Simplicity. It is clearly one of the main tenants of any good Bill or Law. While 9-1-1 telecommunicators and dispatchers have been referred to as our Nation’s FIRST 1st Responders, their position has been relegated to one that carries the very same classification as an administrative or clerical worker.

Why is this important? Congressional Representative Norma J. Torres states, “Federal agencies rely on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), a vast catalog of occupations, for statistical purposes.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) maintains the SOC.  Occupations are supposed to be classified according to the nature of the work performed.  However, the current version of the SOC categorizes Public Safety Telecommunicators as ‘Office and Administrative Support Occupations,’ which includes secretaries, office clerks, and taxicab dispatchers.  OMB recently conducted a revision of the SOC but failed to appropriately update the classification of Public Safety Telecommunicators. “

In her eyes, and the eyes of many others, these individuals should be categorized as “Protective Service Occupations,” which includes a broad range of other “protective” occupations that are more closely related to the job at hand, such as: lifeguards, fish and game wardens, parking enforcement workers, firefighters, and even playground monitors, among others. 

The 911 Saves Act is targeted at correcting this injustice and is one that YOUR Federal Legislator or Congressional Representative can get behind.


March 7, Rep. Torres will formally introduce the 911 SAVES Act, which (if passed) will reclassify Public Safety Telecommunicators and dispatchers. This is a huge moment for everyone working in 9-1-1, and a great opportunity to have our voices heard. Here’s how you can help:

  • Get up to speed. First, read NENA’s original comments supporting reclassification for a quick refresher on the issue. Then, read up on Representative Torres’ bill in the 911 SAVES Primer.
  • Connect with your Congressional contacts. They’d love to hear from you on this issue. Email them directly and ask if their bosses would be interested in either cosponsoring or expressing support for 911 SAVES. Here’s a quick Grassroots Guide for reaching out!
  • Email and tweet directly at your elected officials. Use NENA’s new Online Action Center to reach out directly to your local congressional offices by clicking here.
  • Watch the livestream of the 911 SAVES press conference on Rep. Torres’ Facebook page. She’ll be introducing the bill Thursday at 3:30pm Eastern — click here to go to her Facebook page, where the livestream will be hosted.

You can watch for updates here, or on the Blog site of my friend and colleague, Ricardo Marinez II https://www.withinthetrenches.net/blog/2019/2/28/911-saves-act

Fletch – @fletch911

Moving the Yardstick With Innovation

Raymond Sims Baum (August 18, 1955 – February 9, 2018) was an American lawyer, lobbyist, and politician. His Wikipedia page notes:

Baum was born and raised in La Grande, Oregon. He studied at Brigham Young University and Willamette University College of Law. Baum was admitted to the Oregon bar in 1983 and practiced law in La Grande. Baum served in the Oregon House of Representatives in 1988. He was majority leader in the state house for the Republican Party starting in 1995 but did not seek reelection in 1996. In 2003 Ted Kulongoski appointed Baum a member of the Oregon Public Utility Commission. He served there until 2011, serving as chairman starting in 2010. Baum worked for the National Association of Broadcasters and served as vice-president of government affairs. He died at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland from prostate cancer.

In honor of his career, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act of 2018 or the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018 was raised in his namesake as a testament to his service to the American people.

The RAY BAUM’s ACT  has picked up many small provisions where those issues on their own didn’t warrant, or could not muster support for their cause in a separate bill. An item particularly intriguing within this act, is in Title IV, under Section 506. It states,

“The FCC must conclude a proceeding to consider adopting rules to ensure that dispatchable location is conveyed with 9-1-1 calls, including calls from multi-line telephone systems, regardless of the technological platform used. “Dispatchable location” means the street address of the calling party and additional information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party.”

While I am certainly NOT a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, I can most certainly read and write the English language. The first 10 words of Section 506 say it all; “The FCC must conclude a proceeding to consider adopting rules”. That’s right, they have to finish making up their mind about having to make up their mind, or in other words, Get Ready to Get Ready. That’s it, end of the story – period.

