Verizon, Will You Please Fix Our Phone So We Can Use It To Dial 911?

Leigh’s father has a heart condition, and has had three heart attacks. Because of this, Leigh’s family would really appreciate it if Verizon would fix their landline so that they can call 911 in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, Verizon can’t seem to keep an appointment.

I’m hoping you can give me some advice regarding Verizon’s failure to repair my parents’ phone service. For several years now, my parents will occasionally encounter periods of no phone service. If you call their house, you get a busy signal. If they try to use the phone, they get no dial tone, and any time they have the phone off the hook, it starts ringing. Every time this problem has occurred, the problem has been with the originating line at the phone company, not with anything at my parents’ house or their equipment.

The problem began occurring early on Saturday, 2/7. My mother used her cell phone to call Verizon and let them know that the service needs to be fixed as soon as possible because my father has had three heart attacks. She can leave her cell phone with him if she leaves the house, but we’re worried about 911 not being able to figure out where he is if he needs to call from the cell as opposed to the land line. The Verizon rep promised that the service would be scheduled for Sunday, 2/8.

Sunday, 2/8 came and went with no repair. My mother called and the rep stated that the service was scheduled for Monday. She also acknowledged that the previous rep had made a note about the potential for a medical emergency. She promised that the service would be performed first thing this morning.

Now it’s 1:30 p.m. on 2/9, and my parents still have no land line service. My mother called Verizon from work and they said that “someone missed” the service note. The rep did acknowledge again that the potential for a medical emergency had been noted.

Can you offer any advice on getting Verizon to fix the service? My parents pay $35 per month for local service that they barely use, but that’s besides the point. They need to have working service in case of an emergency and Verizon doesn’t seem capable of performing service as they schedule it.

On a side note, my father was lucky he was at work today when he got chest pain and shortness of breath and had to go to the emergency room. If he had been home alone with no phone service, who knows what would have happened.


Leigh, this is exactly the sort of complaint that you should bring to your local public utilities commission. Phone companies like Verizon have agreements with the local governments of the areas in which they provide service. These agreements regulate how long their citizens can be without phone service among other things. Here’s a story that shows what happens once enough citizens complain about crappy service.

If you don’t know whom to call, try the Attorney General’s office or the Department of Consumer Affairs. They should be able to point you in the right direction.

After you alert your local authorities to the problem, we’d try launching an EECB on Verizon. Include a copy of any official complaints that you filed, if possible.



Edit Your Comment

  1. saralegal21 says:

    Use the EECB. I did when Verizon wouldn’t show up at my house. The vice president forced the tech to show up at MY convenience rather than theirs, and gave me three free months of service.

  2. jdmba says:

    The problem of service calls not being honored exists across all of these utilities. Any tech can claim ‘I got there on time and ready to do the job but no one was home’ and there is no way to defend against it.

    I honestly don’t see any end in sight.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @jdmba: I would hope eventually some of these companies would come to their senses and verify these things. For example, make the technicians call their dispatcher (or whatever they are called) when they arrive and no one is home. Then the dispatch can call the house to double check, etc.

      Of course this night not work for verizon when the phone is broken if there’s no backup. But for other utilities it would do a lot to discourage that sort of gaming the system by installers.

      • logicalnoise says:

        @Shadowman615: good idea, hell add one question to teh techs close out form like “what color was teh customers welcom mat?” which means to find out the tech needs to at least walk up to the door in order to blow off an appointment. The answer could later be confirmed by you.

    • Michael Ortega says:

      @jdmba: I have gone to MANY a house that people just don’t answer the door and then call later saying they only ran to get milk/ were sleeping/didn’t tell anyone the door bell was broken or didn’t hear the door. I’m surprised at the amount of people’s door bell isn’t working. When someone isn’t home note the color of the house and some description, and get on to the next job. I’m sure there are bad workers who just don’t care but I doubt it’s widespread.

      • logicalnoise says:

        @Michael Ortega: I agree, I’ve only had one tec not show up and the home office set a sup out that day to make up for it. It isn’t what usually happens but an unfortunate reality.

  3. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    It might be worth finding out if the neighbors are having the same problem and getting them to also complain to the public utilities commission if they are but hopefully it won’t take that much.

