Why 911 May Cost You Far More than a Phone Call


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.

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