Skip to content

911 vs. e911 : Understanding the Key Differences

Every year, an estimated 240 million people dial 911 in urgent need of help, yet too often, vital seconds are lost as dispatchers scramble to pinpoint callers’ exact locations. This gap in the emergency response system can mean the difference between life and death.

The upgrade from traditional 911 to e911 addresses this critical issue by enhancing the ability to locate callers automatically and accurately. For police officers, dispatchers, and community leaders, understanding the 911 vs e911 differences isn’t just technical jargon. It’s about ensuring that when a crisis strikes, the response is swift and sure.

Read on to discover how upgraded emergency phone systems enhance response times and why every second matters when help is needed.

911 vs e911: Key Differences

When you’re in a crisis, the ability to reach out quickly and effectively can make all the difference. The evolution from basic 911 services to enhanced 911, or e911, marks a significant leap in ensuring that help arrives exactly where and when it’s needed.

Enhanced 911 (E911)

Enhanced 911, commonly referred to as e911, revolutionizes how emergency calls are handled. Unlike basic 911, e911 systems automatically provide the emergency center with the caller’s phone number and location.

This automatic e911 location tracking drastically cuts down the time dispatchers spend gathering information. It allows them to focus more on the caller’s immediate needs and dispatch emergency services faster.

In many regions, when you dial 911 from a mobile phone, the signal may go to a cell tower that then routes the call to a local emergency center. Here, e911 technology steps in to pinpoint your location through GPS or network technologies. It ensures that even if you cannot communicate your location, responders know where to go.

This technology not only enhances the speed of response but also the accuracy, which can be lifesaving in situations like car accidents or medical emergencies where the caller might be unable to speak.

Basic 911

The traditional 911 system operates differently and, by today’s standards, less efficiently. When you call 911 without the enhancements of e911, the dispatcher does not automatically receive your location or phone number. This means every second must be spent carefully as the caller has to communicate all critical information themselves.

If the caller is too stressed or injured, or if the call gets disconnected before they can share their location, the consequences can be dire.

This system relies heavily on the caller’s ability to communicate clearly and promptly. This is not always possible in panic-inducing situations.

Moreover, if the call is made from a location unfamiliar to the caller, such as a new neighborhood or a rural road, providing precise directions can be challenging. These can all further delay the emergency response.

911 Calls with VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, introduces another layer of complexity to emergency calls. VoIP technology allows people to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular phone line.

However, when it comes to 911 calls through VoIP, there are significant differences to consider.

Firstly, since VoIP calls are transmitted over the internet, they initially go through a third party, such as a VoIP service provider, before reaching an emergency center. This can introduce delays or errors in routing the call to the correct location.

Moreover, if the VoIP user moves to a new location and fails to update their address with their VoIP provider, the call may be sent to the wrong emergency center; a potentially fatal error.

Advice for VoIP Users

For users of VoIP, keeping emergency settings current is vital. Unlike traditional phone services, VoIP requires you to manually update your location in your account settings.

This step is crucial because if you move and do not update your new address, any 911 calls you make could be routed based on your old address. This misrouting can lead to delays in emergency services reaching you, which could be critical.

It’s also essential to regularly check and confirm that your VoIP account reflects your current address and that these details are accurately registered with your service provider. Some providers offer a test call feature to verify that your location information is correct and that calls are being properly routed to the local emergency center.

Making a test call can prevent potential issues and give you peace of mind knowing that in an emergency, help will know exactly where to find you.

General Advice for 911 Callers

When you find yourself in an emergency, knowing how to interact effectively with the 911 dispatcher can significantly influence the help you receive. This section provides essential tips to ensure that your 911 call is as effective as possible.

Confirm Your Location

When you call 911, one of the most critical pieces of information you can provide is your exact location. This is true whether you are using a traditional phone, a mobile phone, or a VoIP system. Ensuring that the dispatcher knows precisely where to send help can save valuable time during an emergency.

Speak Clearly and Calmly

During an emergency, it’s natural to feel panicked. However, speaking clearly and calmly can help the dispatcher understand your situation better and dispatch the appropriate help more quickly.

Try to answer all questions the dispatcher asks and follow any instructions given.

Stay on the Line

Unless it’s unsafe to do so, stay on the line until the dispatcher says it’s okay to hang up. They might need more information or have important instructions for you.

Staying on the line ensures you get the help you need and allows the dispatcher to confirm that emergency services have found you.

The Future of Emergency Response Technology

Understanding the nuances between 911 and e911 is a vital part of ensuring effective emergency response. This exploration of 911 vs e911 underscores the evolution of emergency communications and its direct impact on saving lives.

For agencies aiming to revolutionize their response capabilities, 10-8 Systems offers cutting-edge computer-aided dispatch solutions that integrate seamlessly with both cloud and on-premise technologies alike to ensure quick, reliable, and efficient emergency responses.

Curious to see how our technology can work for you? Contact us today for a free demo and step into the future of public safety.


10-8 Systems' computer aided dispatch software brings the latest technology

Computer Aided Dispatch Software Capabilities

10-8 System’s computer aided dispatch software brings the latest technology to provide public safety agencies with the most up to date information and pinpoint precise location information to better help response time and connectivity.

CAD Software

Computer Aided Dispatch


Mobile Data Terminal


Records Management System


Records Management System

Upgrade Your System - Contact Us Today

Contact us to get started with a FREE system demo, pricing, or if you have any questions!

Are you a non-profit or volunteer organization? Special pricing may be available for volunteer groups.