Will Your VoIP System Come Through For You In An Emergency?
When it comes to emergency communication, modern marvels like cell phones and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) may not be your most practical option. Here, we raise some awareness to the limitations of utilizing VoIP for emergency calls made from your property.
VoIP is short for Voice Over Internet Protocol, or, in other words, using the Internet as your regular phone service. Usually, the reason for choosing this technology is to get cheaper phone service than you might get with the traditional carriers.
Awesome, except for a few things: many VoIP providers don’t provide usual phone-company features like directory listings. Most importantly, many are not equipped to provide 911 services, or to come through in a pinch in the event of an emergency.
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Is a VoIP system safer than an old-school landline?
VoIP can be problematic for elevator phone use because of specific code requirements including monitoring around the clock and the ability of the monitoring party to call back into the cab in the event of a disconnection. 24/7 monitoring will often mean you have a third party involved and if on VoIP, that third party will likely need access to your network. Ask your IT team how they feel about that. Outside of internal comfort levels with outside access to your network, relying on the availability of internet service for emergency events is not recommended. Emergency lines do not typically fit the bill for VoIP.
Furthermore, there have been security vulnerabilities associated with VoIP networks. Hackers prefer to work with VoIP data, which are more easy to intercept over the wide-open Internet. Also, VoIP data is digital, which can be easily accessed. Even though VoIP is considered more sophisticated and modern than old-fashioned landlines, hackers are more sophisticated too. They work hard to access VoIP information as it travels around the World Wide Web. This is not something you want to gamble with when dealing with calls and information protected by HIPAA.
Five indicators that your VoIP system is being hacked, according to VoIPreview.org:
- Your Internet searches get redirected to unwanted sites. Also notice if unfamiliar extensions or toolbars are being added or installed on your browser without your approval.
- Your call history list contains unfamiliar phone numbers. Go through your itemized call history each month (or sooner) and identify any numbers that don’t look right. Another way to tell is if the origin location of the call is not a place you know.
- You’re receiving antivirus messages that seem shady. Check the origin of the messages, or shut down the system and let your IT team check it out.
- Your microphones and webcams come alive without your permission. You would be amazed at how hard hackers work at trying to activate your microphones and webcams. This is the easiest and most efficient way for them to spy on you. Send out a full alert to your IT team if you’re noticing this happening.
- Your telephone bill gets more expensive. This may come from unauthorized use. Hackers may use your system to make long-distance calls (sometimes extremely long-distance). In some cases, they’ll use an autodialing tool to make multiple phone calls at once. Notify your VoIP provider or IT department right away so that they can dismantle this free lunch. Again, check your phone bill history for any unfamiliar calls.
While we’re at it, here are a few other tips for protecting your data online:
Encourage your tenants to use only secure Wi-Fi
Secure Wi-Fi is password protected, encrypted and not often easy to hack. The opposite of secure Wi-Fi is public Wi-Fi, which is exactly like it sounds — anyone can access it.
If your tenants have remote workers, recommend a virtual private network (VPN)
A virtual private network (VPN) is a way to use your private Wi-Fi from places other than your main location. Remote workers or tenants can log in and work online without having to use a public or insecure Wi-Fi network.
You may be surprised at how many remote workers and tenants don’t take this concern seriously. According to the cybersecurity company ObserveIT, of 1000 employees surveyed, 77 percent admitted to connecting to free public Wi-Fi networks while using corporate-owned computers and phones. In fact, only 17 percent of respondents claimed to use a VPN when working away from the office. Not cool.
Give more thought to your passwords.
A complex, obscure password may thwart thieves who are trying to access your account. Don’t make it easy for them. Create a password with at least 10 characters that include numbers, symbols, punctuation and upper/lowercase letters. Also consider getting a password manager to help you remember which password goes where. And change your passwords often.
Update your security often.
Software, firewalls and operating systems are always updating because they’re trying to stay one step ahead of hackers and other trespassers. Your online protection will be useless if it’s not updated to the most current version. Pay attention to security updates, or work closely with your IT professional to keep a close watch on this.
Choose a safer alternative to eliminating your emergency phone landlines for more reliable emergency communication.
As you can see, VoIP raises some eyebrows that you simply don’t want to take chances with when you’re dealing with emergency situations that must be handled with care. That doesn’t mean there’s not a solution. Landline service, while reliable, is not the only answer. In fact, it is far from perfect, especially when it comes to time to connect.
Kings III’s Skyline Cellular Service is the viable solution. Here’s how to customize cellular for emergency use:
- For ASME code compliance, you will need to ensure your solution allows the monitoring party to identify the caller’s location down to the elevator cab number without aid from the caller.
- You should have a direct connection to power and a battery backup with minimum standby and talk time for use in power outages.
- Include time to connect in your evaluation, both in technology related to placing the call and capacity of the monitoring center to quickly receive and respond to the call, including overwhelmed elevator company call centers and 911. Speed is a factor in emergency situations for obvious reasons relating to life safety, but speed is also a factor in tenant experience. You want your property to reflect a concierge experience for tenants and guests at every opportunity and emergency response in the building should be no different.
How exactly does Kings III Skyline cellular service work?
- Skyline completely eliminates dependency on POTS lines by leveraging the mobile network
- For elevators, our two piece solution uses a traditional ADA compliant handsfree phone in the elevator cab and the cellular transceiver is located outside of the concrete & steel lined shaft.
- Traditionally our SkyLine unit is placed in a telco room, but it can be remotely located to other locations to achieve a better signal so long as there is a power outlet available to plug it in.
- Skyline utilizes existing wiring running between the telecom room to machine room. Then existing wiring is run from the machine room, through travel cable, into the elevator cab. Important to note that while the signal enters the building in a “wireless” fashion, there is copper wiring required to connect the dial tone all the way to the elevator cab. This is probably the most common misconception we deal with.
In an emergency situation, you can rely on Kings III Emergency Communications. Reach for one of our emergency phones (place them in your office, and in your hallways, stairs, parking lots, and other spaces) and forget about personal cell phone fumbling. Simply push one button, and a dedicated staff is there to help you right away — 24/7/365. They already know where you are (this saves time), and they can get help to you.
In fact, our operators are Advanced Emergency Medical Dispatch certified (AEMD). This designation allows them to give you step-by-step pre-arrival medical instructions, including CPR, if needed. An AEMD certification meets and exceeds all national safety requirements and opens up room for timely attention in the event of an emergency.
Another benefit to consider: the presence of Kings III Emergency Communications on your property can act as a crime deterrent, and that you are serious about onsite safety.
Deter crime. Promote safety. Reduce liability. Contact us to learn more about all the benefits of a Kings III Emergency Communications system.
Kings III Emergency Communications, a privately-owned emergency help phone-monitoring company based in Coppell, was honored to be recognized by its employees and The Dallas Morning News by making the daily newspaper’s Top 100 Places to Work list, falling in at 26th in the midsize companies category.
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