911 for Christmas? Think Twice BEFORE you buy

An Audio Podcast version of this Blog is available on the AVAYA PODCAST NETWORK

Last year, a very popular gift for the holiday season was a “911 Emergency Pendant” from a large television shopping retailer. It was advertised as a “lifesaving product”, and targeted at those who were living in, or had loved ones residing in a senior living establishment. It was also targeted at those living at home alone, clearly pulling at the heartstrings of those watching the broadcast. The unit was advertised as one having a single purchase price, which was just below $100 with their special $50 off offer, and the only one in the world that had no monthly fee for service, and the device worked “anywhere in the country”.

Being someone in the 911 industry, and understanding at a deep level how 911 works, I found this product a little hard to believe. Obviously, if it works anywhere, cellular technology would be required to provide service “anywhere in the country”. If cellular service was in use, there would be no possible way to provide that service, and included in a one-time purchase price that was less than $100.

To me, it became very clear what was happening here. Since June of 1996, an FCC report and order has mandated that cell phones making 911 emergency calls must be routed to the Public Safety Answer Point (PSAP)  without any interception by the carrier for credit checks or other validation procedures. This is commonly known as the NSI (Non-Service Initialized) rule. The origin of the bill had excellent merit. With the massive popularity of cellular phones, and the regular upgrade cycle from users, the number of devices left over from previous plans grew exponentially. As a case in point, I have three of them sitting on my desk in front of me as I write this.

It was decided that since cell phones were still uncommon with the general public, these spare phones would make excellent gifts to those who were financially less fortunate. With the NSI rule in place, the devices could be distributed to the financially needy, spouses who were victims of abuse, and a quick inexpensive panic button for anyone who needed to reach 911.

It wasn’t long before this rule became exploited by those looking to profit from the emergency services industry. Low cost, inexpensive chipsets could be manufactured and placed in a cheap plastic housing for just a few dollars, and Viola!  You have an emergency “panic button” style device able to call 911! So what’s wrong with this picture?

The main problem is, the 911 network, and 911 PSAP’s were not designed to deal with calls from these types of devices. Since the devices are NSI devices with no service plan, they have no telephone number. Since they have no telephone number, they fall outside of the operational model of the cellular 911 network. Some of the problems that become quickly apparent:

  • Location information is often unavailable.
  • If location is available, it’s often the cell tower and not the device.
  • If the user doesn’t know where they are, 911 can’t accurately locate them.
  • There is no telephone number, so a call back is impossible.

 

  • The device may not reach the proper PSAP.

 

With all of these potential failures, is this really something you want to put into the hands of a loved one? The ABC12 News Team in Emmet County Michigan found out that the one PSAP in northern Michigan decided they were not going to go down without a fight.  They resorted to Social Media by posting on their Facebook page exposing their thoughts through a warning about the device that was claiming to help people contact 911.

The Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet Central Dispatch Authority reported that their test of the pendant did not work and urged residents to directly dial 911 reach authorities during an emergency. They detailed the situation where a local resident brought the device in trying to get help activating it after unsuccessful attempts on his own. Tests from the residents home, the 911 PSAP parking lot, and even from inside the 911 center itself, all failed to work as promised. The device did not provide any location information to the 911 center, so if the caller is unable to speak, or doesn’t know where they are, dispatchers would not be able to help them. The CCE Central Dispatch Facebook Page is available at http://facebook.com/CCE911

Provide your Location with Only 3 Words

Disclaimer: 
The author or Avaya Inc. has no business agreement or financial tie 
to What3Words. This article is based on the interest of the author 
to investigate new technologies and foster the advancement of Public 
Safety and the use of Next Generation technology to provide a safer, 
more robust architecture using common technology.

Ask anyone in public safety and they will tell you that the most critical information, yet often the most elusive, is the location of the caller. Not only is the location accuracy grossly inadequate with most mobile devices today, often a caller is unaware of what their “dispatch-able address” is. This twofold problem creates an issue for public safety dispatchers. Not only do they do rely on the technology in the network to route the call correctly, but the inability of that technology to give them a discreet location puts the onus on the caller to be able to convey that information to the 911 call taker.

