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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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  • Dupe "Article" (Score:5, Informative)

    by ( 907022 ) * <> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:37PM (#14984400) Homepage Journal
    This "article" is a duplicate thread on the Vonage Forum. The original thread [] has much more information.
  • Nothing to see here (Score:5, Informative)

    by michaelhood ( 667393 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:37PM (#14984401)
    This is no different than the 911 service on PSTN (regular phone service).

    I've been put on hold at least 50-60% of the time I've called.

    They're understaffed.
  • not suprising. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:49PM (#14984476)
    I live about 6 minutes away from chanhassen, and the last time I called 911 I was put on hold. I called from a cell phone not voip so I'm geussing its just the local emergency services fault.
  • Re:Why VoIP? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Phurd Phlegm ( 241627 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:57PM (#14984523)
    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...

    Here's the local TV station's report []. They don't say so, but I assume that his only phone service was VOIP. As for running next door, I assume he figured it would be quicker to report if he played the percentages and didn't hang up to try again. According to the report, he was arrested for repeatedly reentering the house to save his computers.
  • Re:Who needs 911? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:01PM (#14984544) Homepage Journal
    You can usually do both- just call your local phoneco and ask for a emergency-only line that only dials 911 and 0. Also known as Basic Dial Tone Service, it will cost you someplace between $0-$12/month, depending on whether or not they force you to get local dialing with it or not, and what taxes apply. Don't forget to plug in an old fashioned WIRED phone to the line, so that you have service in case of a power outage as well.
  • Re:Why VoIP? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bacon Bits ( 926911 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:01PM (#14984548)
    Irrelevant. FCC regulations require service providers to connect any 911 emergency calls. That's why you can [supposedly] connect a phone to a jack with no service and dial 911, or use a cell phone that has no account and dial 911. It is Vonage's responsibility to see that this happens each time every time. There is no burden on the consumer for this one. If Vonage doesn't like it, they can choose not to be in the telcom business in the US.

    Now, some of the reports I've read do say that Vonage connected him, but that the operators put him on hold. In that case, Vonage is not to blame as they met the requirments of law.
  • by lamp540 ( 644770 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:05PM (#14984574) Homepage
    This last new years day I observed a man breaking into cars in a parking lot, I called the police to tell them and when they asked me for my address and all I could provide was the neareast intersection(I slept over at someone's apartment) they told me to find out the address and then call them back.
  • Same Problem in LA (Score:2, Informative)

    by osmodion ( 716658 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:07PM (#14984584)
    A few weeks ago I was rear ended. The damage to my car was pretty extensive, so one of my passengers called 911 while I talked to the other driver. He was on hold for well over five minutes. When someone finally answered, he handed the phone to me. I talked for about 4 seconds before being cut off by the operator. The nice version is that if no one was bleeding or dead, she was hanging up to deal with more important calls.

    The call centers are vastly understaffed, which isn't Vonage's fault, so people get put on hold. End of story.
  • Re:Who needs 911? (Score:3, Informative)

    by HappyDrgn ( 142428 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:08PM (#14984585) Homepage
    Plug a phone into your wall outlet, or if you have a spare disconnected cell phone, keep it charged and make sure your family knows where it is. 911 service works on any phone line in the U.S. even if the service is not activated. We have Vonage, but we also have a backup phone plugged into the wall. The Internet is something I would want to rely on in an emergency.
  • Re:Why VoIP? (Score:5, Informative)

    by frinkster ( 149158 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:53PM (#14984827)
    Irrelevant. FCC regulations require service providers to connect any 911 emergency calls. That's why you can [supposedly] connect a phone to a jack with no service and dial 911, or use a cell phone that has no account and dial 911. It is Vonage's responsibility to see that this happens each time every time. There is no burden on the consumer for this one. If Vonage doesn't like it, they can choose not to be in the telcom business in the US.

    I work in the cell phone infrastructure business. It's not really FCC regulations that make it so, it's a requirement of the various cell phone technologies.

    A cell phone recognizes 911 (and the other emergency numbers used around the world) as an emergency call, picks the closest tower and requests an emergency call. It's a different process than making a normal call and bypasses nearly all of the steps involved with making a call (including such things as authentication, determining if you are allowed access, if you are roaming or local, if you should be billed, and a host of other steps). If there is no capacity, the base station will disconnect a paying call to make room. Whether you have a SIM card in the phone or even an active account is irrelevant to the whole process.

