An 18-month old toddler in Calgary, Canada, died after it took two ambulances 40 minutes to get to him thanks to one ambulance being dispatched to the wrong city as the VOIP phone used to make the 911 call gave emergency services the wrong idea as to the location of the caller.
Elijah Luck went into medical distress and his family made an emergency call for an ambulance. However thanks to the “nomadic” VOIP service they were using the emergency services were shown the wrong address information and dispatched an ambulance in Mississauga, Ontario, more than twenty-five-hundred miles away.
After waiting a half an hour for the ambulance the parents rang again from a landline and an ambulance arrived six minutes later, though the baby was pronounced dead upon reaching the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
Fixed landlines and VOIP services automatically route an emergency call to the nearest call centre. Nomadic VOIP services however do not always give the correct information and so, as in this case, the call can be routed to the wrong call centre and the emergency operator can be given the wrong address information. This is why many VOIP services, such as Skype, specifically give the disclaimer that they are not to be used for emergency calls.
The Canadian authorities are now looking at better ways to deal with nomadic VOIP services alongside making consumers more aware of the limitations of the service in an emergency context.