911: Over 50 Years of Hidden Costs . . . and the Next Generation of Savings



Support for 911 emergency calling for MLTS systems used for enterprises needs to be more widely understood by system administrators. Most often, because of the complexity of 911 administrators, they look for plug-and-play add-ons where they can ‘set it’ and ‘forget it.’ While that may be a valid option for kitchen rotisseries sold by the infamous Ron Popiel, it is not the proper way to purchase or install a safety solution, and by doing so, you may end up spending a considerable amount of money each month on services that are not providing any value.

Legacy E911 Solutions

In the Legacy E911 environment, everything from the caller’s identity to their location was based on a telephone number and a database record stored behind it called the Automatic Location Information database record (ALI). When ALI was first designed over 40 years ago, the communications industry was much different, and the needs of Public Safety were much less complex than today. Telephone devices resided at fixed locations, the movement of devices were controlled and administered by the phone company, and rarely did devices exist at multiple locations simultaneously. Based on these rules, each device’s telephone number (TN) was the ideal identifier for the ALI record.

The Mysterious ALI Record

As for ALI, the record was built for a tabular database with structured fields of a specific length totaling 512 bytes. While additional fields could be added to the end of the record, lengthening an individual field would impact over 6000 respective agencies and any software that interacts with the ALI database information. Today, the technology in phones has evolved to the point where the ALI database is significantly handicapping new capabilities like mobility, nomadic location, and multiple appearances of the device.

Mock-up of a typical Automatic Location Information record

Hidden 911 Costs and Where to Look

With the end of the year upon us, many customers find a line item labeled as a “911 Recovery Fee” on their telephone bill. This figure includes the costs for the number of individual ALI records used for E911 reporting. Examining the detail of these charges reveals that each ALI record could carry a monthly fee from $1 to $3 per number. This is where the rub begins. The record contains a single field, typically 30 characters in length, that is used to convey specific information about a station location but is often left blank or unclear enough to provide any real meaning.

Example ‘per-line’ fees for State 911

Reducing Costs with ELINs – What you Loose in Return

Consider that you have 1,000 employees and are tracking location at the station level regardless of whether the employee is home, remote or hybrid. That environment could cost you $12,000 to $36,000 annually for ALI records, which would be on top of any solution provider used to track and update the basic location information. As a method to reduce these annual expenses, many organizations introduced the Emergency Location Identification Number concept of ‘grouping’ stations with common location areas under a single reporting phone number or ELIN. In our previous example, 1000 users across ten floors may only consume 10 ELINs for 911 call reporting in the building. This reduces the number of ALI records from 1,000 to only 10 (assuming 100 stations per floor), providing a cost savings of 90%. But with this reduction in ELINs, the granularity achieved was sacrificed by reducing the location granularity to the floor level and not the specific station. Depending on the building configuration, this may not be a concern but must be considered.

Addressing the Core Problem

It is safe to say that any E911 solution on the market attempts to tweak or manipulate the existing E911 databases but is fighting an uphill battle with little possibility of solving the actual problem. This is because the core issue is not just a technology deficiency but an operational deficiency that developed. Fixing the technology deficiency without addressing the functional deficiency won’t correct the problem. In the same light, improving the operational flaw without addressing the technology deficiency will also fail.

A NEW Model; A NEW Method; A brand NEW Solution

Next Generation 911 solutions address the core issue and can deliver a very effective technology fix to the limitations of the existing E911 architecture. NG911 payload information is IP based, freeform, and extensible. The information and data can reference additional resources, which can then lead elsewhere to other data, creating a virtually unlimited information reserve. This new radical concept requires only a single static record in the public safety databases eliminating the need and mechanisms to keep the information current. The URL reference remains constant and simply ‘points’ to the dynamic real-time information stored externally in the enterprise network. A valid inquiry by an authorized ECC returns current, near-real-time data, with the added ability for 2-way communication between the systems and personnel, if desired.

Extending Data to the Field

A common area of confusion for location information is who needs the data. Depending on the content of the data will dictate the answer to that question. First, the ECC’s initial call taker and incident dispatcher require location information. Appropriate resources can’t be assigned or understood where needed without that information. Likewise, knowing that the incident is taking place in cubicle 2C-231 is information that is irrelevant to the dispatcher but critical to those responding directly to the scene. This changes the format in which the information gets delivered and requires that it be tailored to be relevant for each recipient, eliminating confusion and increasing the data’s usefulness. For example:

  • Dispatchers need jurisdictional information to assign the proper response units to the incident.
  • Teams responding need to understand the building entrance information, allowing ingress most expediently.
  • Responders that are entering the building likely need floorplan data to locate the incident, as well as the most expedient way to get there.
  • Incident management wants an overall picture to assist in managing the incident and resources.
Firefighter viewing floorplans while responding to the scene

I’m proud to say that at 911inform, we have taken the problem of 911 location reporting, providing situational awareness to first responders, and extending operational command and control of an incident to public safety. We’ve also wrapped the comprehensive information we collect from IoT sensors into one clean, neat package, enabling Enterprise users to quickly solve any compliance issues for Kari’s Law, RAY BAUM’S Act, and Alyssa’s Law.

SPECIAL MESSAGE: I have announced my candidacy for the NENA Northeastern Regional Director position. VOTING for NENA Members begins March 15th. PLEASE See my campaign page at http://Fletch911.com for my information, and PLEASE REMEMBER TO VOTE!

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP
Vice President Public Safety Solutions
911inform, LLC

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