Once again, the legacy database providers (a.k.a. the providers about to lose large revenues from database management fees) are running around telling their clients that the sky is falling, and they need to be compliant with a dispatchable location, pawning that off as individual station level reporting to the PSAP. Why? This seeds their coffers with revenue but actually provides very little actionable information to 1st responders.

For the record, I am NOT against providing detail to those responding to an emergency. In fact, I am all for that practice. What I take issue with is forcing a consumer to provide detail that is useless, at great expense and hardship, only to create revenue for those who store the data for public safety. Most often my arguments are deflected with the response, “Any small level of detail can be helpful when trying to locate a person in an emergency, and seconds count!”

Yes, seconds DO count. That is my precise argument. Instead of providing great detail that isn’t actionable (an EMT has no idea where cubicle 2C-231 is located in my building) why are we not using technology to create intelligent displays in the lobby that actually SHOWS a responder where they are needed, and how to get there in the event there is no one on site to guide them? The legacy Automatic Location Identification (ALI) record used today to convey information to first responders) is a text-only record just over 500 characters in length. There are minimal fields in there that provide the ability to include any relevant textual data.

NG911, on the other hand, is IP based and extensible. Information can contain text and URLs to additional data that can be retrieved dynamically if needed, and wherever it exists. The one problem that remains is the legacy voice network, capable of transmitting one thing and one thing only, VOICE. How do we get the data over this network?


We have been waiting for a decade or more for the NG911 ESInet to be built, but that is coming in dribs and drabs, and access is anything but ubiquitous, so we did the next best thing. We took the information we had in our SENTRY™ solution in the Shelby County Buildings Department and delivered that information to RapidSOS during a 911 call. The call reached the Memphis Police Department in Shelby County, and they were able to retrieve the associated floor plans and information about the station that placed the 911 call.


Along with floor plan information and emergency contact context, the SENTRY™ management console allowed text notes to be added to the incident record, and those additional notes were displayed to the call taker. History was made, and we moved the yardstick.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

2,278 Days of Waiting

Back in the spring of 2012, I had the privilege of presenting at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Real-Time Communication conference in Chicago. In the session, I presented my construct for emergency-services location information delivery, in a new over the top model that did not require a next-generation 911 network or ESInet. Although many laughed at the thought, Dr. Henning Schulzrinne, a noted professor at Columbia University, and one of the authors of several Session Initiation Protocol RFC’s invited me to present my ideas at a Federal Communications Commission Workshop on Upcoming Test Bed to Improve Indoor Location Accuracy for Wireless 911 Calls.

Of course, I agreed and made my way down to Washington DC where I delivered my presentation. I laid out my over-the-top delivery methodology for additional data, where I effectively bypassed the voice carrier networks using the Internet and releasing Ma Bell’s grasp and control of emergency services location data, and it’s strongarm binding to pre-existing static location records and phone numbers.

While many saw the value of my architecture, of course, there were a few naysayers. None the less, the idea itself was simple and quickly solved the problem of getting data from the origination point to the resources that needed it; instead of storing the information in a carrier-hosted database, where the subscriber would not only have to pay for storage but maintenance as well as updates. By placing a static, but unique, pointer in the carrier database, any queries could be redirected back to the origination network. Not only would this remove the excessive costs charged by the 911 location database providers, but the actual information in the database would also now be available in real-time, and be the most current available.

If any updates occurred, such as location change or a change of descriptive information, these would only be needed in the internal copy of the database. With this being owned and managed by the enterprise and entirely under their control, this model was much more efficient than the carrier-based model. The only piece missing was the connection to the PSAP, however by publishing the URL to the data in the Enterprise, Public Safety was able to reach out to the data when needed. The functional element on the enterprise side of this model filled the role of feeding the URL data and proved to be a practical and efficient solution. Based on this model, Avaya had the SENTRY™ emergency call management platform developed by 911 Secure, LLC as well as the associated integration modules. Now, enterprise networks could prepare for NG 911 services that were going to arrive shortly.

The entire premise for this architecture was because the connection between the originating network and the public safety answer point was an analog circuit capable of voice communications only. What was missing and remained absent for the next 6 years 2 months and 26 days, was a secure, high-speed connection between the origination and the destination.

