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Baby Dies After VOIP 911 Call Sends Ambulance To Wrong City

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 7 comments

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.

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  • 0 Hide
    rykerabel , May 7, 2008 11:58 AM
    911's fault. They should always ask for address. This has always been the case.
  • 0 Hide
    ctbaars , May 7, 2008 2:29 PM
    VOIP service industries fault. Emergencies don't read disclaimers.
  • 0 Hide
    03flat4 , May 7, 2008 3:17 PM
    Yes and yes...911 should always ask for an address in all emergencies. Common sense! You can never be too careful on an emergency call! Yes VOIP industries should help educate the emergency systems of that issue, as they do the consumers who use it. Poor baby :( 
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  • 0 Hide
    Mr_Man , May 7, 2008 5:41 PM
    I thought everyone knew that you shouldn't use VOIP, especially nomadic, to make emergency calls. Granted, in an emergency, you won't always think clearly, but I don't think this was VOIP's fault.
  • 0 Hide
    boonality , May 8, 2008 3:15 AM
    Placing blame...

    It is ultimately the callers fault as it is the callers responsibility to give their location. However the 911 operator SHOULD have verified or asked this information at the beginning of the call. But that still doesn't make it their fault.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 8, 2008 1:15 PM
    Once we have the blaming mania of americans invading the logic of wsetenr society: "Something bad happenned to me:lets call a lawyer and sue someone!!".
    1- No information on the baby's cause of death: was this death caused by parents (and yes , it is well over 50% of in all countrys); was the cause of death utterly inescaple? (and yes, there are many baby's diseases that have over 99,999 mortality rate even with best and fastest treatment)
    2-parents should inform name and location on an emergency call, and also provide as much information as possible on the baby condition to offer the baby the best surviving chances: there are amny, many reports of babys lifes saved by parents who informed the clinical condition well when receive over the phone intructions that saved the bays life, the most common were milk aspiration on the airways, resolved by pressing the babys abdomen in a Heimlich manouver-- sorry dudes but most babys cant resist 6 minutes without breathing and survive without permanent brain injury!!-- maybe some of these barain injuried babys become lawyers or blame someone else maniacs!
    3- Blame the VOIP company??? I sell a product, explain that it shall not be used in emergencys, someone moron uses it anyway, things go utterly wrong and the company is to blame?? nesxt time try to drink caustic soda and blame the company!
  • 0 Hide
    tcrabtree , May 8, 2008 2:10 PM
    We had similar problems with a corporate phone system where you had to dial 9 to get an outside line then dial 911. In a panic, people do not remember to dial 9911. Also, since the phones were managed out of Chicago and we were connected via a T1 line from Minneapolis, the 911 call when to Chicago. So, the problem is not just VOIP. A solution for us was to update our telephone switch. A solution for all of the 911 issues is to program the VOIP unit to dial the local emergency number rather than 911 when 911 is pressed. In other words, when someone dials 911, the VOIP should simply translate that into 123-345-6789. Then all calls to 911 will go to a local emergency call center. The challenge you have is to get the 9-digit equivelent number of 911 for your local area. Every telephone has one. Even the speed dial 911.