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Using WPS

When to Use WPS

How to Make a WPS Call

When to Make a WPS + GETS Call
How to Make a WPS + GETS Call
Answering Calls
Understanding How WPS Works
Information for POCs and Telecommunications Support Personnel

When to Use WPS

When a cell phone user is unable to complete a call in two attempts using normal dialing during periods of network congestion, they should re-attempt their call using Wireless Priority Service. WPS calls can be made to other cell phones, landlines, and satellite phones.

The WPS feature must be subscribed on the calling cellular phone to make a WPS call. However, the called number does not need to have WPS or GETS. WPS should not be used when calling 911.

How to Make a WPS Call

  1. Confirm WPS subscribed cell phone is in range of radio signal (one or more “bars” on display screen)

  2. Enter Black Star272 and the Destination Number and push SEND key (example: Black Star272 703 818 4387 and SEND)

  3. Network will route call to the Destination Number. It may take 60+ seconds to complete the call during heavy congestion and there may be intervals of ringing and/or silence; this is normal. On most cell phones the screen will display Black Star272 and the Destination Number. Some cell phones may display call status messages such as call queued and/or provide audible tones indicating the call has been queued

  4. If first attempt does not complete end the call and retry by pressing send key to auto redial; or add Black Star272 prefix to emergency numbers stored in cell phone memory for quick re-dialing. Some cell phones automatically retry calls that do not complete on the first attempt – the screen message will indicate if the phone is retrying the call

    These instructions are in the document “Using GETS and WPS During an Emergency” that
    can be downloaded and printed from the Documents section

When to Make a WPS + GETS Call

Network congestion is likely to vary among carriers and locations. Some users may be able to make normal cell calls while others will need to use WPS. Network congestion can change over short time intervals and distances. WPS users should continue to retry WPS calls after a short wait or change in location if they have difficulty completing WPS calls.

However, when WPS calls to the same destination number do not complete (typically resulting in a fast busy, all circuits busy or similar announcement, or 60+ seconds of silence), users should retry their call using WPS + GETS - see How to make a WPS + GETS Call below. This sends the call directly to one of three GETS carriers, providing multiple alternate routes for the call to complete.

When WPS calls are not completing because the called number is busy and there is no forwarding feature to voice mail or alternate number, the user will usually hear a standard busy signal and the display screen will show that the called number is busy or in-use. In this instance the user should continue to retry the call alternately using normal dialing and WPS.

How to Make a WPS + GETS Call

  1. Confirm radio signal and view PIN and GETS access number on your GETS Card

  2. Enter Black Star272 710 627 4387 (710 NCS GETS) and push SEND key

  3. The call will be routed to one of the three GETS carriers. It may take 60+ seconds to connect to a GETS carrier during heavy network congestion

  4. Listen for the tone, then enter the twelve digit PIN on front of GETS Card (do not enter # after last digit)

  5. Listen for voice prompt: “Please enter your Destination Number now”

  6. Enter the Destination Number (omit the 1 before the Area Code)

  7. You will hear an announcement “You are using GETS, AT&T/Verizon Business/Sprint”. Network will route your call to the Destination Number - may take 60+ seconds after the announcement to connect to Destination Number during heavy network congestion

If WPS + GETS calls do not complete, use the toll free numbers on back of GETS Card instead of 710 627 4387 to retry the call, beginning with Step 2 above. This provides additional routes for the call to complete.

  • AT&T: Black Star272-888-288-4387
  • Verizon Business: Black Star272-800-900-4387
  • Sprint: Black Star272-800-257-8373

Note that the 1010 numbers on the back of the GETS card cannot be used with cell phones

Answering Incoming Calls

Answering an incoming WPS (or GETS) call to a cell phone during times of network congestion is the same as answering any other incoming call; simply answer when the phone rings. There are no special indications that an incoming call is a WPS or GETS call.

Understanding How WPS Works

Some WPS Users find it useful to understand how WPS works:

  • When the WPS subscriber pushes the send key after entering Black Star272 plus the Destination Number, the call is given priority for the next available radio connection between the user’s cell phone and the service provider’s network equipment. If a radio connection is not immediately available WPS calls are placed in queue for the next available connection. When a radio connection becomes available the call is automatically connected to the network equipment. WPS calls can queue for up to 30 seconds to access an originating radio connection.

  • Once a radio connection is established, the service provider’s network equipment gives the call priority marking and routes it to the called number location. If there is network congestion along the available routes to the called location, WPS calls may be re-routed or placed in queue until a route becomes available. WPS calls can be queued one or more times as they are routed from the originating location to the destination location.

