moses addressed a rising complication in 9-1-1 calls dialed in Kennebunkport.

Before Vonage, Verizon and Time Warner Cable, there were simple copper land lines that, when someone dialed 9-1-1, automatically connected the caller with a local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

With the development of multiple providers, what was once an easy connection has become complicated.

Many years ago, Moses told the board at the Oct. 9 meeting, Kennebunkport used to be a PSAP. However, “with the state consolidating money, they have reduced that, so we have to go to a regional dispatch center.”

That dispatch center is located in York.

When a resident in Kennebunkport dials 9-1-1, in addition to the details described in their conversation with the York dispatcher, the location from which the call was made is also immediately transferred via the landline.

The dispatcher in York then transfers the information to a dispatcher in Kennebunkport, at which point the appropriate service (police, fire and/or ambulance) is dispatched to the location where the call was made.

This is where it becomes complicated. Accompanying the increase in options for phone systems and providers is something called Voiceover Internet Protocol system (VOIP).

Kennebunkport has seen an “influx” of the VOIP systems, Moses said and, in recent months, the VOIP system does not always transfer accurate location information like a regular landline.

“When you call on a landline, it tells us your name, your address, and where you’re coming from. With this VOIP system, it won’t necessarily do that,” Moses said.

The VOIP system doesn’t transfer the same information that a regular landline does. Dialing 9-1-1 with the VOIP system is similar to making an emergency call from a cell phone — chances are, the call will not be routed to the local PSAP, Moses said.

“It doesn’t necessarily know which Public Safety Answering Point to send it to,” Moses said. “Instead of sending the call to York, it could go to Sanford, Biddeford, or state police.”

There has only been one incident of re-routing, said Chief Craig Sanford. However, “It’s always a concern (because) there are so many ways to dial 911 services that you just never know what that service provider has done as far as routing your 911 calls.

“You just never know and this was a perfect instance where the providers had not routed it correctly.”

In theory, just because a call is sent to a different PSAP center doesn’t mean it will delay the service’s arrival, it just adds confusion, Moses said. “And that’s what we’re trying to let everyone know so they can potentially resolve some of these issues.”

What the Kennebunkport Police Department is asking residents who have a VOIP phone system to do, Moses said, is to get in touch with their providers and register their address.

Most providers have a link on their website that lets its customers register their location.

Most Internet phone lines operate with a VOIP system.

“So, if you do have a voice-over IP type of a phone system, your provider is able to work with you because you basically have to register your address with that phone system, and then they take that information and put it though the proper channels to get it legitimized through the system,” Moses said.

Once residents register, Moses advises them to call the Kennebunkport Police Department on a landline, not an emergency line, and someone from the department will direct the resident on the steps to take to test their line.

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