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For example, this morning I had breakfast at my local luncheonette. I was inside a single story commercial structure, in a strip mall environment. Google tells me that the closest cellular tower to my location is about 2185 feet away (.41 miles) – pretty close, huh?

Screenshot 2017-10-07 18.00.51

While I’m familiar with the name of the establishment, I wouldn’t have the first clue to what the address is. I know from previous experience, having called 911 before while in this establishment, the 911 call taker only got Phase 1 level location providing the sector and cell tower centroid.

To an ordinary individual, this would seem like it would be information that was quite accurate and usable. But while the data is relevant, it is not germane to the situation. I was physically located at the Skyline Luncheonette, 129 Skyline Dr. Suite 7, Ringwood, NJ 07456, United States of America, but conveying that information to a Public Safety dispatcher would not have been an easy task for me. But fortunately, there is a better way.

What if I could convey all that location information, with 3 m² accuracy to anyone else on the planet with just three simple words? Fortunately, that is reality, and it’s available today. Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you:

I was located at the three words:  enjoy-ladder–oath or https://map.what3words.com/enjoy.ladder.oath

Screenshot 2017-10-08 12.35.36

Putting those words in the What3Words app presents you with the precise location of where I was; down to the seat I was sitting in. While I don’t expect you to remember, or even know, enjoy–ladder–oath, you could quickly retrieve the location in an app, and that could be used by public safety dispatchers to understand exactly where you were.

Just to be clear, the What3Words app is NOT a location discovery technology, The App is a simple way to translate an explicit point on the planet, with 3 m2 accuracy, too anyone with an internet connection. They can then extract the longhand location and the actual geodetic information held within this ‘location container’ shorthand.

Around the world, car manufactures are also starting to take notice of this technology. Recently, Mercedes-Benz announced plans to launch “in vehicle 3 word address navigation”, following Daimler’s partnership with the What3Words addressing system.

As Next Generation Emergency Services becomes more common, and we start adding in the ability for intelligent endpoints to communicate ‘data’ instead of phone numbers, as we are restricted to with the existing archaic architecture, we need to start thinking about new efficient ways to transport the data from where it exists, to where it is needed.

To do that will require disruption to and industry that normally shy’s away from dynamic change, but that is what disruption is all about anyway, right?

 

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FCC Announces MLTS ECS NOI Agenda

My role at Avaya is to manage the product various offerings as they pertain to public safety solutions in the enterprise. Additionally, this includes public safety answer points. From a legislative and regulatory perspective, I work with various agencies. These include the Federal Communications Commission, as well as recognized standards development organizations, known as SDOs, like NENA, the National Emergency Number Association, EENA, the European Emergency Number Association, and APCO International, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.

For an audio version of this Blog, check us out HERE:

This particular work is probably the most important of what I do. It sets the stage for legislative guidance within the industry, ensuring that best practices and technically feasible solutions are specified and deployed.

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications that take place by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and US territories. The FCC is an independent US government agency that is overseen by Congress and has been designated as the federal agency that is responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s communications law and regulations.

So how does Rulemaking work at the FCC?

Each time that Congress wishes to enact a particular piece of legislation that affects telecommunications in the United States, the FCC is tasked with developing rules to implement any specific law required to codify that legislation. To carry out its work, the Commission will then take specific regulatory steps to formulate and enforce these rules.

Fortunately for US Citizens, these steps offer consumers an opportunity to submit comments as well as reply comments to the FCC to be considered during the process.

The Commission’s decision-making process is well defined, albeit brings forth a whole new chapter in the ‘Alphabet Soup’ served as a daily special served at Chez’ Telecom. Here is a quick guide to understanding the “alphabets” of the FCC.

  • Notice of Inquiry (NOI): The Commission releases an NOI to gather information about a broad subject or as a means of generating ideas on a particular issue. NOIs are initiated either by the Commission or an outside request.
  • Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM): After reviewing comments from the public, the FCC may issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. An NPRM contains proposed changes to the Commission’s rules and seeks public comment on these proposals.
  • Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM): After reviewing your comments and the comments of others to the NPRM, the FCC may also choose to issue an FNPRM regarding specific issues raised in comments. The FNPRM provides an opportunity for you to comment further on a related or specific proposal.
  • Report and Order (R&O): After considering comments to a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (or Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making), the FCC will issue a Report and Order. The R&O may develop new regulations, amend existing rules or make a decision not to do so.

