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Vonage Puts VoIP 911 Caller on Hold 464

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the not-too-good dept.
kamikaze-Tech writes "It is being reported on the Vonage Forums that last month when Loren Veltkamp's Chanhassen, Minnesota home caught on fire, he immediately called 9-1-1 using Vonage. Unfortunately, Vonage put him on hold, causing a delay in the response from emergency workers. By the time fire crews arrived, the fire had become a five-alarm blaze. The house was a total loss."
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Vonage Puts VoIP 911 Caller on Hold

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  • Why VoIP? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by networkBoy (774728) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:38PM (#14984402) Homepage Journal
    Was this his only phone?
    Any reason he didn't have access to another phone?
    Traditionally you exit your burning house ASAP and call from a house next door...
    -nB
  • Re:Dupe "Article" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:46PM (#14984449) Homepage Journal
    If the poster had read a bit further, he would have found out This isn't a new story [vonage-forum.com] (same link as parent, but I had written this in notepad while wating for the story to come out of the mysterious future) AND the guy involved was a bit of an idiot who wouldn't know a five alarm fire from a small fire he could rescue a computer from. He probably caused more delay in the attempt to rescue his house by leading the police on a chase from front door, through kitchen, to basement and out a window than the delay caused by Vonage National 911 putting him on hold.

    Anybody who only has Vonage without some form of backup line (either a bare bones land line or a cell phone) is a bit of a moron anyway- what would he have done if a candle lit the drapes on fire during a power outage?
  • Re:Dupe "Article" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:00PM (#14984542) Homepage Journal
    Actually, it is common for someone to be in a fire, and underestimate the danger becasue some of the chemicals in the air make it so you can not smell the smoke.

    When my mothers house caught on fire, She was sure she was fine to go back in, went in to get her keys so she could moce her car, coming back out they dragged her away. SHe kept saying it wasn't a big deal.

    They dashboard in her car was melting.

    My mother is not a moron. SHe's gt problems, but she is smart.
    My point is, don't judge this guy based on this incident, many people feel they are 'safe enough' in a fire, when they are not.
  • Re:Dupe "Article" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:15PM (#14984631) Homepage Journal
    My point was that a true five-alarmer would generate so much excess heat that NOBODY would have been able to enter the house. Let alone TWICE (first to get his computer, second to lead the police on a stupid chase). There's something that stinks about this story- and being put on hold by "Vonage" is the least of it.
  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:31PM (#14984707) Journal
    Do you know how they defined emergency?

    The imminent loss of life, limb or property. Or at least that is the standard in most locales. Breaking your wrist isn't an "emergency". Cutting it with a razorblade is.

    The problem is they should ENFORCE fines for "obvious" misuse, such as calls for barking dogs, etc. No fines for borderline cases (ie: when there is an injury, extremely loud sound that could have been explosion, smell of gas, etc.) but for the very obvious.

    At least $200 for a first time offense and going up another $200 for each subsequent non-emergency calls in a 3 year period. There are already enough laws on the books to cover this. The problem is that it is not enforced.

    Same for people who don't pull over when an ambulance/firetruck is trying to get by, except considerably higher fines ($500 for the first offense that is without an affirmative defense). Not so ironic, people are usually quick to pull over to make room for the police...
  • by bani (467531) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:15PM (#14985219)
    most of the publically available numbers are not staffed 24/7 and are usually not the appropriate numbers for dispatch. call your local police department and you'll generally get a nice voice menu where you have to navigate 15 levels deep to reach someone.

    only 911 is guaranteed to be staffed 24/7.
  • WTF? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:17AM (#14985730)
    disclaimer: I work in the telecom field.

    Vonage put the call on hold?? Or was it the 911 operator?
    I wasn't aware Vonage operated 911 call centers. Do they have SLAs with emergency responders?
    If Vonage [equipment] didn't answer the call, they were just providing the transport.

    Next time the wife hangs up on me am I supposed to call Cingular and open a trouble ticket
    for dropped calls on my cell phone?

    Please.
  • PARENT IS A TROLL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lehk228 (705449) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:23AM (#14985754) Journal
    a real firefighter would never suggest throwing flour onto a fire, flour explodes when thrown into flame
  • Re:Dupe "Article" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blaksaga (720779) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:36AM (#14985800)
    > what would he have done if a candle lit the drapes on fire during a power outage?