Earlier this year, RapidSOS announce the interoperability released with iOS 12 telephones. When those devices placed an emergency call, the location payload stored in the device would be transmitted to the NG 911 Additional Data Repository (ADR) being provided by RapidSOS. PSAP’s could access the repository by a standard query, once being vetted, and were able to retrieve the location of devices that originated emergency calls within their service area. Just a short time afterward, Google announced similar capabilities, also utilizing the RapidSOS repository. Within months of the availability, over 2000 PSAPs added the capability to their centers, covering nearly 70% of the population of the US.

Full disclosure, for the past five years I have held a non-compensated position as a technical advisory board member to RapidSOS. Because of this, I saw firsthand the value this service brought to the table with this new national repository. Since RapidSOS started to ingest data from any source through their published APIs, I immediately went to work with the software engineers at 911 Secure, LLC, the developers behind SENTRY™, and had them create an integration module allowing the enterprise also to contribute location and additional data with emergency calls. Within a few short weeks, they delivered a working model placing data in the RapidSOS sandbox, and the search began for an Avaya customer to be part of a live pilot program.

Fortunately, Shelby County Tennessee, a long time Avaya customer, was in the process of upgrading their CS1K communications platform to the latest Avaya Aura. Over on the public safety side, Shelby County 911 had just implemented the embedded RapidSOS capability in there Motorola VESTA™ platform, as well as the RapidSOS Lite web-based functionality in the PSAP serving the County facility. After presenting our use case to both parties, we began installation of SENTRY™ just before the holidays.

Finally, the day of reckoning came. On January 18, 2019, 2278 days after I presented my over-the-top architecture to The Federal Communications Commission, a live call to 911 was placed from the Shelby County Buildings Department, answered at the Shelby County 911 Center, where they received Voice, precise location, and additional data in the form of floor plans. There it was, we made public safety technology history. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride, as we changed the game forever, and proved that NG911 was not only possible but a reality.

This past year I had the honor of being in the Oval Office with Hank Hunt as the President signed Kari’s Law into the law of the land, I was invited to be part of the Haleyville Alabama 50th year 911 Day celebration and be a Grand Marshal with several of my good friends in the Town parade. Now, I was a part of telecommunications history as Avaya, 911 Secure, RapidSOS, Shelby County Buildings, and Shelby County 911 worked in concert to enable the very first emergency call delivering NG 911 additional data to the PSAP.

Not only will this technology help save lives but provide desperately needed location details to public safety first responders, as well as critical multimedia such as video and still pictures in the event of an emergency.

Follow me on Twitter: @Fletch911
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Plan 911 From Outer Space

A few of you may remember, back in July 1969, what was then be most famous, and furthest, Long distance phone call ever made. As for the rest of you, you are now Googling of phones even existed that long ago!

I can assure you that they did, and on July 20, 1969, then President Nixon spoke with crew members Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin via telephone-radio transmission, with the  President in the Oval Office and the Apollo XI astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin while they were on the surface of the Moon.

Of course, that call originated on landline circuits, that is upconverted to a satellite link and then beamed into outer space on the Goldstone Deep Space Network. In many ways, this radio transmission is capable of voice and data, similar to any terrestrial based radio transmission. We’ve modern advances in communications, just like we have Wi-Fi here on the surface, the International Space Station (ISS) is also connected.

The magic of VoIP allows any IP-based telephone to exist no matter where the connectivity is coming from. That being said, it was really no amazing feat to put an IP phone inside the IIS, which apparently was done a few years ago. Unfortunately, IP phones don’t live on their own, they need to register and connect with a call server that provides trunk resources to the outside world. Once again, our space based VoIP phone follows this same rule, and is connected to an IP telephony system inside NASA headquarters.

As many people do, when calling international numbers people forget to dial the zero in the 011 International prefix. On the ISS phone, one of the astronauts recently dialed ‘9’ for an outside line, forgot the ‘0’, and then dialed ‘1 1’ followed by an international number. Of course, being a KARI’S LAW compliant telephone system, as soon as the system processed 911, the call was sent to public safety triggering internal alarms along the way.

