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Is Your Microsoft Teams Deployment E911 Ready?
Two new federal regulations, Kari’s Law and Section 506 of RAY BAUM’s Act, are set to take effect early next year. Each requires enterprise IT leaders to take proactive action to ensure compliance.
- Kari’s Law requires that any organization operating a multiline telephone system (MLTS), either circuit-switched or VoIP, must enable callers to dial 911 without requiring a prefix, such as an 8 or 9. Kari’s Law also requires that whenever a 911 call is made, the system must notify a central location, another person, or an organization, such as a security desk or remote monitoring service.
- RAY BAUM’s Act, short for the “Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act of 2018,” amends the Communications Act of 1934 to reauthorize appropriations for the Federal Communications Commission. As part of this reauthorization, Section 506 of the law, and subsequent FCC rulemaking, requires that 911 calls are transmitted to the appropriate public safety answering point (PSAP) with “dispatchable location” information defined as “the street address of the calling party, and additional information such as room number, floor number, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party.” In a typical office environment, this could include building, floor, wing, office, cubicle, or other location information allowing first responders, and in-building security personnel, to know the exact location of the person calling 911.
Until recently, organizations using Microsoft Teams as their phone system had limited options to ensure compliance. Teams natively only supported the ability to route 911 calls based on a pre-defined emergency location address associated with a phone number. That is, Teams users had to define their address, and then manually update it as they moved. This approach leads to obvious challenges as most Teams users are leveraging the Teams client on a PC, laptop, tablet, or phone to take advantage of the ability to communicate and collaborate from virtually anywhere. Last month, Microsoft enabled Dynamic 911 support for both Calling Plan and Direct Routing, but only for U.S.-based phone numbers. As explained in this Microsoft document, Dynamic 911 enables real-time location determination of a 911 caller to ensure proper PSAP call routing and location reporting.
It’s not enough to know a 911 caller’s location at time of call. The second part of a successful E911 strategy requires routing of the call to the proper PSAP. For example, if a caller is working at a remote site, the 911 call must go to the PSAP serving that remote site rather than to the PSAP for the caller’s primary work location.
Microsoft Teams Phone System customers have two options for 911 call routing, as I explore fully in this whitepaper. The first, available to those using Calling Plan (Microsoft’s own PSTN connectivity service), simply sends the 911 call to Microsoft, which then owns responsibility for routing it to the correct PSAP (based on the caller’s current location). However, Nemertes’ research shows only about 11% of Teams Phone System customers use Calling Plan.
The second option applies to those using Microsoft Direct Routing to connect their SIP trunking provider to Microsoft Teams. Direct Routing customers typically handle 911 calls in one of two ways. Some send 911 calls to their SIP trunking provider, though many SIP trunking providers don’t support dispatchable location information other than the caller’s street address. That is, they won’t track or transmit more detailed information such as floor, room, etc. Alternatively, Direct Routing customers may leverage a third-party E911 call routing and management provider that takes the 911 call, performs a dynamic database lookup to determine detailed location information, and then routes the 911 call to the proper PSAP along with granular dispatchable location information. This approach requires obtaining SIP trunking services for normal voice traffic plus a separate E911 call routing service, creating additional cost and potential complexity.
Another emerging alternative come from Direct Routing providers that combine E911 location management, PSAP call routing, and SIP trunking for PSTN connectivity into a bundled and integrated service. This approach allows Direct Routing customers to use a single provider for both PSTN access as well as E911 location management, call routing, and advanced features, potentially minimizing costs and management overhead.
Those using or planning to use Microsoft Teams as their phone system should rapidly assess their compliance with Kari’s Law and Section 506 of RAY BAUM’s ACT, as well as evaluate the various approaches for ensuring accurate, real-time location management and their ability to route 911 calls to the proper PSAP. For those using Direct Routing with their own SIP trunking provider, consider the potential benefits of an integrated service that bundles both E911 management and PSTN connectivity for Microsoft Teams.