Why 911 May Cost You Far More than a Phone Call

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When you’re planning the 911 strategy for your facility, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you need an access code (like 9) to make a 9-1-1 call?
  • Are any common area phones in lobbies restricted from makling 9-1-1 calls?
  • If you dialed 9-1-1 from your PBX telephone right now, would anyone in your facility know you needed help?
  • Would you easily be able to be found in your building?
  • If you suddenly felt chest pains and dialed 9-1-1, but couldn’t speak, would the PSAP Dispatcher know where to send emergency responder based only on what they saw on their dispatch console?
  • What if your call was disconnected, would the 9-1-1 dispatcher be able to call you back?
  • If you were unable to answer, would someone else get the call?

QUESTION: How do I fix the problem? The logic is simple, send the wrong caller ID, and you could be sent to the wrong PSAP, or the call taker gets the wrong address. Either way the help you need is delayed. It’s that simple. On E9-1-1 calls you need to send a telephone number that has an ALI database entry that is relevant to where you are. The problem that VoIP brings to the table is that the telephone itself is extremely nomadic in nature, and users can easily move locations, without the aid of an administrator while retaining their phone number. If not properly managed, technology can lead to a horrible tragedy if the 9-1-1 handlng is not addressed.

QUESTION: What is the REAL Cost of 911? If you have gotten a quote for 9-1-1 on your communications system, you may have gotten a cost of as low as a few thousand dollars, or a quote of $50,000 or more depending on who you asked and how big your network is. I’ve seen proposals encompassing an entire state and all its agencies exceeding one million dollars. Fortunately, when planned properly, E911 can be deployed at a reasonable price that is cost effective on a per user basis.

QUESTION: What is the business case for implementing E9-1-1? Peter Krautle, Managing Principal of Avaya’s Strategic Communications Consulting group, recently created an interesting business case for E911 using liability avoidance. The model is fairly simple and easily cusotmized for your business. Contact Peter via email here if you’re interested in applying this financial model to your specific scenario. Peter will be more than happy to help, just mention the Avaya CONNECTED E911 Blog in your email.

QUESTION: Still don’t think you can I afford E911? When it comes right down to it, what you really can’t afford is a lawsuit. Even if you were to spend $30,000, on a solution, most likely that would be only a fraction of the retainer required for a lawyer to defend you in a liability suit. Also, did you stop and consider that you may be in violation of OSHA for not maintaining a safe workplace? In today’s litigious society, is it worth the risk?

Another common excuse I hear regularly is that “Only 16 states currently have legislation, and we are not one of them.” or worse, “We only bought E911 for our Chicago office due to the laws and not for the South Carolina office since there was no law there.”

Think twice about this approach, and run it past your Legal Department. These may end up being decisions that are scrutinized by twelve people with no telecom experience sitting in front of you and your company on a jury; Not to mention the negative local press that may be published about you.

QUESTION: What are the E911 Laws? PBX 911 specific laws, in the 16 states that do have them, are available on the NENA website. But remember, they are there to define requirements for E911 compliance. What most of them fail to do, however, is assign penalties for non-compliance with the law. Let’s not get confused here; this has nothing to do with your company’s liability and duty to maintain a safe work environment. The lack of a law is a weak argument to fall back on when you’re in court. And the best practice would be to deploy 9-1-1 at a consistent level enterprise wide based on the strictest E911 laws. After all, you have proven that you were able to deploy a better technology in some locations of your business; therefore you should be able to deploy the same solution in all parts of your business.

QUESTION: What Should You Do ? You need to carefully examine your E911 strategy when drafting an RFP or reviewing your communications infrastructure. Think about what you would award in damages if you were on a jury and someone was injured. Did you take all reasonable percautions?

That’s the REAL cost of E911 for your enterprise. As always I welcome your insights and comments on this and every blog.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the EU, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

Happy Birthday – 911

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There ‘s a small little town in Northern Alabama, with about 6,000 people in the community, and according to the Haleyville Fire Department website, a meer 2 fire calls so far this year at the time of this writing.

So why is this town so important? Well in addition to sharing a name with my favorite daughter, this sleepy little town deep in the land of good BBQ, happens to be the birthplace of the 911 network in the US, and home of the first 911 call in the country ever made.That was 43 years ago, on February 16th, 1968.

In recognition of that historic event, permission has graciously been provided by Roger D. Wilson of Walker County 9-1-1 and current President of the Alabama Chapter of NENA located at http://www.al911org to reprint the history of 911 here as well as in my weekly E911 Talk Podcast. This story, is a followup of the blog Guy Clinch wrote last week on February 11, detailing the history of 112, the emergency number commonly in use in Europe. You can read that blog here.

The Official Story from NENA goes like this . . . . . nena_logo[2].png

Before Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, (June 2, 1875) public safety was served by town criers. A town crier would walk the streets of a town and cry out for help in emergency situations. In the 1950’s, independent telephone companies were very common in the United States. If you wanted the police, you dialed the police station. If you had a fire, you called the fire department. If you needed any emergency help, you dialed the individual you needed, or you could dial ” 0″ and get the operator. Then he or she would ring the persons you were calling for.

In 1958, Congress called for an universal emergency number. At this time, the President’s Commission of Law Enforcement and the F.C.C. started arguing over a single easy to remember number. This was due to the large volume of emergency calls going to telephone company operators. A person may be calling for emergency help while the operator was giving information on the number of Aunt Betsy in Louisiana or Uncle Charles in Oklahoma, which lead to delays in emergency responses. Telephone companies were facing the problem of how to separate emergencies from general business. For over ten years the idea was discussed and argued about among the different agencies who wanted to receive the calls. Police said they should answer all calls, the Fire Department felt they were the better choice, some even felt the local hospital was the best answer.

