Creating 911 call rules is not only important to the individual safety of your users, it is a federal requirement.

Effectively if you are responsible for managing, or administration your phone system, you are required by Federal law that each user you add to the system is capable of making a 911 call, and reporting the correct location of the caller.  This means that even if you only 'add and remove users, or occasionally make changes, you are federally responsible for the accuracy of your 911 registered information and responsible to make sure that users can dial 911 calls, show their correct location, and get a callback.

That is a lot of responsibility! So how do you manage this?

First, off you must understand that the 911 setup is a 3 part process. 

  1. Your carrier must register your phone number with a specified address for 911 services. As this process varies by provider and service level. (VOICE1 has an API to manage this at to help you get started)
  2. You must update your phone system accordingly to provide the correct outbound and inbound caller rules.
  3. You must update your phone system to assure that calls from specific users use the correct outbound Caller ID assigned to them when sailing E911.

We will assume you have already registered your phone number with the carrier for 911. If you haven't, You will need to do that. If you are using VOICE1's NWSIP services please reach out to your account representative on how to update your E911 address assignments for your numbers.

IMPORTANT: You must provide a unique phone number for every remote worker. During recent events users in the office have become remote workers rather quickly. And each of these users working remotely must have their own phone number registered to their physical address. Remember this is a federal requirement.

In some situations, your system administrator may have restricted access to some of the menus listed below due to security or accountability policies. If you encounter one of these restrictions, notify your system administrator and explain what you are attempting to do. Your administrator may require you to submit your request or may choose to grant you access or provide an alternative procedure for you to follow.

Inbound Call Routes

When you have purchased a phone number from your carrier for your user to use for their 911 number, you still must route that number to the end-user.  This must be routed to the intended end user, this is because the federal rules require that the 911 operator is able to call back and reach the location. For an office building, one location may work depending on your physical size and office layout. But for remote workers, you absolutely have to have a dedicated number just for them, no exceptions.

Under Setup > Call Routing > Incoming Calls you are able to create an incoming rule that matches the phone number you received from your provider. 

A rule like the following will match the incoming number specified and route it to the user's extension.

Simple enough. You can also use our API to programmatically set these routes.

One thing you must keep in mind, is that call rules (Incoming and Outgoing) are processed in the order. The first rule that matches is the rule that gets applied. For incoming calls, this is usually straightforward. But for outgoing calls, it can get confusing quickly. Luckily the new Switchvox feature for "Phone Locations" allows us to eliminate a rather complex process to a simple management routine. So for now all you need to do is set the incoming DID to route to the user, or an internal queue for an office. 

Note: For offices, where everyone is in one general location, it is acceptable to use the same office location and E911 for all users at that location. (Some local jurisdictions have special rules and limitations.) but for the most part, a typical-sized office can use a single 911 assigned address to one number. In these cases, this number should not go to the Main IVR. This number should instead be routed to a special IVR/Queue where you can set alert notifications, (Ring tone alerts) and ring a group of people that are most likely to answer the phone. This is because should an emergency operator needs to call back, they need to reach a live person, not be stuck in a queue waiting for someone to answer. VOICE1 will set up a special IVR with ring tone modifiers, and a queue that you can assign users to that will be available to answer a call. We recommend at least 5 users that are not part of any normal sales queues or outbound call campaigns. Reception, Managers, Owners, Executives are all good considerations... it is after all an emergency, right?


Identifying Outbound Rules to use for 911

In your Switchvox Admin portal. Go to Setup > Call Routing > Outgoing Calls. 

You should see a rule with a note that has a red phone. (this denotes an emergency line)

If your rule is not denoted as an emergency route, it can not be used for the next steps. To denote a rule as your emergency route select the rule and edit it. Then be sure to select "Emergency Calling Rule" in the configuration.

Phone Locations

Switchvox introduced the concept of "Phone Locations" to help address the increasing federal guidelines around making 911 calls. In version 7.8.2 this is located under Setup > Phones > Phone Locations. However, in version 7.8.3 significant changes to the underlining functions were made and the new location is Tools > PBX Features > Phone Locations. 

This is the location where you will define rules to use expressly for 911 calls and will be the way to go forward when managing 911 call rules for your users.

Click the Create Location button and you will be presented with a window as shown

Enter a user-friendly name to identify this specific rule. For small offices, this may be as simple as a user's name, and a note as to if it is the "Home". For larger offices, it is important to take a moment to think about naming conventions and patterns used. Nothing is worse than having a confusing collection of naming conventions.

A suggestion would be to use the users' extension - street address.

NOTE: The name can be no longer than 33 characters including spaces. So you might not be able to put the full address in the field, but you should be able to get enough of the street number and street to be able to know what the address is to.

Why use  Extension and Address?

Clearly, you can use whatever works for your organization. However, when your users are using a softphone, they now have the ability to specify their location, (we will get to this later).  What your user will see is a long list of "Locations" and it will be easier for them to find their location based on their extension, minimizing the chances for them to select the wrong address.