Summaries of the R&O are published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register summary will tell you when a rule change will become effective. Not quite as entertaining as general legislation, and we have no “I’m just a Bill” theme song, but the process is efficient, and most importantly gets public and commercial input, as well as the contribution of specific experts to the legislation at the very start.

On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, Chairman Ajit Pai has announced that the September Open Meeting will include an agenda item:

911 Access, Routing, and Location in Enterprise Communications Systems
The Commission will consider a Notice of Inquiry that seeks comment on the provision of 911 by enterprise communications systems that serve businesses, hotels, educational institutions, and government entities.

This will be heard under Public Safety and Homeland Security Docket 17-239 and is a direct result of the issues raised by Avaya on behalf of Hank Hunt, Kari’s Dad. Around the world, this is commonly known as Kari’s Law and has over 650,000 supporters on Change.Org after Hunt created the petition after the tragic death of his 31-year old daughter Kari Hunt, on December 1, 2013, in Marshall Texas. Kari’s 9-year old daughter knew to dial 9-1-1 from the hotel room phone but was unable to because a ‘9’ was needed for an outside line. Versions of the Bill have passed the House and US Senate and are ready to be joined and sent to the Whitehouse.

In addition to the important aspects defined by Kari’s Law, Direct Access, On Site Notification, and Routing without Interception, this new FCC NOI covers additional important aspects, including affordable implementation, management and testing of solutions. For more information on the FCC Proceeding, you can watch the September Open Meeting LIVE on the Internet at http://fcc.gov/live, and the public is welcome to attend in person at the FCC, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554.

For more information about Kari’s Law, you can visit the Kari Hunt Foundation at  https://www.KariHuntFoundation.com where you can read the story, and contribute to their cause in educating the public so a child is never faced with the situation where 911 will not reach public safety on the phone.

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Is Text Messaging Just Dying or Dead?

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) will be dropping support for Short Message Service SMS in favor of email alerts going forward. Is this a sign of the times? Is texting getting too long in the tooth, and are citizens looking for other more multi-media rich content? The following letter was distributed today advising of the discontinuance of the popular service via SMS. This makes me wonder if Text to 911 hasn’t missed the boat with only about 20% of the PSAPs being deployed with the functionality. Should they be focusing on multimedia and omnichannel communications from the public?

U.S. Department of Homeland Security US-CERT

US-CERT to Discontinue SMS Text Messages

US-CERT will be discontinuing SMS text messages (wireless alerts) this month. To ensure you continue receiving the latest information about security topics and threats, please update your subscriber profile to include an email address. Alternatively, subscribe here using your email address.

If you’re receiving this notification via email, you do not need to take any action. As we approach October, National Cyber Security Awareness Month, consider sharing the following link with friends and family so that they can stay current on risks potentially affecting their systems and data: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas. At the bottom of every US-CERT.gov webpage is a link to subscribe to email alerts.

Affected topics:

  • National Cyber Awareness System Mailing Lists
    • Alerts
    • Bulletins
    • Tips
    • Current Activity
  • Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT)
    • Alerts
    • Advisories
    • Announcements
    • Year in Review
    • Monitor Newsletter
  • Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community Voluntary Program (C3VP)
    • C3VP Updates

Please contact info@us-cert.gov with any questions or concerns. Thank you.

United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT)

6 Easy Steps to Protect your PBX from a Hurricane Related Outage

Check out an audio version of this blog on APN: Scroll down to read the article.

6 Easy Steps to Protect your PBX from a Hurricane Related Outage

As the US and Caribbean prepare for Hurricane Irma, we want you to know that Avaya and our team is by your side and available to help now and after the storm passes. We are committed to your business. Our sales teams and employees are here to help preserve critical business operations. Please contact the Avaya Support Website for specific proactive support information.

