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Vonage Puts VoIP 911 Caller on Hold 464

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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  • by Splork (13498) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:41PM (#14984426) Homepage
    try calling 911 on a POTS line or cell phone in any major city and see for yourself.
  • by qwave54 (671614) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:54PM (#14984508)
    I had to call 911 a few times in the past few years, and every single time I've had nothing but trouble from them. One time when I witnessed a car accident and stayed to help, I called 911 because a woman at the scene had trouble getting out of her car (the door wouldn't open and her legs were pinned). The 911 operator *wouldn't believe* that she needed help and refused to send more than one police car. Luckily he came quickly and called for the proper help. Another time I had to call, I was transfered to the wrong emergency service. I needed the police, but was sent to the fire dept. While the fire operator was talking, the 911 operator interrupted the call and transfered me to the EMS! Again, interrupted and finally I got the police. Other times I've had operators who were rude and unhelpful.
    So Vonage's 911 seems to be at par with the poor level of service given by the other 911 services.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:55PM (#14984512) Homepage Journal
    Were you first asked "is this an emergency?" That used to be the standard when I was involved in fielding emergency calls. If you said "yes," then you weren't put on hold.

    I had to call a couple of weeks ago about a suspected (and thankfully non-existant) chimney fire (turned out to be a piece of newspaper went up the flue and got caught in the spark trap at the top of the chimney- made for a nice bit of harmless fireworks spotted by a passing car, who notified me). I was put on hold without anybody asking anything- by the time I was off hold, they sent out the fire department anyway though I said the flames were out...
  • Re:Dupe "Article" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eln (21727) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:56PM (#14984515) Homepage
    I agree. I use only cell phones for day to day calling, but I still have a basic land line hooked up, and a cheap $10 phone that doesn't require power in the closet in case of emergencies. I've had plenty of times during storms where the power went out and the phone lines still worked.
  • This should surprise no one. 911 is not anywhere near as reliable as you think it could or should be. A friend of mine nearly cut off this thumb with a chop saw. He ran into the house, called 911, and .... it was busy. Rather than dick around bleeding (drip, drip), he called the one person he knew he could rely on: his office secretary (three cheers for secretaries!) She called the local ambulance service, they picked up, took him to the hospital, and after a little tendon reattachment surgery and months of rehab, he was good as new. No thanks to 911.
  • Re:Why VoIP? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by westlake (615356) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:21PM (#14984656)
    Traditionally you exit your burning house ASAP and call from a house next door...

    "Next door" to my father's place is the farmhouse a mile down the road. "Next door" assumes you are in a condition to walk or drive. That your judgement is not impaired.

    I have vivid memories still of my one and only experience with carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • by Ah huh and then (963227) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:51PM (#14984816)
    Looks like this person needed someone to blame. First off, this was not a five alarm fire. Thoes are just slightly bigger, usually apartment building or commerical wherehouses. More then one firetruck will arive at a five alarm fire, hense the name. One other kinda fishy thing is
    "by the time fire crews arrived, the fire had become a five-alarm blaze. The house was a total loss."
    which conficts with Veltkamps own statment in the local media:
    "When I was ordered out of the building, I didn't want to comply with that," Veltkamp said. Fire crews convinced him to leave, but he later re-entered the home - followed by police. "They chased me in, saying they were going to taze me if I didn't come out," Veltkamp said. He then ran from police through the house, and escaped out of the basement.
    It probably didn't help that the firecrews had to shoot water over trees at this house either video ID=165697&NoAds=true [] local report t=1 []
  • by technothrasher (689062) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:05PM (#14984875)
    Or did you make enough calls to 911 to make it statiscly relevant? If so you where put on hold while they send out the police to arrest you!

    Well, I don't know the original posters situation but I used to live by a dangerous intersection and called 911 at least once every couple weeks or so to report yet another accident in front of my house. So you can actually have a situation where you make a lot of 911 calls and still not be abusing the system.

    BTW, I was never put on hold.

