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9-1-1 Issues as Policy and Technology Evolve


911 on a digital display
Image: frender -

One of the great privileges of my participation at Enterprise Connect is the always popular and interesting 9-1-1 panel chaired by Irwin Lazar (“Next Generation 911: Are We There Yet?" scheduled for Wednesday, March 27 at 2 PM). The content is current and insightful, and the conversation is always sat a minimum, lively. With fellow participants Mark Fletcher of 911Inform, Brooks Shannon of ESRI (formerly of NENA), Robin Erkkila of Bandwidth, and newcomer Jose Alvarado of Intrado, I feel like we’re getting the band back together--albeit with a new drummer. I’ve asked each panelist to highlight topics of particular interest to share here, in anticipation of the fact that next year we may get more presentation time in an even bigger room!

Since Brooks was the first to respond to my query, his hot topic goes first: “I’d like to revisit last year’s comments to continue to raise awareness that NG911 will eventually require MLTS systems to validate the addresses stored within them – including “address line 2” sub-address information – against locally-authoritative GIS data. It may even become required for RAY BAUM’s compliance, if legislation and/or regulation could ever mandate such validation. I’d like to impress upon the audience the gravity of this, and what changes would need to be made to systems and workflows to support it, and how to start thinking about it now.”

Irwin may serve as moderator of our panel, but he has hot issues of his own. Specifically, “I'd like to again hit on the full mobile convergence issue. Microsoft and Cisco continue to push FMC on both company-provisioned and personal devices. In addition, companies like Tango and Dstny are offering platforms that would allow other UCaaS providers the ability to do the same. They all argue that they don't violate Kari's Law and RAY BAUM’S Act because 911 calls are handled by the mobile provider.” 

Mark Fletcher of 911inform is never at a loss for words, particularly about this subject. He says his chief issue around emergency services is one of readiness: “I don’t think we need to talk about yesterday. MLTS are easily programmed to accommodate Kari’s Law. In fact, we don’t even need to talk about today, unless you are about to turn on a new installation. I want to be proactive, I want to get ahead of the curve and build to intersect with the future, I want people to have the latest and greatest so they don’t need to worry about upgrading before the initial install project is even done. NG911 is not coming, NG911 is here now. The standards are at a level where you can safely architect a network. Our schools are under constant attack NOW. People are dying in the parking lots of hospitals now, and PSAPs are getting corporate locations for remote or even branch office workers, every day. This should not happen in 2024. ANI/ALI databases are relics, and there are better ways TODAY that are plug-and-play with the NG911 networks in place now with FULL backward compatibility. To steal a phrase from my youth – ‘Let’s light this candle!’”

finally, my area of particular interest has to do with compliance with Kari’s Law. While most professionals involved in manufacturing, installing, managing and operating traditional multi line telephone systems are aware of the “dial 9 directly” component of Kari’s Law, in fact, there are two other prongs that must also be met for an entity to be compliant: notification and valid callback number.

The second prong requires contemporaneous on-site notification when a call to 9-1-1 is made from behind an MLTS or MLTS-equivalent. This means that someone at a security desk or similar location, where there is likely to be a live person available to answer and provide assistance to first responders, is notified almost simultaneously that a call for emergency assistance has been made. This information can provide critical information when an emergency occurs. 

The third prong is that a valid callback number must be provided when 9-1-1 has been called. The valid callback number need not—and arguably should not—be the number from which the call is made, but rather a public safety or other designated location so that first responders can arrive as quickly as possible. Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’S Act, along with other local, state and federal legislation are really only about getting help to those who require it as quickly as possible.

I’m also very interested in use of AI within the PSAP. I certainly see its value, but I remain concerned for callers who cannot communicate in traditional ways. That is, for most calls to 9-1-1, AI could provide speedy assistance. But it is far from a perfect opportunity for time savings given that in some instances, callers with communications challenges may well be unable to explain their issue(s) to an IVR. Again, when time means everything, this, to me, represents a huge risk that should be discussed and evaluated before ever being deployed. 

Please join us and come early to get a seat. It’s hardly a Taylor Swift concert, but we do tend to pack the house. We hope to see you there.

Martha Buyer will be in the Next Generation 911: Are We There Yet? session on Wednesday, March 27 at 2 pm EST. See you there!

Enterprise Connect 2024 will be held at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, FL, from March 25-28. Preview the conference schedule or register to attend. To keep on top of all Enterprise Connect developments, subscribe to the weekly newsletter.