Avaya recommends reviewing the following 6 steps available on Avaya’s support website as a helpful reminder for final preparations:

  1. Save translations before the emergency event impacts the site.This will ensure that recent changes are not lost and speed restoration in the advent of damage to the system.
  2. Review safety procedures with all employees prior to the emergency event, if possible, and make certain to have an updated contact list to keep in touch.
  3. Secure back-up mediaso that translations won’t be lost or damaged, thereby delaying restoration of your service. Take a copy of back-ups and any other information off site.
  4.         Print and store a current list configuration of key solutions.If a new system is necessary, this simple precaution will save time in starting the process.
  5.         Consider powering your system down before the emergency event impacts the site Electrical power surges both before and after an emergency event can pose the greatest threat to your system.
  6.         Contemplate moving switch/applications if the site is located in an area that may be exposed to damage from the emergency.

FEMA Hurricane Status

For the most current information on the status of Hurricane Irma and information on precautions you and your family can take in advance, please refer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website at www.fema.gov.

Click here for the National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov

Recovery:

Our first priority is your safety and we stand by ready to support your business continuity and disaster recovery needs now and in the future.

 

 

Back 2 School Safety Preparedness

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APN – The Avaya Podcast Network

The ABCs of Back to School Preparedness

Back to School Preparedness

With school bells ringing across the Nation, it is time for parents and guardians to get familiar with the emergency plan at your child’s school or daycare.

Much like individuals and families, schools and daycare providers should all have site-specific emergency plans. If you are a parent or guardian, it is important to make sure your child’s school or daycare has a plan to ensure his or her safety during an emergency.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outline steps as easy as ABC to keep your child safe at school or daycare:

  • Ask how you will reunite with your child in an emergency or evacuation.
  • Bring extra medication, special foods, or supplies that your child might need.
  • Complete a backpack contact information card.

 If your child has an access or functional need, be sure to meet with a school official to discuss plans for how the school will provide for his or her safety. For more information about emergency preparedness for parents, educators, and kids, visit www.ready.gov/kids.

Parents, guardians, and teachers can also use the Children and Youth Preparedness Social Media Toolkit to share safety messages on their social media networks.

Avoiding Disaster Fraud

FEMA Credentials

After a disaster, many community-based organizations come together to support the needs of those affected. Unfortunately, individuals with ulterior motives may also prey on those disaster survivors by offering fraudulent services.

Learn how to protect yourself and your finances from additional loss. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers reminders to help you avoid disaster fraud, including:

  • Do not pay a fee to apply for FEMA disaster assistance or to receive it. FEMA does not charge a fee for these services.
  • Get three written estimates for repair work. Check credentials, and contact your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to learn about any complaints against the contractor or business.
  • Make sure you obtain a written contract detailing all necessary services and costs before work begins. The contract should also have a projected completion date and outline ways to negotiate changes and settle disputes.
  • Pay only by check or a credit card. A reasonable down payment may be required to buy materials for some projects, but do not pay anything without a signed contract.

Be sure to check out the full list of disaster fraud tips and stay vigilant when disaster strikes. To register for FEMA disaster assistance, call 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585) or visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

5 Secrets to the Business Side of 911

An audio version of this Blog is available on YouTube via Spreaker

With any innovation, comes the opportunity for additional technology. At times, the technology is a welcome addition, while at other times it’s merely an opportunity for marketing. Take the mobile telephone market for example. In an October 2015 article by ABI Research, they stated that they expect that “global revenues for mobile accessories will reach US$81.5 billion in 2015 and is forecast to grow to $101 billion in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3%.” protective cases topped the market followed by chargers, screen protectors and finally headsets.

Screenshot 2017-08-19 13.25.20

In 1969, 911 eliminated the challenge of knowing the local telephone number of the police, fire, or ambulance service in an emergency. More than a decade later, Caller ID was added to identify who was calling. Access to the Selective Router and the billing database, containing the address of the call was now party of the E911 system, and worked well. This ‘Enhanced 911’ model worked well, and E-911 service began rolling out across the entire country.