  • When a route to the destination location becomes available the WPS call, along with its priority marking, is sent to the network equipment associated with the called number:
    • If the call is to a landline it receives priority treatment for connection to the Destination Number’s local telephone line. If the line is available the caller will hear ringing; if it is busy the caller will hear a normal busy signal or it may forward to voice mail or an alternate line. Note that WPS calls do not interrupt existing calls

    • If the call is to a cell phone served by a WPS capable carrier, the call will have priority for the next available radio connection to the called cell phone. Only the calling cell phone needs to have the WPS feature, the called cell phone does not need to have WPS. If a radio connection is not immediately available the call will queue for a radio connection. When a radio connection becomes available the call will be automatically connected and the caller will hear ringing or be forwarded to voice mail if the call is not answered. WPS calls can queue for up to 30 seconds to access the terminating local radio connection. Be sure to regularly check your voice mail if you are expecting emergency calls during times of network congestion. If you have difficulty reaching voice mail, use WPS by dialing Black Star272 and the voice mail access code for your service provider

    • If the call is to a cell phone on a cellular network without WPS and there is no congestion the caller will hear ringing or be forwarded to voice mail if the call is not answered
  • If you are using your cell phone and receive a Call Waiting indication (tone and/or screen message), you will be able to answer the call waited call even if there is local radio congestion. This is because you already have a radio connection with your existing call. Be sure to accept the call waited call using the answer Call Waiting procedure for your model of cell phone. If you disconnect the existing call and then attempt to answer the call waited call you will disconnect the radio connection and a new radio connection will have to be established. If you choose not to answer the call waited call it will forward to voice mail after several rings if you have voice mail.

Information for POCs and Telecommunications Support Personnel

The purpose of this section is to provide GETS/WPS Points of Contact (POCs), Alternate POCs, and telecommunications support personnel with additional information for assisting their organization’s WPS Users. This information should be kept readily available for use during an emergency or disaster when network congestion is likely to occur.

The POC and Alternate (and other individuals designated by the organization) are responsible for making sure that each user’s WPS feature is activated on their cell phone and that the user is familiar with how to use WPS. The user and the POC/Alternate POC are sent an email when the service provider activates WPS on the user’s cell phone. The POC should contact the user to confirm that the user has made WPS test calls. If the user is unable to complete WPS test calls they should call the user assistance number, located on the back of the GETS card. That number is 1-800-818-4387 or 1-703-818-4387.

Because it may be necessary to use GETS in conjunction with WPS, each WPS user should have a GETS card. The POC/Alternate POC should make sure WPS users have their GETS card with them at all times, and continue to make periodic test calls to assure familiarity with:

  • How to make WPS calls
  • How to retry WPS calls using the send key and/or adding Black Star272 to emergency numbers stored in cell phone memory for quick re-dialing
  • When to make WPS + GETS calls
  • How to make WPS + GETS calls
  • How to accept call waited calls
  • How to use WPS to access voice mail

To assist in training users, the document Using GETS and WPS During an Emergency, can be downloaded and printed from the Documents section. It is formatted for two-sided printing on a single sheet. Copies should be provided to all WPS users and also be placed in the Emergency Operations Center and other locations and vehicles where GETS and WPS are likely to be used. Space is provided for entering contact information for the organization’s POC and Alternate POC.

POCs and Telecommunications Support staff should consider the following when implementing WPS in their organization:

  • To make a WPS call the user’s cell phone must be in range of a cellular radio signal. Damage to cellular radio facilities and extended power failures can affect the cellular radio signal. In the event of major damage to the cellular infrastructure, cellular carriers may deploy backup mobile radio transmission towers to provide service in affected areas. A major emergency or disaster could result in short term unavailability of cellular radio signals, but service providers may be able to restore service within a short period of time. Thus, WPS users should regularly check their cell phones during an extended emergency to determine if service is available. When service is restored there may be limited capacity and it may be very difficult to complete cellular calls without WPS.

  • Network congestion, when it occurs, will probably vary among carriers and locations. For this reason emergency response organizations should consider obtaining cell service from several WPS capable service providers.

  • It is important that your organization’s landline emergency telephone lines will not be overloaded by non-essential calls. Make sure that telephone numbers for EOCs and other critical locations are appropriately disclosed. Also, check with telecommunications staff to make sure that emergency numbers are not bundled in large trunk groups where calls to non-essential extensions could busy out the entire trunk group. Likewise, make sure that key emergency personnel can get priority access to outside lines to make GETS calls when they cannot use their cell phones.

  • Calls to toll free numbers (800, 888, etc) may be less likely to complete during periods of network congestion or when the network is impaired because calls to these number require additional processing. Most toll free numbers have an associated regular telephone number. It is recommended that these regular telephone numbers be provided to emergency personnel so they can dial the regular telephone number rather than the toll free number to increase the probability of call completion during an emergency.

  • During an extended emergency commercial power may not be available for charging cell phone batteries. WPS users should have car chargers and a supply of extra batteries should be kept on hand.


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