    That’s gotta be scary to be in a ‘not if, but when’ situation.

  4. ApologeticBale_GitEmSteveDave says:

    In the interm, give him a cell phone, even if it’s not activated. AFAIK, all cell phones must connect to 911, even deactivated ones.

    • Anonymous says:


      The downside to that is non-active cell phones cannot be traced like a standard active phone. There has been issues of these phones being used to crank call 911 and there’s no way for the emergency operators to locate the phone.

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      @ApologeticBale_GitEmSteveDave: The problem with that is when you call 911, you have to tell them where you are. If the person can’t speak, they can’t find you. The landline, you dial 911, hang up before even saying anything, and they will send a patrol car to check things out.

      • bonzombiekitty says:

        @AlteredBeast: Cell phones are supposed to be able to be located when they call 911. Depending on the provider and your location, it may or may not work.

        Verizon isn’t going to work very well (if at all) when you’re indoors since it uses agps. AT&T uses a different technology which works well indoors and outdoors but you need to be in an area with multiple cellphone towers around.

        • dragonfire81 says:

          @bonzombiekitty: There is a technology called E911 or Enhanced 911, available with some cell phones, that will make it easy for a dispatcher to find you.


          As the thread started commented, EVERY cell phone is capable of calling 911 and not all of them have this E911 functionality. For someone who lives alone, a landlline may indeed be the best option for 911.

          • bonzombiekitty says:

            @dragonfire81: I don’t know why you included the “however”. I was responding to Alteredbeast, who said the 911 dispatchers won’t be able to find you, which is incorrect, they are SUPPOSED to be able to find you by government mandate. There’s a reason Verizon won’t let you use a phone that doesn’t have GPS on it.

            I make a living off of E-911 in regards to cell phones. It’s what my company does. By government mandate, all cellphones are supposed to be able to be located and report back a phase II location to 911 dispatchers. Of course, the technologies available are A.) far from perfect and won’t always be able to perform the location in which case the phone should send back a phase I location and B.) the cell phone companies play loose with the rules and the FCC doesn’t crack down on them very much. For example, the cell phone companies are supposed to locate people within a certain radius a certain amount of the time. However, the ratings are on, IIRC, on a state by state basis. So they’ll concentrate their location technology in heavily populated areas to skew the results. But it’s looking like the FCC might make the requirements more strict and enforce them better.

            I’d have much more to say about specific providers, but I can’t due to confidentiality stuff, etc.

          • HogwartsAlum says:

            This is one reason why I won’t get a cell phone as my primary phone. I live alone and if someone got in and I was able to call, I damn well want them to know where I am. Or if I get sick or hurt, etc. etc.

      • FordingTheRiver_GitEmSteveDave says:

        @AlteredBeast: @bonzombiekitty: If you use a phone from the last year or so, or one that offers navigation directions, they can be located by 911.

        • bonzombiekitty says:

          @FordingTheRiver_GitEmSteveDave: All cell phones are supposed to be able to be located. And even for verizon, which uses AGPS, it’s not gonna work (well) indoors or urban areas. Providers like AT&T, which use UTDOA (a network based solution similar to triangulation), will work well wherever a cellphone can communicate with multiple towers -but that limits their effectiveness in more rural areas.

          • Jabes says:

            @bonzombiekitty: I don’t know that I would want to rely on “supposed to” when it’s literally a life and death situation.

            • bonzombiekitty says:

              @Jabes: If it helps, my company’s system generates something like a million+ successful e-911 cell phone locations every month, so it works pretty well. Or at least that’s what the management overlords tell us.

              • dragonfire81 says:

                @bonzombiekitty: Sorry if my previous post came off as “holier than thou” , that really wasn’t the intent.

                But you hit the nail on the head when you say the 911 system with regards to cell phones is far from perfect.

                • chris_d says:

                  I live in a big apartment complex. I wonder how well aGPS would help EMTs find me if I needed them. Can it tell them which apartment, which floor? The answer is no. I also wonder how well it would work from inside this building.

      • joshua70448 says:

        @AlteredBeast: Even so, it would still be better to have the cell phone available for emergencies until the landline works, as the thread starter said.

        • ScottRose says:

          @joshua70448: Seconded. The OP of this thread is absolutely right. Better to have some chance of getting help than none.

