Redundancy of Emergency Services (911) for K-12 Schools

Redundancy of Emergency Services (911) for K-12 Schools

In June of 2018, one of the major ISPs in the United States, headquartered in Philadelphia, Comcast, had a service outage affecting a majority of their customers. If you were at a school or building that relied only on Comcast for phone or internet, then your service was interrupted for most of the business day.

It is vital for schools and those in the healthcare industry to be able to make emergency 911 phone calls. In this article I’d like to present three possible options for introducing fail-over for emergency calling to prevent a situation like what happened back in June, to take down your phone systems’ emergency calling.


1. Additional POTS Lines

  • Advantages
    • Inexpensive monthly cost
    • Easy to set up with existing PBX system
  •  Disadvantages:
    • Not reliable depending on state of copper lines
    • Simultaneous calls out limited to number of POTS lines purchased


2. SIP over Secondary ISP

  • Advantages
    • Inexpensive
    • Increase or decrease amount of channels available at will
    • Goes through either ISP if ISDN PRI unavailable from primary ISP
    • E911 provides location automatically to emergency service
  •  Disadvantages:
    • Moderately difficult to set up – higher initial higher cost


3. SIP over 4G/LTE from Wireless Provider

  • Advantages
    • Fail-over if both primary and secondary ISP goes down
    • E911 capable
  • Disadvantages:
    •  Highest initial and recurring cost
    •  Difficult to set up – highest initial cost


As you can see there are several options for redundancy when it comes to emergency services. The most attractive solution is to get a secondary ISP as fail-over, not only for your phone systems like in this case but also for your internet. Depending on if the location contains more than one ISP as an option, this may be feasible. In cases where there is no secondary ISP but there are multiple wireless carriers (most of America), then it makes sense to go for the third option listed.

Hopefully this has given you an idea of your options when it comes to providing redundancy for emergency calling.