US flag signifying that this is a United States Federal Government website   Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

GETS FAQs

Search our GETS Knowledge Base.

What is GETS?
The Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS) provides national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) personnel a high probability of completion for their telephone calls during periods of severe network congestion or disruption. GETS works through a series of enhancements to the landline network, but also provides priority calling to most cell phones on major carrier networks. GETS is in a constant state of readiness. Users receive a GETS calling card to access the service. This card provides access phone numbers, a Personal Identification Number (PIN), and simple dialing instructions.

Why is GETS important to me?
Natural disasters, power outages, cable cuts, and software problems can cripple the telephone services of an entire region. Congestion alone (e.g., the Mother’s Day phenomenon) can prevent access to telephone circuits. During times of emergency, the NS/EP community can use GETS and other priority telecommunications services to complete their calls and coordinate disaster response and recovery.

When do I use GETS?
GETS is used in an emergency or crisis situation when the landline network is congested and the ability to complete a normal call is hindered.

How does GETS work?
GETS is accessed through a universal number (provided to qualified users on a GETS calling card) using common telephone equipment. A series of prompts direct you to enter your 12-digit GETS PIN and destination phone number. Once authenticated, your call receives priority treatment on the landline network.

Where can I use GETS?
GETS is primarily intended for calling within the United States and its territories. You can request international calling privileges for calls to or from international destinations. However, GETS provides priority treatment only in the domestic segment of the call.

Do I need extra hardware or software?
No. You will only need a GETS card, which will have both the universal access number and a Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Will GETS work on my cell phone?
You can place a GETS call from any cell phone. However, it will not receive priority treatment until it reaches a landline network. GETS calls over cellular networks are most effective when used in conjunction with the Wireless Priority Service-- a companion service managed by the Office of Emergency Communications--that offers authorized users priority treatment on the wireless networks. To receive priority treatment in wireless networks, you must register for the Wireless Priority Service (WPS).

What functions does GETS support?

  • Presidential Communications
  • Continuity of Operations (COOP)
  • Disaster Response
  • Agency essential emergency response functions
  • State Emergency Operations Centers
  • Emergency Broadcast Interface
  • International interface for diplomatic and defense telecommunications

What features and enhancements does GETS provide?
GETS provides a higher probability of call completion even in damaged or congested networks by providing numerous enhancements and key features:

  • Toll-free access numbers with alternate numbers for direct carrier access
  • Access control using Personal Identification Numbers (PINs)
  • Failsafe access - if the access control system fails, GETS calls would automatically be allowed to complete
  • Enhanced routing to one of the three interexchange (long distance) carriers
  • Alternate carrier routing in the event one of the carriers is unavailable
  • Priority treatment with trunk queuing, sub-grouping, and reservation
  • Exemption from restrictive network management controls during congestion
  • International calling (when requested and authorized in advance)
  • Interoperability with other networks
  • Number translation (for qualified users)

How much does GETS cost?
There is no charge to subscribe to GETS; the only charge for GETS is usage. GETS calls are billed at a rate of 7 to 10 cents per minute (depending on the carrier and other factors) for calls within the United States and its territories, Canada, and most of the Caribbean. International calls are billed at commercial rates, though international calling privileges are restricted to specific cards authorized by an organization's point of contact. Organizations will not be billed for calls to confirm receipt of individual GETS cards, familiarization calls, or short-duration test calls to the familiarization line (703-818-3924). The Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) reserves the right to bill for all calls, especially if there has been fraud or abuse using a GETS card(s).

Federal government organizations are exempt from billing for GETS usage until an annual threshold dollar amount for GETS usage has been exceeded. OEC reserves the right to bill federal users for GETS usage if there has been fraud or abuse using a GETS card.

How effective is GETS in actual emergencies?
GETS is designed to provide 90% call completion rates when call volume is eight times greater than normal network capacity. In actual emergencies, GETS has consistently met or exceeded this completion rate. In order to use GETS, users must have a dial tone. 

How do I become a GETS user?
If you believe you are eligible, follow the appropriate right-hand menu selection for "Register for GETS".

Can I use GETS to make international calls?
GETS can be used to place calls to or from international locations, but the call will only receive priority while within the United States. Once a GETS call that originates overseas reaches the United States and is routed to AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon, the carrier will ask for PIN validation and then route the call to its destination.

How do I answer an incoming GETS call?

Answering an incoming GETS or WPS 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.
 

Last Published Date: July 24, 2014
Back to Top