          Even if Verizon claims the phone line is fixed and it works for a few days, I wouldn’t trust it to continue working 100% for the rest of time. Get a cellphone for your dad and make sure he keeps it on him and charged!

          Pre-paid may be better than deactivated though. At least then the OP’s father can call his wife if he can’t talk — she’d recognize the caller ID and call 911 for him.

  5. shepd says:

    That sounds terrible. In the meantime, I suggest ensuring you get a decently new cellphone, if you don’t have one already. It will have tech in it that will permit locating a cellphone calling 911 via GPS (assuming nobody is able to provide this information on the call). Unfortunately, the 911 operator (probably) still has to phone your phone company and request the information. This can sort-of be done with older phones via triangulation, but the new ones make it very easy and quick.

    It’s better than nothing…


    • bonzombiekitty says:

      @shepd: GPS is of limited use, if any when you’re indoors. The signals to the GPS satellites don’t penetrate very far.

      Also, the alternate technology is UTDOA, which is kinda similar to triangulation, but not really the same.

    • Bailen says:

      @shepd: Unfortunately if he is inside, especially in the middle of the home the GPS would not work or be too low in resolution to be effective, possibly covering a few hundred meters, which if your on a farm it would be ok, one building to choose from, but if you are in an apartment or subdivision, this posses a few more problems.

    • PoopsieDoodle says:

      @shepd: True story: I once had a brand new Blackberry drop a 911 call in an area with full bars. Turns out there was a problem with the phone. It took about 6 months of dropped and garbled calls before Verizon would give me a replacement.

      Fun fun fun.

  6. Cyco says:

    Isn’t there a monitoring service that can be used as an alternative. The one where the lady fell down and can’t get up? Wouldn’t it be easier for the husband to push a button to alert authorities rather than to have to dial 911 while having a heart attack? It would seem a like a better use of money than to have to pay for a phone service that is barely used and has issues working. Just thinking out loud.

    • Joeb5 says:

      I think they use the phone line to alert authorities.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Cyco: those systems, to the best of my knowledge, ALL still just hook into the phone line to make the emergency call, which wouldn’t help at all!

      better yet, most of those systems call the “monitoring center” where a person then calls from there to the local 911 center, seems to me to be one more point of failure at worst, slowdown at best.

    • morgasco says:

      @Cyco: Those monitoring services to my knowledge require a way to dial out to call 911, so no working phone service= worthless $30 a month alert system….

    • cmdrsass says:

      @Cyco: They connect to the monitoring center by phone.

    • AdvocatesDevil says:

      @Cyco: The last time I checked, those services required a landline to “call out” to the call center where someone attempts to verify if you’re really having a problem or if it’s a false alarm. That person in the call center then notifies your local 911 service of your location and the nature of your problem if known. The systems *might* be able to work off some kind of cell signal now, but I don’t know for certain. Ultimately, if you had one of these services and Verizon kept refusing to come out and fix your line, you’d still be in a world of trouble!

      • Cyco says:

        @AdvocatesDevil: My apologies. I wasn’t aware it worked like that. They should just change phone carriers then.

        • chatterboxwriting says:

          @Cyco: I’m the person who wrote in about this. My parents have no option for local carriers – they’re stuck with Verizon. Also, we do leave a cell phone with him when he’s home alone, but we’re not sure if it has E911. They live in an area that takes about 10 minutes to reach by ambulance, so every second counts.

  7. coan_net says:

    Maybe call the local newspaper – see if they would do a quick story about it – nothing like bad press to get a company to hurry and fix something – and this is something I agree that needs to be fixed quickly.

    • supercereal says:

      @coan_net: I agree that it needs to be fixed in a hurry since it’s an emergency situation, but as of the story, it’s only been two days since the problem started occurring. That’s with a weekend thrown in there.

      Heck, I can barely get Verizon or Comcast to come out within a week and a half of me reporting issues. I don’t think a lone day or two passing is an issue to get up in arms about…

  8. GretaDandradeine says:

    maybe it’s past time to switch?? It’s kind of the dilemma i had with Mediacom cable tech claimed he called my cell,no answer,so he didn’t show up for his appt. I had called them and told them i’ve been waiting for this tech all day,my appt was for the tech to show up at my house, not a conversation over my cell. They tacked a $29.95 charge because the tech claims i wasn’t home just because i didn’t answer my cell when he called me. You’re talking about an appt period of 8-12/12-5 and i never received a call from this tech that day. But mediacom refused to believe so i switched to Knology. I don’t mind paying $10 more for a much better customer service.