Fortunately, everyone realized it was just an accident, and there was no emergency launch of a police cruiser to intercept the IIS in orbit! So what’s the lesson learned? 911 needs to work everywhere, including “up there”! But, it might be a good time to put in a Little missile prevention programming J

Sunny Day Outages . . . Uptime Threats

Click here for the Audio Podcast of this Blog

For as long as I can remember, we built an engineered networks for  “3 R’s”. Resilience, Redundancy, and Reliability. Following the simple rule would protect you from the 50-year flood, the 100-year storm, and many other “rainy day outages”. When the network was up and running, humming away and performing nominally, it was considered a sunny day. Systems were online, everything was running well within specification, and network administrators would sit and babysit their huge collection of silicon and copper wires.

Every once in a while, the skies would become cloudy, network elements would fail, conductivity would be lost, and the data center would run at something less than full capacity. While this was certainly something that needed to be addressed, stress levels remained tolerable as that engineered Resiliency, Redundancy, and Reliability were all there allowing data to be processed with little to any notice outside of those directly responsible for the systems uptime.

Before the evolution of the Internet, and the acceptance of cloud-based services in massive data centers, most facilities manage their own data centers where they had full control over the building, environmentalists, and even diverse carrier network connectivity. Despite this, the IT “Big Bang” (a.k.a. the Internet) occurred in considerably shook up the model. Massive data centers sprung up around the country out in the middle of farmlands that housed thousands and thousands of servers, virtual machines, and facilities for nearly every industry.

There was no mistaking it, the cloud was here and everyone was in it. Performance and capacities rivaled that of localized data centers, and with the proper design, a mesh environment could be established where even if a portion of the network did go off-line, several other nodes were standing by the ready to pick up the slack. Too many, we finally reached a utopia of computing power, and more and more critical applications were perfectly comfortable sitting in the public or quasi-public cloud.

Most of the time, I try to keep my thinking simplistic. I like to go back to the basics and understand the fundamentals of just about anything that I do. I believe if you truly understand, at a very deep level, how a certain process operates then when that process fails your equipped with the capabilities to properly troubleshoot, repair it, and, most importantly, design around a similar failure in the future.

The most recent victim over the New Year’s holiday was the CenturyLink network. News reports over the weekend noted that areas of the country including Idaho New Mexico and Minnesota were affected as well as residential services in 35 total states. 911 services were also affected across the country which prompted nationwide alerts to cell phone users advising them to utilize local 10 digit numbers in case of an emergency. Initial signs of the outage were detected around 1 AM Pacific time Thursday morning with the resolution being achieved by approximately 6 PM Pacific time on Friday for a total of about 41 hours.

Five nines reliability??

When we build networks, we strive for five nines reliability, or 99.999% uptime calculated on an annual basis. Mathematically this works out to be just over five minutes of outage allowed per year. Based on 41 hours of disruption in the CenturyLink network, they’re starting off a brand-new year already down to just 2 1/2 nines, or 99.531 by my calculation.

So let’s look a little deeper into this particular failure, keeping in mind that the full root cause analysis is still likely a week or so away.


In many cases, resilience is not a specific thing. Resilience is the ability to step back into action when any particular outage occurs. It doesn’t define what that action should be, only that it was quickly identified and remediated. So while it’s a bit nebulous, you might say that resiliency is likely one of the most important pieces of any recovery plan. Contingencies are expected, spare parts are readily available, and monitoring tools have been deployed to quickly isolate problems, as well as the training and skill sets of personnel to utilize those tools and carry out any remediation tasks.


When we talk about reliability, we talk about the confidence level that a particular component will perform nominally. For example, an incandescent light bulb may operate for up to 2000 hours, but new LED replacement lamps are routinely quoted as 50,000 hours of operation, making those lamps 25 times “more reliable”. In telecommunications networks, if you cannot increase in individual components reliability, utilizing a high-availability, the active-active model can ultimately achieve the same goal. If one processor fails, the other processor is already running taking over the operation. This shouldn’t be confused with active – standby, where there is still a disruption, although minimal, as the secondary processor comes online. The critical component here is the detection of the failure and the redirection to the secondary processor.