    When we test new systems and major software upgrades, we attempt emergency calls first. Not really because we want to make sure they work, it's because it's a lot easier to set one up!
  • If you are ever woken up by the smell of smoke/fire in your house, you have just about three minutes to get out before you die. Basicly, the amount of smoke and gasses in the air that are enough to wake you up are jsut slightly les then it takes to kill you.

    Also, a tiny fire can turn life threatening in jsut a couple of minutes. Fire is not somehitn to be fucked with.
  • Loren Veltkamp ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Fooby ( 10436 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @09:18PM (#14984926)
    was convicted [] for assaulting a former tenant of his while performing a "citizen's arrest" for failure to pay rent. He appealed the case pro se, and unsurprisingly lost on his irrelevent legal arguments. The man seems to be a bit nutty, if not dangerous.
  • by fredklein ( 532096 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @09:32PM (#14984988)
    I think you're looking for this joke:

    An elderly man living alone was awoken by a stange noise in the middle of the night. He looked out of his back bedroom window and saw two men breaking into his garden shed. So he called 911 to report what was happening.
    "I'm very sorry," said the sergeant, "but there's no-one available at present. When someone become free I'll send them along to your address."
    Two minutes later he called 911 again.
    "I'm sorry to bother you again about this," he explains, "but I called about a couple of minutes ago about a burgary. Don't bother to send anyone out, though, because I've just shot them."
    Five minutes later the avenue is swarming with policemen and a SWAT team.,There are police vehicles in all the surrounding streets and a helicopter hovering overhead with search lights beaming. They catch the two burglars red handed.
    "I thought you said you'd shot them," said the police sergeant.
    "And I thought you said you had nobody available," replied the old man.
  • by BcNexus ( 826974 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:30PM (#14985280)
    I see no conclusive evidence to blame Vonage.

    TFA doesn't explain what "put on hold" is. This vague problem could be with any number of systems, which could belong to Qwest (very big here in Minnesota), or some other company. Or , to echo other comments, the 911 center in Chanhassen ould have been understaffed and may have put the caller on hold.

    Moreover, KSTP Channel 5 has shitty sensationalist news. I live in Saint Paul MN. In my opinion, Channel five news is a joke. The news team offers interesting headlines without necesary details in the actual stories.

    In conclucsion, readers, please don't give this ancedotal /. story any consideration; there simply aren't enough details, and I think the station that first reported the story isn't trustworthy for detailed, accurate stories.
  • by garylian ( 870843 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:19PM (#14985498)
    Actually, speaking as a former firefighter, it isn't common for folks to misunderstand how dangerous a fire can be. Most folks freak completely out. They panic, and make mistakes they should know better than to do.

    Small grease fires take out a whole kitched because the panicked homeowner throws water on it, instead of something like flour.

    It's simple Fight or Flight syndrome. Most folks run for it (flight), but without applying a thought process to what they are doing. Those that try to deal (fight) with it aren't usually trained to deal with it properly. Sometimes even those that ARE trained get caught by something they didn't expect.

    Fires are nothing to mess around with. Those that have a healthy respect for them can deal with it once they are properly trained. Those that don't, tend to die, even with training. Just check out the number of firefighters that die each year due to really dumb things like buildings falling on them.

    Most firefighter deaths (that aren't due to traffic accidents or heart attacks) were completely preventable. There's usually a cover-up, for the officers in charge, all the way down to even the victim's themselves. Nobody wants to tarnish a hero's legacy, even if said "hero" had their head up their ass and was in a place they should have known better than to be, or was doing something they shouldn't have done. The public doesn't end up knowing, but most of it ends up getting caught on tape by some bystander, and then the government ends up buying the tape rights so that it doesn't get on the 11 o'clock news. Then, they show it as training video, and tell us "See, these guys are dumbfucks, and so is their commanding officer". And yet, more than half the class would still make the same mistake.
  • by xx_toran_xx ( 936474 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:51PM (#14985623)
    73% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
  • by Netscryer ( 896237 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:30AM (#14985781)
    And in the UK... r/ [] "Around seven in ten calls to the 999 service are not deemed to be emergencies, thus clogging up the system and making it harder for staff to handle urgent calls. Which is why the government wants a new Single Non-Emergency Number (SNEN). The new SNEN service - 101 - will be used for people to report matters such as vandalism, graffiti, and noisy neighbours." (I think 999, 911 and 112 are equivalent in the UK, but 999 is most familiar to most people, I've only ever dialed 999 though.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:40AM (#14985820)
    No Shit sherlock. If its not an emergency, don't call 911. Dial 0 and ask the operator to connect you with a local precinct.
  • Re:PARENT IS A TROLL (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 24, 2006 @01:46AM (#14986033)
    It doesn't exactly explode, especially if poured instead of thrown. For a grease fire, the flour will congeal on the top of the grease and help cutoff the air supply (go look up saponification - that's how the dry chem extinguishers work on grease fires). Problem is that you need a lot of flour to cover the whole burning surface and you risk getting burned trying it. It's better to simply put the lid on the pot. Here's some real advice from a fire department. efiresafety/grease_fire_safety.htm []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 24, 2006 @03:33AM (#14986319)
    The correct procedure is to call the 911 supervisor and inform the supervisor you will be performing a 911 test. You may need to call your phone provider first to find the number or call 311 if it is available in your area. The number is typically something like nxx-x911. Make sure the supervisor can see your information and give the supervisor enough time to notify the operators. If you change POTS or PRI providers, you need to add 911 testing to your checklist. I forgot to do this once and learned my lesson. Fortunately, no harm came from it. The PRI provider did not setup the PRI to route to correct 911 call center. They had routed to the county call center instead of the city. For some reason, when a call goes to Travis County Emergency Center instead of the City of Austin, all information about who placed the call is stripped.
  • by NumberGod ( 65770 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @07:43AM (#14986924)
    I really hate to disappoint you, but the smoke and gasses WILL NOT WAKE YOU.