  9. Meathamper says:

    Drop the mega MOAC -Mother Of All Complaints- and use the EECB. While it seems that execs are getting mroe resistant to the EECB (START WITH REGIONAL!), it doesn’t hurt to try.

  10. Nighthawke says:

    Write that EECB in blood with a rusty nail. Include in that note that this same note is headed to the state PUC along with the history of all these fun and games.

  11. menty666 says:

    I’m surprised more people don’t take prisoners like this lady did:


    No, I’m not suggesting you do it.

  12. oneliketadow says:

    Would Verizon also require a city license? I know that you can call to complain about cable TV service to the city (where I live) because the city licenses them.

  13. Tiber says:

    I don’t get why Verizon employees aren’t tripping over themselves getting this fixed. Imagine the lawsuit if he died because he couldn’t call 911 because of this. Schedule 2 techs to come in case one doesn’t show up, I don’t care. This shouldn’t be hard, but could have disastrous consequences for them if Leigh’s father’s luck runs out at the wrong time.

  14. DoubleEcho says:

    I had the exact opposite problem – Our Verizon phone randomly dialed 911, even though we didn’t have dial tone.

    I called in a repair on it the first time it had no dial tone and they fixed it, but a week later it had no dial tone again. I called in another repair, and a few hours later at about 9:30 at night, we get a knock on the door. Greeting us at the other end were 2 city cops with their hands near their pistols, asking if everything was OK. I told them yeah, and they said they got several 911 hangup calls from this residence. After telling them my phone didn’t even have dial tone, they kind of nodded their heads and said they get that alot.

    Apparently the wire going from the NID box to the pole was almost as old as the house, and the crossed wires created random tones until it was the same tone as dialling 911 (not hard to do with just 3 numbers in the tone sequence!), and did this over and over in a 1-2 hour period.

    The only problem I had with this was, now the cops had to ignore 911 calls from this house. What if the phone got fixed in the next half hour, and I REALLY had to call 911 but the phone hung up/got broken? It’d be one of those Boy Who Cried Wolf scenarios. But, there’s my story about how my phone line became self-aware and tried to throw me in jail for abusing 911.

    • DoubleEcho says:

      @DoubleEcho: I should also add, when I called Verizon the 2nd time they told me it would be 3-4 days for a repair. When I called them back after the cops stopped by and told them what was happening, my repair date changed to 9am the next day. How odd.

  15. Pylon83 says:

    The one thing I’m curious about is the part where the OP insists the problem is on Verizon’s end. I wonder if there is any proof of that, or if it’s just speculation? As someone who has worked in the telecom industry, the vast majority of the problems with telephone service originate with the CPE and in-home wiring. However, most of the people with said problems were always 100% insistent that it was the phone company’s fault. IIRC, the company I worked for was required to respond to phone problems within 72hrs, per the franchise agreement. I suspect that’s a fairly common time-frame.

    • supercereal says:

      @Pylon83: Is the phone company not responsible for at least some of the wiring in the house, though? (disclaimer: I have no idea if that’s true or not)

      The part that threw me off, though, was:

      …and any time they have the phone off the hook, it starts ringing…

      Seems like that is exclusively an issue with the phone unit itself. I don’t think the service has anything to do with how the phone behaves off the hook, does it?

      • Pylon83 says:

        Generally the wiring past the demarcation point (The point at which the wiring hits the house) is the total responsibility of the customer, unless they are paying for some sort of wiring insurance. Bad wiring can cause all sorts of odd problems, and one bad phone can do the same. I’d put my money on the problem being with their CPE (their phones, answering machines, etc.) or their internal wiring.

    • DoubleEcho says:

      @Pylon83: I think the OP already covered that: “Every time this problem has occurred, the problem has been with the originating line at the phone company, not with anything at my parents’ house or their equipment.”

