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.


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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