Emergency 911 service over VOIP for children at home
May 8, 2023 5:30 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a VOIP service that my 9 year old can use if I'm unexpectedly incapacitated while she's home with me and/or for when I eventually start letting her stay at home on her own while I run down the street. She knows how to use the emergency feature on my iPhone but if she doesn't have access to it, I'd like to have a fallback.

Ideally, this will be cheap. I've heard of some services that are less than $5/month; I saw something a month or two ago that looked just right and I didn't save the link unfortunately. This question from 2015 is very similar to mine but an update with any new offerings would help.
posted by scottso17 to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have a spare cell phone you are no longer using? Cells phone can call 911 even when they are not hooked up to service through a carrier.
posted by DJWeezy at 5:36 PM on May 8, 2023 [8 favorites]

Any old cell phone not on an active plan will call 911. An old smart phone connected to WiFi will also allow your kid to send you a chat message if they need you in a not-quite-emergency. Importantly, a decommissioned cell phone will still call 911 if the power and internet is out due to a storm.
posted by phunniemee at 5:38 PM on May 8, 2023

Response by poster: I'm looking for a service that will transmit my address automatically to 911 like a landline. I understand cell phones don't all automatically do this.
posted by scottso17 at 6:20 PM on May 8, 2023

Best answer: Ooma is an inexpensive VoIP service that provides e911 as part of the deal. (They advertise service as being free after you purchase the ~$100 adapter or their phones, but you still need to pay ~$5 or so a month for taxes, one of those taxes being the necessary 911 tax.)
posted by eschatfische at 6:33 PM on May 8, 2023

Best answer: Echoing eschatfische: Ooma does what you want. You have to buy the adapter box, and you'll need a phone handset too, then it's almost free. (We've used Ooma for many years happily, it's reliable).

The downside to VOIP of course is that it relies on your internet; if that's gone down then your VOIP won't work.
posted by anadem at 8:12 PM on May 8, 2023

I use voip.ms for this and I think e911 is like $1.50 a month or something like that. Having the number is $0.85 a month. I have an OBI200 that bridges from the voip to my POTS landline in my house and then a normal landline phone.
posted by cmm at 8:20 AM on May 9, 2023

cmm, the Obi200 series devices have an end-of-life date late this year and should not be recommended as a solution here. I used an Obi device with Google Voice in prior years, and call completion with certain carriers became enough of a problem that I took it out of service. It's clear that Obi is no longer part of a viable solution to this sort of thing.
posted by eschatfische at 9:45 AM on May 9, 2023

Thanks for pointing out that EOL. I had no idea. All of this just sits out of the way for me and just works. I knew Poly didn't take care of Obihai after it bought it so it isn't surprising. I imagine that when my OBI200 breaks I will buy a Grandstream HT 802.

For some maybe the $5 a month vs $2.35 a month is meaningful. Porting in a number for voip.ms is free too (vs $40 with Ooma) and initial cost is lower (HT 802 looks like it is $40 vs $99 for Ooma).
posted by cmm at 10:37 AM on May 9, 2023

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