    • chatterboxwriting says:

      @Pylon83: I’m the OP. It has been Verizon’s admission that the problem is on their end. In fact, they have never ONCE come to the house to fix the problem. They have been able to fix it right from the phone company. That’s why I’m so angry – this is not a matter of a tech not showing up. It’s a matter of them “forgetting” to fix something that’s in their office.

  16. Anonymous says:

    We had a Verizon phone number for 20 years. Eventually the land line was so full of static you couldn’t hear anything else. We called Verizon repeatedly: they missed appointments, came too early (when nobody was home), showed up but couldn’t fix the problem, it was endless. So why pay $40 a month for that kind of crappy service? We cancelled, we all have cell phones, and the lady at Verizon couldn’t have cared less, she didn’t even try to convince a loyal customer of 20 years to stay. Pathetic service from a dying industry.

  17. Tijil says:

    I spent a quarter century working in the old Bell System and this is the sort of thing that in my opinion needs to be taken to the Public Utilities Commission ASAP.

    That is often the best way to get this sort of problem to the attention of those at a level to make changes so it does not happen again.

    There really is no excuse for this.

  18. emt888 says:

    I used to work for a Verizon repair call center (I still have nightmares) and let me tell you, when you call them next time, tell the Verizon rep that you are going to file a complaint with the public service commission. They will then transfer you to a special department and they will fall all over themselves to help you. Also, make sure that you get a form from your dad’s doctor stating that he has a medical condition that requires him to have 24 hour phone service. That way if this happens again with the phone, you will have priority over most people’s repairs and if they screw around with you again, you can show it to the public service commission and they will get involved.

  19. puddleglum411 says:

    Now, I really don’t like Verizon, but they are my phone provider and the other day, my line went dead. I called their customer support at 8PM Saturday night, and by 8:15PM the call was over and I had a service appointment for Sunday. At 11AM Sunday the guy showed up and fixed my line. That’s pretty quick turnaround, especially for a weekend!

  20. Razorgirl says:

    Definitely contact your local PUC to file a complaint. Also contact Verizon one more time and advise them that you are filing a complaint with the PUC for failure to repair an issue that leaves a customer without access to emergency services. ILECs (such as Verizon) are subject to stringent rules when it comes to how they must treat any outage that deprives a customer of 911 access. Additionally, many states have laws detailing how long a telecom company has to complete requested repairs. They could be in violation of state or local statutes.

  21. razz4901 says:

    I work for a small teleco that does business in NYC and I handle answering PUC complaints….you should immediately contact the local PUC and open a complaint then contact VZ and ask the dispatch be move to the medical emergency/public saftey bin…a supervisor should be able to do this for you…but if you look at the situation canel VZ local service, you said it it doesn’t work, invest in another cell phone for your dad…

  22. chatterboxwriting says:

    I’m the OP that wrote in. I was at the hospital with my dad all day, so I didn’t even know this was posted until just now. I’ve read all the comments and just wanted to clear up a few things.

    * We were not waiting for a tech to come to our home. Verizon was supposed to do something on their end to fix the problem. That’s why I was so frustrated – they didn’t even have to send a tech out. They just had to check out their own lines/equipment.

    * One commenter mentioned that it was probably my parents’ phones/answering machines, etc. causing the problem. It did turn out to be a problem on Verizon’s end and not with my parents’ equipment or lines. Verizon was able to do something without even going to my parents’ house.

    * Someone else commented that it was only 3 days and it wasn’t that big of a deal. I would agree, but the problem has been an issue for 3-4 years now. It happens at least once a year. At one point, I was taken to the ER by ambulance and couldn’t even get through to my parents because the issue was occurring.

    * As far as the cell phones, we leave a cell with him when he’s home alone. However, they live in a “pocket” that gets basically no cell service from major carriers. Verizon, Nextel, and Sprint all crap out about 1/2 mile from their house. They had to get Net 10 phones, which work fine, but I am not sure if they are equipped with E911.

    Thanks for all your comments and advice.

  23. Darwin Smith says:

    My grandparents had a very similar problem with Verizon in West Michigan. They had repeated outages that lasted multiple days in each instance over the course of a year, they still had cellphones to use, but Verizon never seemed to take much interest in why they were having recurring problems. They switched to Comcast Dig. Voice and haven’t had a problem since.