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Future of E911: 5 IT Areas to Consider

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Image: Frank Harms - Alamy Stock Photo
With the January 6, 2022 date for compliance with RAY BAUM’s Act for non-fixed endpoints now past, those responsible for 911 location and call routing management may be lulled into a false sense of security. While it’s true that there are no currently pending new legislative requirements, the work in ensuring employee safety continues to evolve.
Below are five areas that IT leaders should consider for 2022 and beyond:
  1. Determining your compliance: RAY BAUM’s Act requires that calls sent to a 911 operator provide a “dispatchable location.” The FCC defines dispatchable location as “a location delivered to the ECC/PSAP with a 911 call that consists of the validated street address of the calling party, plus additional information such as suite, apartment, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party.” Furthermore, RAY BAUMs’ Act requires compliance for multi-line telephone systems first sold, leased, or installed after the effective date for suppliers, vendors, importers, and operators. Organizations that have made major changes to their existing phone systems or that are planning a migration to a new system should work with appropriate legal counsel to ensure that they are compliant. Even those that are operating older systems may wish to ensure compliance to reduce potential liability.
  2. Going beyond dispatchable location: A first responder might need information in addition to dispatchable information to find a 911 caller. For example, if a dispatchable location includes a wing or cube number, first responders must be guided to the caller’s location by in-building security (who will often be required to allow them entry to a building) or have maps that allow them to easily find a caller’s location. Additional information that would be helpful to first responders could include the location of AEDs, availability of elevators capable of supporting transport of a stretcher, location of fire hose hookups, and so on. Additionally, first responders may potentially benefit from access to security systems and cameras that would enable them to see into a potentially dangerous situation before entering a building. It’s important for organizations to meet regularly with local first responders to understand what information they need for optimal response.
  3. Addressing remote workers: The last few years have seen a tremendous shift toward work-from-home. In many cases, at-home employees are using company-provided softphones or desktop phones for their calling needs. Companies must ensure that these endpoints meet Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’s Act compliance and that placing a 911 call from a company-provided phone in a home office doesn’t require complex initiation such as logging into the phone or enabling a VPN connection to the company network. Remote employees should be made aware of and acknowledge any potential limitations in 911 call routing and location sharing (again, in accordance with advice of legal counsel).
  4. Addressing mobile phone users: Organizations should prepare for the possibility (and perhaps even the likelihood) that employees within facilities (and guests) will call 911 via their personal mobile devices rather than use the company phone system. In this case, 911 operators may be able to identify the general address of the caller, but not likely the floor they are calling from or the specific location within the building. And building security personnel will have no knowledge of the call. Fortunately, emerging solutions from vendors like 911inform and their partners are providing enterprises with the ability to identify the location of a 911 call made by a personal cell phone and to notify appropriate personnel.
  5. Keep following NG911 evolution: NG911 is now a reality in several states, with more on the way. NG911 offers the potential to address historical challenges in move/add/change tracking of endpoints by shifting responsibility of location management to the end device or user via approaches including obtaining location from network elements or directly from end-users. NG911 will provide additional functionality, such as sharing of messaging and video with first responders. Those responsible for 911 management within their organizations should stay in communications with their ECC’s (PSAPs) to understand NG911 adoption plans, and follow organizations including NENA and CISA to stay on top of emerging capabilities. Migration to NG911 provides an end-to-end solution, but each network segment can migrate at its own pace.
Beyond these five areas, organizations should also continue to proactively manage 911 location and engage in regular testing to ensure that they are passing correct location information to ECCs (PSAPs). They should also ensure that 911 plans are fully integrated with overall incident response management to ensure consistent response across all locations.
The need to provide accurate caller location information and additional data to the correct ECC (PSAP) continues to underpin E911 management strategies, which is also necessary to improve responses in an emergency event. IT professionals will need to stay abreast of new technology developments and evolve their strategies to ensure compliance with applicable law, the needs of remote workers, and the opportunity to further improve workplace safety through the migration to NG911.
Thank you to Martha Buyer and Mark Fletcher for their input on this post.
Join me at Enterprise Connect on Monday, March 21 at 11:15 AM ET for “Managing E911 for Compliance and Safety” or virtually on Tuesday March 22 at 1:30 PM for further discussion of E911 management requirements and challenges.