    The same thing people did before EVERYBODY had a telephone: run to the neighbors. :)
  • Re:WTF? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fishbowl (7759) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:10AM (#14985911)


    >Vonage put the call on hold?? Or was it the 911 operator?

    The premise of the story is that Vonage did, presumably in the process of routing the call to the localized 911. They have to do some processing, in order to provide localized 911 at all, and they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into compliance.

    The discussion board is light on details, and in particular, the questions I'd ask as a juror aren't even approached. Was this a delay between the CO and the 911 call center? How did the route trace at the time of the call, in terms of the customer's broadband connection, and in terms of the voip packets? When was the 911 call initiated? When was it received by Vonage? What are the specific details of the handling of that call, timestamped logs please. If Vonage can't provide that information, as a juror I'd be willing to impose bankrupting fines against the company and recommend criminal prosecutions for the people who knew or should have known that this system could fail.

    On the other hand, if the company can demonstrate due diligence, and especially if they can show that the same hold time would have resulted from a landline 911 call terminated at the same CO, then I'd find for the company. Either way, the homeowner has no fault. Any insurance company that tried to dismiss a claim because the homeowner used Vonage for 911, should lose.
  • by nahdude812 (88157) on Friday March 24, 2006 @07:31AM (#14986892) Homepage
    Trying to move a burning pot outside (especially in the case of a grease / oil fire) could be insanely dangerous! Most people don't realize how hot a grease fire can actually be (significantly hotter than boiling water or the fire in your fireplace). Of course the actual temperature depends on the type of grease.

    They might grab the pot, start moving it toward a door, and be overcome by the heat, slopping some burning grease onto themselves or onto the floor, if they don't drop the pot completely.
  • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Friday March 24, 2006 @09:13AM (#14987161) Homepage
    IF you are waken up.

    A large portion of the people who die in fires die sleeping in their beds, never waking at all.

    Get a smoke-alarm. It's not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot of an improvement.

  • Flour? you sure you want to be throwing fine powdered carbohydrates on a fire?

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if a knowledgeable instructor said (sarcastically) "You'd be better off throwing flour", knowing that flour could ultimately become a fuel. Then trainee misunderstands the sarcasm as "Flour is a really good idea".

    Now, one thing I'd say is that throwing flour from 5 feet away would creat a nice fine mist of fuel that military types call FAE (Fuel/Air Explosive). Bad, bad news.

    On the other hand, pouring a couple of kilos of flower from a foot or two away would attack the two primary methods of stopping a fire:

    1. cool the fuel. If you have more flour than grease, the flour will cool the grease -- probably below the burning point. At this point, you have the ability to move the pan from the burner... (further cooling the fire).
      When flour hits hot grease, there's a chemical reaction that takes place (first step for making cream sauces). This reaction is probably endothermic, which would further cool the fuel.

      Strangely this is actually how placing a lid on the pot helps to put out a fire... It removes the exothermic ("hot") fuel-air interface point from the surface of the grease, thus slowing down the feedback loop of heating the grease from both top and bottom -- now you just need to get the bottom of the grease away from the hot burner....

    2. deprive it of oxygen (or -- to put it another way, deprive the oxygen of flame-temperature fuel. The flour will congeal and cut down on the spattering of the grease which gives a nice fuel-air interface. It can also cover the surface of the grease (before it sinks) -- once again depriving the fuel of it's oxygen (or vice versa).
    Water, on the other hand, will just instantly expand into steam, and toss grease into the air -- in a fine mist of flame-temperature fuel. When that hits the air, instead of cooling, it will light on fire which will further heat nearby droplets ..... Another FAE situation -- not to mention the large globs of (near) burning grease that will probably cover your body.

    So, he's not completely out to lunch -- but I'd say that if you have an ABC or K fire extinguisher on hand, or just a lid (or another, larger pan), that's probably a better solution ... Just remember... Never put water on an oil/grease/gasoline fire.

    Last point: Firefighters walk into these kinds of fires with equipment that goes well beyond choosing between flour and baking soda. If it gets to the point where a (fully suited) firefighter is choosing between flour and baking soda to put out a fire, (s)he's probably also wondering about whether his/her last will and testament is up to date. I seriously doubt that they get in-depth training about the nuances of using common kitchen ingredients as firefighting tools.

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