 There is always strength in numbers. Redundancy goes hand-in-hand with both resiliency and reliability. Nothing ever lasts forever, especially electronic components. We try to calculate an MTBF (mean time before failure), however, those numbers are usually unrealistic for day-to-day operations as there are many contributing factors at the subcomponent level that could cause catastrophic failure.

The magic to running a solid and stable network is to closely manage, monitor, and statistically analyze every possible metric that there is. When a failure or does occur, careful root cause analysis must be undertaken to determine what in fact failed, but it doesn’t end there. Taking it a step further and understanding the key indicators that were present prior to that failure are going to be what help you proactively divert that failure in the future. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me. Sunny day outages are the new uptime threat.

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A Common Sense E911 Solution

It’s Sunday night in New England, and once again and I find myself checking into a hotel getting ready for customer meetings several hours away from home.

Tonight, I’m checking into a Homewood Suites by Hilton, in Warwick Rhode Island. Like most Hilton properties, this franchise is very clean, fairly new or recently renovated, and digitally transformed with their App based check-in process, and digital room keys. As I pull into the property, my Hilton App pings me and reminds me that my digital room keys are now active on my phone, and I only need to stop by the front desk to pick up my complimentary bottles of water, and Milano cookies (my favorite part!)

As I park my car, I remember thinking; newer property, well-maintained, new digital locks. I am going to give this property an 80% chance of being Kari’s Law compliant.

PNG imageUpon entering my room, I am greeted by the standard TeleMatrix Hotel room phone, and a faceplate that says, ”EMERGENCY Dial 9–911”. While many of my Kari’s Law fact checkers out there will immediately point this out as a noncompliant hotel, I shrug this fact off, as the face plate on the phone means nothing.

The ability to actually dial 911 directly is what really counts. But, what it does mean, is that now there is some investigative work that needs to take place to find out what the real situation is.

PNG image 2
As I go to leave my room to go downstairs and speak with the night manager, I noticed the sign on my door that says:

Uh-Oh! NOW we have a problem! There is a sign that specifically says to dial 911 and a phone that is labeled 9-911. This means that both ways better work.


As I reach the front desk, the night manager (we’ll call her Allison) greets me and asked if she could be of any assistance? I sigh slightly, warning her that this is going to be a complex and long-winded story, but I needed to ask her a few questions about 911. Immediately, she made sure that I didn’t need to call 911, which I thought was a great response to my statement, and clearly, this woman had a game plan formulating in her head already. I reassured her there was no emergency, and I explained Kari’s Law to her. Allison then told me she never heard of Kari’s Law, but knew about the requirement to directly dial 911, on-site notification, and began to show me the process.

While many Hilton Hotels use Avaya or older Nortel Systems, there are some that do not. This particular franchise had a competitor system installed, that I would guess to be six years old or more. Despite the age of the system, Allison showed me how the console would indicate the extension number of any phone dialing 911 would display to her, letting her assess the situation.

She then pointed to another phone on the counter, that was marked, “EMERGENCY PHONE FOR 911 CALL BACK – DO NOT USE

Allison then explained that the Warwick Police Department would call that phone whenever they received a 911 call from the hotel. This call was placed while a Police unit was en route to the location, and the 911 call taker would attempt to ascertain any additional information as well as the status of the emergency updating the responding resources accordingly.

If it was a false alarm, the police would still respond to file a report and be certain there was no need for public safety.

I thought to myself, “what a great example of exactly what Kari’s Law was designed to do! Focus on DISPATCHABLE LOCATION or address the units needed to respond too”.  The room is not relevant, that information can be gathered on-site, verbally or electronically through a simple display mechanism, as well as additional information that is germane to the incident.

In this case, awareness was raised, a plan was established that met the needs of local public safety, as well as the hotel property, and despite the cries of 911 database providers who are losing their billable revenues, these simple plans work. Nothing in this plan burdens MLTS operator with costly upgrades, monthly billing of 911 services, and complexity. The solution is just a simple workflow response to a life and death problem, and one that would have likely saved Kari Hunt’s life on that East Texas December 1st in 2013, as per the Coroner’s testimony.