THE MOBILITY MONSTER

All was well with public safety and their shiny new E911 system, until the mobility monster reared its ugly head. Mobility is the enemy of 911. It breaks the simple model of a phone number relating to a specific location or address. Cellular telephones, and business VoIP systems, allow users to be located anywhere network connectivity is available. From this an entire new market was born, “The Enterprise 911 Solution Provider”. Both CPE and Cloud based solutions can be purchased, and monthly services can be established for users on the system. These services supposedly track movement, and update the appropriate public safety databases with required information. And, as with any opportunity, comes the opportunity to be sold a bag of magic beans.

Understanding how 911 works, in its simplest form, will allow an administrator to procure the appropriate solution for their business environment.

MYTH 1: I need 911 service on every device
While it’s true that every device needs direct access 911, having a 911 record (a.k.a. phone number) for each device is not required. The phone number sent to the 911 center will trigger a specific address record to display on their computer terminal. What is important, is that each telephone device sends a caller ID that is relevant to their location, so dispatchers see the appropriate address.

What they don’t want you to know:
Their billable is the telephone number, and they will give you every reason in the world to get you to put as many of those in the database. While some reasons may have merit, most reasons are there to scare you based on your lack of understanding.

MYTH 2: 911 Needs to call back the specific device that dialed 911
It is critical that 911 dispatchers can re-establish a connection in the event of the call to 911 getting disconnected. More information may be required, a clarification on the address may be needed to get responders to the right location, or important instructions may be given to assist while help is arriving. Who needs to get that call, though, is up for debate.

With On-Site Notification, a responsible party can be made aware of a 911 call event, and then be able to handle any additional information requests. They can be a trained person who has access to all information and provide better coordination with emergency responders. And they are in the best position to direct any local personnel that may be qualified to assist while waiting for help to arrive.

What they rather you don’t realize:
Being able to call every station directly, means a phone number on the device in the 911 database, and again, recurring billing, or a ‘gateway device’ in the path of the call.

MYTH 3: 911 is better provided in ‘the Cloud’ or as a ‘Hosted Service’
The cloud is a wonderful place. It is the answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, no . . . wait . . . that was 42. It is still a very cool place though, and provides a lot of benefit. And while 911 can live in the cloud, the question remains if you need, or want it too, in your implementation. The cloud buys you a single point of access for emergency services across your network, but of the network is down, so it E911. The cloud gets you to every 911 center in the US and Canada, but you need to access the cloud via SIP or a 10-digit phone number. The Cloud can provide notification and email alerts, but the cloud is external to your facility so it may not be available in an urgent situation where a phone system on premises may serve your needs better. The decision is up to you, based on your needs and concerns.

What they don’t want you to know:
Again, if a 911 provider billable is a telephone number, don’t let them force your need for the cloud to have an entry for every device. The cloud can easily operate on a building or zone level.

MYTH 4: If I buy a system it will send Public Safety detailed information
If it were only true, but it isn’t because of this one reason. 911 is a voice call. The 911 network is a voice network. There is NO DATA CHANNEL, there is no pathway for anything but voice. 911 can receive caller ID, and then reference a database for static information that was put there before the call was made.

What you need to understand:
The 911 database contains records for each phone number, we know this already from the previous myths. In that record, there is a single 40-character free form field that can be populated with specific location text. You thought Twitter was tough with 140 characters, try to be specific with 40 or LESS!

MYTH 5: You are NOT part of the solution
When it comes right down to it, not only are you a critical part of the solution, you are the one that is most important part of the solution. YOU understand the layouts of your buildings, YOU can coordinate resources inside your facility to render the best assistance possible, and YOU are able to provide access to the other tools that already exist that can provide the valuable situational awareness that can be correlated and given to 1st responders when they arrive on site.

What they don’t want you to know:
All the information provided here, because this removes the vail of secrecy that guards the profits these companies make from fear uncertainty and doubt.

Using an external provider may be the right thing for your company, it comes down to the use case and requirements. And while sometimes you can get by with the functionality built into the system, if you do need a partner, make sure they are DevConnect Tested and Approved for the release and version of your system, and carry the DevConnect Partner or SELECT Product Partner logo.

If you are making an educated decision, and implementing 911 to a level that is effective, you are in line with the law, and good to go, in my book. Just beware of predatory tactics and the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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