emergency

Post image for Ooma VoIP Adds Innovative Feature to Assist in 911 Notifications

Today, I learned that Ooma, a VoIP company who I recently reviewed, has added a pretty interesting feature to their telephony service. In the past, there has always been a bit of a question around the reliability of 911 calls using a phone service that uses an Internet connection for it “digital dialtone”. Advances have been made and now most VoIP services include Enhanced 911 service; the “Enhanced” part means not only is the caller ID sent to emergency services, but also the full address associated with the caller’s phone number, and the call is routed to the nearest Public Safety Answering Point.

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But Ooma’s announcement today is not around Enhanced 911, a service that they have long had, but around adding more value to their customers that do need to call 911. Starting today, you can now add up to 3 email addresses or text numbers to the “My Ooma” online control panel within the 911 section. These addresses or numbers are used to notify key people should 9-1-1 be dialed on the subscriber’s Ooma phone. The configured text numbers or email addresses will be notified automatically when 9-1-1 is called. This is in addition to the call made to emergency responders.

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This service does require you to be on the Ooma Premier plan, something that I definitely recommended in my review. The plan costs $9.99/month and you can pre-pay for a year for an additional discount. Ooma does also offer a “free” service where the only cost that you pay is the tax on the line.

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With the recent tragic disasters striking around the globe recently, when the Cast of Dads got together to record Episode #11, we spent a majority of the show talking about the serious subject of family preparedness when a catastrophe strikes. It’s a touchy subject to discuss, actually, because when you listen to others, you realize how far behind you might be in your own preparations, emergency kits, safety processes and procedures, and family training.

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I live in earthquake country and as I talk about in the podcast, I have done some preparation to be ready for “the Big One”, however, that preparation is a bit stale. It’s always a difficult thing planning for the worst case scenario. Sometimes one can easily slip into a state of denial (“oh, it won’t happen to me“), which can actually be a bit detrimental to your planning process, and, God forbid, plan execution. But, overall, I would say my family is about 75% prepared and with a few extra hours of work on a weekend, we would be fully ready to survive a week or two.

But it is the unexpected that you should be prepared for. But how do you go about doing that? There are many lists and sites that have checklists of things to think about. In fact, one of our own Cast of Dads members put together a rather thought-provoking one. Perhaps as part of a family exercise, I will work on doing a similar one from my perspective…it would be a smart thing to do! Documentation of your plan is critical as well.

Regardless, these are some of the topics that we touched upon and discussed in Episode #11 of Cast of Dads:

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I spent a few hours at the MacWorld Expo 2010 and I saw a lot of innovative and cool products. But many of those devices were really only the “nice to have” kind. However, one device in particular stood out in my mind as something that every household should have: the Scosche solBAT II which is a solar powered backup battery and charger.

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I must admit, I did see some other solar powered chargers at the show, but most of those were iPhone cases. It seems that Scosche decided to keep things simple by not tying their charger to a particular device and to actually decouple it from proprietary sizes or cables. In fact, they simply include a standard USB plug where you can fit other USB connector types that come with your device.

If you use an iPod or iPhone doc connector, just connect the USB end into the solBAT II. Have a Nintendo DS? Use the the cord that came with it to plug into the solBAT II. Basically, any device that you have that is USB powered or uses a USB cable to charge can be used with the solBAT II.

The tech specs are simple:

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Updated (again) @ 5:15pm – finally arrived at Lafayette. On the platform were several BART police and handcuffed were 3 individuals who were being questioned. As I exited BART, I saw 5 police cars (with 1 more arriving). I guess it was pretty significant. Here is a surreal iPhone snap of one of the cars (just for some color). The police were out in force around the station as well. As I was driving down the road, there were 2 more police cars that had pulled over people. Nice to be home!

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Updated @ 5:00pm – guess I spoke too soon. As soon as I got to Orinda, they stopped the train and said that they were holding trains duree to “a police activity” at Lafayette station (MY station). Wonder what that is all about. THEN, the train operator came back on and said that he had to power down the train to “restart it” to resolve a break issues (oh great!). The “reboot” didn’t help so he did a walk through of the train to investigate. We are now moving. I just want to go home!!!!

On BART ride home, I had interesting experience. First, I was checking the BART status using their new wireless web page. There are actually two good services: Status Update and Estimated Arrival Times. All of these are available at http://www.bart.gov/wireless. The updates said there were delays up to 45 minutes.

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