    They put you into a deeper sleep, while removing all the oxygen from the air.

    Then you die. Not from the flames. From not having oxygen.

    At least that's what they taught me at paramedic school.

    Get yourself a smoke alarm for every bedroom. It might save your life one day.
  • Re:Dupe "Article" (Score:4, Informative)

    by W2IRT ( 679526 ) <> on Friday March 24, 2006 @10:27AM (#14987500) Homepage
    The term "X alarm fire" is used to describe how serious a fire is. X refers to the number of fire stations that respond to the fire. So in the story, unless 5 fire stations responded to this blaze, someone is talking out of his arse.

    Actually an alarm level isn't necessarily the number of stations involved, although that's a local definition for the most part. Urban and rural definitions can vary in terminology.

    In many areas, especially cities and towns, one alarm level would typically bring 3 engines, 2 ladders a chief and a rescue or something similar. Probably at least 2 & 2 plus a chief. If they roll up and see a building fully involved (heavy volume of fire), the senior officer would likely bang out a second alarm on arrival and bring in another set of apparatus similar to the first (another 3&2, officer, etc). In a city, a 5-5 is a seriously major fire; 15 to 20 engine companies, 8-10 ladder trucks, air supply units, mask service units, a bevy of chiefs and officers, probably a canteen and a handful of special-use units. In a rural setting, probably water supply units and relay pumpers if the building involved ins't near a hydrant network, mutual aid from nearby towns, etc.

    For a house fire, I would be surprised to see anything more than a second or third alarm unless there were kids trapped, hazmat materials in the shed and a team of strippers running the canteen. My guess is that probably there were five pieces of apparatus* on-scene and that became a Five Alarm job by some idiot reporter not familiar with the terminology.

    *The term "apparatus" is used on this side of the Atlantic to describe a fire department vehicle of some kind or another (pumper, aerial ladder, tower ladder, quint, rescue squad, etc). In the UK, they use the term appliance. The first time I heard London Fire Brigade radio traffic requesting three more appliances on a job, I swear I was prepared in my mind to hear the dispatcher reply "Sending two toasters and a blender to your location, K."

  • Re:PARENT IS A TROLL (Score:3, Informative)

    by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Friday March 24, 2006 @10:59AM (#14987687)
    Flour, like most things that explode due to combustion, is only explosive if mixed with of oxygen in a narrow range of concentration. A big handful of flour won't explode. You should be glad that it won't or kitchens with gas stoves would be blowing up every time somebody made a cream sauce.
  • by CharlieG ( 34950 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @11:09AM (#14987738) Homepage
    so does having a tight fitting metal cover for the pot/pan, and always keeping it out when cooking - I've had grease catch in the bottom of a pan - reach over, pick up cover, put on pan, turn off burner. Amazing what happens when you cut off the source of air and heat - take 2 of the 3 legs of the triangle out, fire goes out fast
  • by cdn-programmer ( 468978 ) <terr&terralogic,net> on Friday March 24, 2006 @11:50AM (#14988092)
    This happened frquently and I had to teach her to just be persistant and keep phoning until they listened. Her mom was very ill. Crap like this does happen and often they don't get it right.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?