  • by noldrin (635339) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:07PM (#14984888)
    Once I called 911 to report an emergency, Livestock were wondering a highway durring rushhour. I was told by 911 that this wasn't an emergency and I should hangup and call animal control. So this required me making a call to 411 over my cell phone, which cost me $2.50. I was then connected to the local police department. Thank you so much 911. Next time I'll tell them I'll call back after the accident has happened.
  • by rob1980 (941751) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:38PM (#14985026)
    Not really disturbing - I worked at ADT for a couple months awhile back and I could have established these kinds of percentages easily within a week if I was taking notes. And it wouldn't be for one city, it would have been across the entire nation. I think the longest I was ever on hold was 15 minutes for the LAPD.
  • by SmurfButcher Bob (313810) on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:03AM (#14986074) Journal
    I think I read some details on that fire - the fire was through the roof when first-due rolled on-scene. Generally, if the fire has self-vented in all but a few specific types of construction - such a structure is considered a loser unless there are intact firewalls running all the way up to the peak, which is unlikely in a residence. Combine that with truss construction and engineered wood products (and this structure definately had trussing), the structure is automatically a write-off. With truss or engineered wood construction, crews are typically forbidden from entering the structure after 10 minutes of fire unless (1) there is a victim inside, AND (2) there's a prayer of saving them... and even then, we'll honestly consider if it's worth the risk, based on the time that has elapsed. Truss + Fire = 12 minute "roof falls onto you" deathtrap, and EWood + Fire = 4 minute "floor falls under you" deathtrap, period, no exceptions.

    That's why, like you, I'm almost baffled that the police chased this idiot inside - but from the size of the structure in the video, half of the building could be flashing over while at the other end of it, you'd never know it. With a smaller structure, he'd not have gotten two steps into the door and still be able to see, let alone breathe all of the phosgene & methal-ethyl-kills-you shit in the air. Since neither he nor the cops needed rescue, it pretty much demands that "when fire crews arrived" the fire was at one end of the house (the end farthest away from the platform truck, judging by the extent of the burn there), and he was running into the near-end, which wasn't involved (or smoke filled) yet. That the fire vented itself so quickly is probably a major factor as to why the rest of the structure wasn't a lethal atmosphere, as well.

    For your own fun - shooting the water over the trees wasn't really relevent; by the time you use a master stream (such as from the platform in the video) - those things flow anywhere from 1500 to 2500 gallons per minute - it's over.

    Why, you ask?

    One gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. Our truck is rated at 2500 GPM; from a draft, it can (real life) sustain around 2200 GPM; that's 17 thousand, 600 pounds of weight per minute that we're dumping onto the floor of that structure. A typical stream like that will be flowed for up to 5 or 10 minutes, since you're trying to suppress fire on the ceiling and walls - and most of the water is on the floor, in a structure that's already (heavily) compromised... and actively being further compromised, to boot. Five minutes... 88 thousand pounds, 44 tons of weight... that's like having, what, about 30 cars parked on that floor? Even if we do succeed in knocking down the fire, the odds of the structure surviving US is small, at best... and that's one master stream. If placement allows, we'll use two, plus (if warranted) a portable from the ground, shooting into a window.

    So, apparatus placement didn't help much, as you said - but using THAT specific piece is typically a "fat lady singing" move when a residence is involved; the trusses (what few are left) in the video are a dead giveaway. A fire in that type of construction... first alarm should bring two engines and a truck; second alarm should bring an additional engine and truck (and water supply, if needed); third alarm brings coffee; fourth alarm brings donuts; fifth alarm brings pizza and fresh cell phone batteries - because if the first alarm crew couldn't nail it, it's moot. Steel Trussing sucks; Wood Trussing really, really sucks; the only thing worse is Engineered Wood.

    For what it's worth, we have several similarly *stupid* houses in our district, that have little or no access for truck or engine placement - some, you cannot even fit a freakin E-One up the driveway, let alone a stick or platform truck. For those, we've added a trailer to our Mini brush-truck; 1500 feet of supply line, a bunch of gated water-theives, and four attack lines. If WE get stuck with a fire in such a place, our initial alarm will
  • by Pinachi (668790) on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:34AM (#14986321)
    Yeah, throwing flour on a grease fire. That is the most stupid thing I think a real fire fighter could say. Powdered flour is extremely explosive. If it's really grainy it would work, if there is any fine flour in there though you'll get a nice flash fire that would spread it around the room. The stupidity almost is up there with throwing coffee creamer on a fire. Use baking soda or a fire extinguisher.

Some people have a great ambition: to build something that will last, at least until they've finished building it.