According to a report in the Fayette, Alabama Times Record commemorating the 25th anniversary of the historic event, B.W. Gallagher, President of Alabama Telephone Company, said he was inspired by an article in the Wall Street Journal. He read that the president of AT&T and the FCC had announced that 911 would be the nationwide emergency number. Being a bit offended by the fact that the views of the independent telephone industry had been overlooked in this decision, Gallagher decided to make the Alabama Telephone Company the first to implement 9-1-1.

Gallagher consulted with Robert Fitzgerald, inside plant manager for the Alabama Telephone Company, who examined schematics of the company’s 27 exchanges. Fitzgerald chose Haleyville because its existing equipment was best suited to be quickly converted to receive 9-1-1 calls. Fitzgerald then designed the circuitry and installed the first 911 system in less than a week. Working with Fitzgerald to achieve this goal were technicians Pete Gosa, Jimmy White, Al Bush and Glenn Johnston.

In the early stages, the city fathers were skeptical of 9-1-1 calls being answered at the police station. They, like persons in Congress, were afraid that the city might not have the personnel qualified to answer “all out emergency calls”.

Haleyville, Alabama introduced the nation’s first 9-1-1 system which was located at the police station. Alabama Speaker of the House, Rankin Fite, made the first call from another city hall room. It was answered by Congressman Tom Bevill on a bright red telephone located in the police department. Also on hand was Haleyville Mayor James Whitt, Public Service Commission President Eugene (Bull) Connor, and B. W. Gallagher.

So on February 16, 1968, the first 9-1-1 call was made

Happy Birthday 9-1-1! You’re looking pretty good for a 43 year old, not to mention you save countless lives every single day.

An audio version of this blog is available on my Podcast:

 E911 Talk Podcast

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the EU, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

Fletch Goes to Washington

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On Friday January 14th, 2010, I had the privilege to hop on the train, my favorite way to travel lately, and headed south to Washington, DC where I participated in the FCC’s Emergency Access Advisory Committee initial meeting.

For those of you not familiar with the EAAC, The following excerpt is from their Charter document:

The Committee’s Official Designation The official designation of this advisory committee of the Federal Communications Commission (Commission or FCC) is the “Emergency Access Advisory Committee” as prescribed by the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (Communication and Video Accessibility Act or CVAA). The Committee’s Objective and Scope of its ActivitiesThe EAAC is hereby chartered for the purpose of implementing sections of the CVAA that pertain to making next generation emergency 911 services accessible by individuals with disabilities, as a part of the migration to a national Internet protocol-enabled emergency network (NG911).

With one of the primary goals of the committee being to enhance emergency services for individuals with disabilities, in addition to the carriers, manufacturers, and public safety, there were a number of individuals with speech or hearing disabilities represented at the meeting. The Commission did a fantastic job accommodating these individuals, providing American Sign Language interpreters and closed caption text superimposed on the video feed using some very interesting automated technology called Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), a method of Speech-to-Text translation. I was completely awestruck with the level of interpretation provided, especially with all of the technical jargon. Besides the occasion Closed Caption mistake of “PEACE APPS” (wait for it, you’ll get the joke in a second), the transcription was right on the money.

It really brought home to me the fact that today’s antiquated and out dated 911 infrastructure was nowhere near capable of effectively communicating with individuals with disabilities in an efficient manner. On the other hand, an NG911 capable PSAP, backed by ESInet SIP connectivity could easily bring those individuals with disabilities into the modern century and away from their BAUDOT enabled TTY devices with acoustic couplers screaming away like the modems of days past. Go ahead, Google BAUDOT, then come back when you’ve stopped laughing. Do these folks deserve to be relegated to this slow outmoded technology in today’s high speed, always on world most of enjoy?

Video Killed the Radio Star One thing that really impressed me was the speed and ease of communication that the ASL interpreters provided. I had several conversations with different people that had their sign language translated to speech, and my speech translated to sign language, and I have to admit that the latency injected was minimal, and the flow of conversation was quite natural. It was then that I realized that given this natural flow of the conversation, and the ability to transfer complex thoughts and ideas via ASL, it was clear to me that this would probably be the communication method of choice for someone who was disabled.

Dr. Paul Michaelis, from Avaya Labs in Denver, mentioned another interesting point in his closing comments. He brought up the point that a person with a specific disability like being hard of hearing, for example, may prefer to communicate in a multi-modal nature. For example, they most likely would like to speak to the PSAP dispatcher, because their speech is not impaired, but receive their response via Real Time Text because of their disability. Ultimately, this places the responsibility on the PSAP to provide the appropriate translation resources. Once again, this is where NG911 comes to the rescue.

With NG911 being a network of networks, not unlike the internet, resources across a much wider geography can now be ‘pooled’ and shared where needed. For example, a small community on the outskirts of a large city may have only a single seat PSAP. Even under the best conditions, staffing that center with a call taker with every skill set would be next to impossible. But being part of the larger ESInet infrastructure, a dispatcher with a special language skill set or translation ability could be easily added to the collaborative contextual conference established for that incident.

So once again, I have proven to myself that no matter how much you think you know, there is always more to learn, and there is always another side to the story. I saw for myself the additional value NG911 could bring to the public, proving once again that we are not just developing technology for technology’s sake; we’re developing technology to save lives.

Since the EAAC meetings with be ongoing each month, and I will be attending as the alternate for Dr. Michaelis, I’ll be dedicating one blog a month to keep you in the loop on what’s happening with this important committee. I welcome your comments and questions on this, or any other topic related to E911 or NG911. You can email me directly here.

Update: February Meeting Info The second meeting of the EAAC will be held at the Commission headquarters, 445 12th St., SW, Washington, D.C. on Friday, February 11, 2011 from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST). All meetings shall be open to the public.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the EU, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

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