SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Martha Buyer
Martha Buyer is an attorney whose practice is limited to the practice of telecommunications law. In this capacity, she has...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Martha Buyer | April 17, 2017 |

 
   

The State of 9-1-1

The State of 9-1-1 A review of current federal and state initiatives around issues relating to emergency services

A review of current federal and state initiatives around issues relating to emergency services

A few weeks ago at Enterprise Connect Orlando, I was lucky enough to take part in a panel discussion led by Irwin Lazar of Nemertes Research on issues associated with 9-1-1. For those who weren't in the room, it's important to know that there was heated discussion as two animated vendor representatives discussed their different approaches to identifying, managing and providing useful location information to first responders behind an MLTS (multi-line telephone system). Aside from the in-room fireworks, however, the session reminded me that it might be time for a review of some useful and relevant 9-1-1 policy information.

A Quick Review on 9-1-1
While there are many federal laws that address issues associated with 9-1-1 in one way or another, there is no federal standard or law that tackles the issue of location identification behind an MLTS. That's not to say that there's no liability for an equipment or service provider (including hosted) when sufficient location information is not available when it's needed most -- in a life or death emergency. If you've secured an IP or hosted service in the past few years, one of the many documents that you've probably signed is a waiver of some sort that limits the provider's liability for providing what may be inaccurate location information. But I digress.

On the state level, only 18 states (along with a small handful of municipalities and counties, the biggest of which is the City of Chicago) have enacted specific rules that proscribe specific obligations for providing some minimal level of location information. This means, obviously, that there are a whopping 32 states have taken no action on this truly "life or death" issue. Despite the fact that your state may not have taken specific regulatory action, MLTS owners, providers, and operators are hardly relieved from obligations to provide safe work environments for employees, contractors, guests, and others who may be present at such facilities when an emergency occurs.

Laws -- particularly those under the purview of OSHA (the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration) demand an absolute obligation from employers to employees and guests to provide a safe workplace. It wouldn't even take a great lawyer to make a strong argument that the absence of access to accurate and reliable 9-1-1 information creates an unsafe workplace, thus placing significant liability on employers who have chosen, for any number of reasons (some of which might even be legitimate), not to take the reasonable steps necessary (here, "reasonable" is a legal term of art) to ensure a safe workplace. Additionally, for employers who have employees in multiple states, those employers are obligated to treat employees in different locations similarly, such that if a company is providing 9-1-1 specific location information in Chicago where it is required by law, the employer must take the steps necessary to provide sufficiently and similarly detailed information regarding location for employees located, for example, in New York, where no such state rules exist.

Different vendors offer different solutions to the location identification problem. But the single most important step that any employer or enterprise host should take is to work with its nearest first responders to identify which types of information the first responder(s) will find most useful. Is it station-specific location information? Is it coordinated through a central individual within the enterprise? There's no right answer to this question -- it's enterprise-specific. But the staff of a wise enterprise will work with the first responders to determine what information the responder will find most useful in an emergency when seconds count.

One other comment about the enterprise's decisions about how to manage on-campus location information: An enterprise -- whether it's a private business, a school, a governmental unit, or other entity -- is well-advised not leave these decisions solely to the IT or communications departments, but to include representatives from risk management, legal, finance and facilities departments, along with any other departments thought to bring something useful to the table. In this context, the more input there is from more departments, the more likely the outcome will reflect the needs of those who may be most critically affected.

Kari's Law Update
Kari Renee Hunt was tragically murdered in December 2013, in front of her young children who tried desperately to reach outside help by dialing 911 from a hotel room in Marshall, Texas. Because the hotel's phone system prevented access to outside lines, the kids' calls were unsuccessful. Although people in an adjoining room were able to get an outside line and reach first responders, it was too late and Ms. Hunt was killed. In her memory, her father, Hank Hunt, with some influential friends including Avaya's Mark Fletcher and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Kari's Law, which prevents hotels and other entities from blocking direct access to 911 has been enacted in a number of states. Most importantly, however, it has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently waiting for final action by the U.S. Senate.

Passage and implementation of this bill should be a no-brainer. The cost to make existing phone systems compliant is negligible if anything, and given that prompt access to first responders can be the ultimate life-saving resource, it is not unreasonable to expect that Kari's Law will become truly "the law of the land" within the next 12 months. In the meantime, if you have a facility in a state where Kari's Law currently exists, it behooves you to make the changes to existing systems to be sure they're compliant. Again, it wouldn't take Perry Mason (I'm dating myself) or My Cousin Vinny to prove that an entity that hadn't made these changes was negligent, if not grossly negligent (read: expensive. VERY EXPENSIVE).

One final point: In those states where Kari's Law has been enacted and is now effective, it's important to understand the obligations it imposes. In some states, like Pennsylvania, the rules are highly specific, whereas in Maryland and Texas, there is a bit more latitude. If you've got facilities in these places, it's critical to know what those obligations are. They just could save your life!





COMMENTS



May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

April 19, 2017

Now more than ever, enterprise contact centers have a unique opportunity to lead the way towards complete, digital transformation. Moving your contact center to the cloud is a starting point, quick

April 5, 2017

Its no secret that the cloud offers significant benefits to enterprises - including cost reduction, scalability, higher efficiency, and more flexibility. If your phone system and contact center are

June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.