In the Outgoing Caller ID Number field enter the outbound Caller ID number. This should be entered the way your carrier expects to receive the number. Some carriers accept 10 digit numbers others require 11 digit numbers. 

VOICE1 Requires  11 digit numbers. 

If you have multiple outbound rules for emergency use. (Perhaps you are operating your PBX as a multitenant setup, or have different carries for different divisions or failover providers) You will need to specify which rule is allowed to be used with this Caller ID number. Typically you are not allowed to use a number with multiple carriers.

Save your rule, and now that rule can be used for the next step.

Assigning a Phone location to a Digium Phone

Go to Setup > Phones > Hot Desking (we will cover hot-desking a little later)

Find the mac address of the phone you want to assign the new "Phone Location" to and click the edit icon.

The row will change to allow you to select the "Location" for this phone

If you have a lot of users you will have a long list to scroll through. Select the Location for this phone from the drop-down list.

You will notice the small text box under the phone location. This is a free form note that is assigned to the "Device", not the "Phone Location" You can use this if you want to add a note about where the device may be located, e.g.: "West Side Lobby". You do not have to specify one, but for larger offices adding this information can help you identify where the phone is when you need to go locate it.  Also, this field is limited to only 22 characters.

Before Clicking the Save Icon.....  Let us touch briefly about Hot-Desking. Hot Desking allows the phone to be used by multiple users. (rotating shifts) But it also is perfect for remote workers because it allows them to have a phone at the house and a phone at the office. Each phone can then have its own assigned E911 Caller ID and address. Significantly reducing the amount of time as an administrator it takes to reassign and update addresses and accounts. Remember that Federal requirement? Should your user make a 911 call and you have misreported the 911 information you will be culpable, both to federal fines, and civil litigation. So using hot desking allows you to keep a phone at the office, and one at a user's home, both with a different assigned 911 address! Awesomeness.

Go ahead and click save, for now, we will cover how to set up hot-desking for a user later. See for how to set up hot desking.

Now, when that phone (specifically the phone's mac address) makes a 911 call It will go out with the Caller ID Number you used in the "Phone Location". Easy. 

You can even do this on phones that are not assigned to anyone

Note: If a phone is not assigned to anyone And it is hot desk enabled that phone will still be able to make 911 calls, using the assigned "Phone Location" 

Digium Softphone Users Phone Locations

Starting with Swithcvox 7.8.3, your end-users on softphones are now able to specify their "Phone Location" 

Users click the settings icon (The gear)

The new section called "Emergency Location" will allow your user to select from the list of available locations on the system. Remember how we said earlier to choose a good naming convention for your office? This is because the name you chose for your phone location, will be present here for all softphone users to see.

Some people may be concerned about privacy so you may not want to show the address of a home user, maybe just the extension number and home. like this "790 - HOME". Choose the naming convention that works for your team. But keep in mind, for the softphones, your user has the ability to see all the "locations" so they can set their correct location.

Another thing to consider for softphone users is that if they use the softphone in the office and at home, They would need to set the phone location each time they move locations. If you have allowed your phone system to be available from unprotected networks (you didn't do that did you?) then a user going to Starbucks would not be able to have the ability to show the correct address, unless you already added it.

Just use the Cell phone for 911

While in practice many people might grab their cell phone to daily 911, this, unfortunately, does not factor into the federal requirement. All lines connected must be able to daily 911. And as such they must present accurate information.  This effectively means your Starbuck worker may use their cell phone in an emergency, they still must have a 911 address assigned to them with the location of their phone's physical address before they are legally allowed to make a call. You are also not allowed to block 911 access or restrict it in any way or manner. 

A side note is that the Switchvox Mobile app will default to using the phone's native dialer when attempting to dial 911, thus providing 911 with the user's GPS location as well. For the uber road worrier, you may want to use the Switchvox Mobile app, to save on administrative overhead.

Notifications / Alerts

While not on our original 3 point list, setting up notifications to administrators when a 911 call is made can be critical and may be legally required. Under Tools > Notifications > Alerts Manager you can specify a notification email for when an emergency call is made. By default when you add a new notification alert the user will get everything. Don't do this, you will just get annoyed users. Instead, highlight all categories and click the red x until you have nothing selected. Then in the Type to Search box just enter Emergency and select the Emergency Dialing option. 

You should have a screen like shown.

You should use a group email address or distribution group from your email software as the address to send these notifications to, and not list individual users. This is because it takes time to process an email and lists of users may cause delays that can be critical, and add unneeded load to your system. Make a group alias in your email server and send it there. You will be happy you did.


Okay, that is pretty much it. No more need to create and manage long lists of outbound caller ID rules for each user, and change user groups based on if they are in the office or out of the office. No more complicated converged phone profiles, that normal users seem to get confused by and do incorrectly. There is more legal requirements now, (and new ones on the way) but the new tools in Switchvox allow for easier management going forward and less confusion, and better clarity. A win, win.

API Access: 

Currently, the API on the Swithvox has not been officially updated, and we have seen multiple changes from 7.8.1 to 7.8.3 around these new features. You should always check for the latest API updates and methods as we make them available for you to automate your workflow process.