Hotels, businesses, schools, hospitals or any other facility with an MLTS now know this problem exists. And the fix is simple in most cases.

This story comes at a perfect time. The Federal Communications Commission has an active Notice of Proposed Rule Making under FCC docket 18-261. At this very moment, the various stakeholders are frantically jockeying for position hoping to get their revenue-based model codified as law when it is simply not needed. As Hank Hunt so eloquently states in his September 26, 2018 testimony, these folks are, “nursing a bottom line like a little baby.”

I so wish that I could speak like that, but Hank Hunt has me pinned to the mat with his command of the English language and ability to convey his deepest thoughts and feelings. Kudos Hank! You got me beat like Kansas City barbecue being served in Winona, Texas! (not too bad for damn Yankee, huh?)

While we’ve made great progress over the past five years, now is not the time to sit back on our laurels. The important legislation is being discussed that directly affect how this law is implemented. There are those that are looking to fix the problem, and many others looking just to profit from it. I suggest you take the time and read the various responses to the Federal Communications Commission’s NPRM, as well as follow the reply comments that will be coming in over the next 30 days.

Anyone can go to http://www.fcc.gov/ecfs and search under Kari’s Law or 18-261. And remember, ANYONE can comment. Additionally, ANYONE can file a reply comment even if no initial comment was filed. In fact, you can listen to a recent podcast with FCC CTO Eric Burger, recorded at the recent Real-Time Communications Conference held at IIT, the Illinois Institute of Technology.

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One of the universal truths for all 9-1-1 centers is that there will be new people.

In the fire service and some dispatch agencies, these are referred to as “probies”, short for Probationary Employee. Whatever they are called, however, they are the most important resource your agency has, unless you want to continue answering phones until you are well into your eighties or beyond. After all, we can’t keep doing the job forever, so we need to make sure there is a next generation to replace us.

Sadly this process doesn’t go as easily or smoothly as we would like it. An entire book could be written on the process of recruitment, hiring, training, evaluation, and retention (and perhaps it will be). But I would like to keep this short so let’s just focus for a minute on some critical things that the new person needs to know and the people already on the job need to know. If you have additions to this please share.

To Those Already On The Job:

The new person does not arrive fully formed with everything they need to know bestowed by the training process, their life’s experience, or time spent watching Chicago Fire, COPS or even CHiPs. They will only be a successful employee if you provide an environment for them to be successful. Even if you have never seen yourself as a trainer, CTO, or anyone close to having official mentoring responsibilities, the truth is they need you to help them. Be patient, be open-minded, but be firm and fair in the process. Understand that how you treat them in their first weeks and months on the job will have more impact on their career than you can ever imagine.

Do not use the way you were treated as the road-map for how you should treat your new person. Use instead the road map of how you SHOULD have been treated. In dealing with adults this means treating people with respect, appreciation, and understanding. It is not easy to learn new things. Does this mean that every new person should always stay in the job, of course not? Some people will wash out, that is just the way it is. Sadly, many good dispatchers are lost to the poison of bad coworkers. Either they don’t accept them, don’t help them or just don’t care. We are better than that.

If we are a profession, then it means we should support those who come into the profession behind us. Be a resource, be helpful, be kind, and show by example what a great dispatcher can and should be. Even if you never work directly with the new hire, leading by example is a powerful tool for creating our next great generation of Dispatchers. Do your part. Please.

To The New People:

Welcome to one of the world’s greatest professions. You are now part of a family, which is a good thing and a bad thing. Your feelings will get hurt. Get over it. Your opinion may not be welcomed, get over it. You will be expected to be the first person in the center every shift and the last one to leave. Get over it. You will have to learn to quietly listen and take in all that goes on around you, interjecting only when critically necessary. That is as it should be. Accept it. You will be expected to learn and study when others may be taking a break. That is the way it should be. You will never gossip about your coworkers, tell stories “out of school” or badmouth people you work with. Make this truth the first and last thing you say to yourself each day. If you can do these things, the people you work with will come to trust you and you will become a part of the team. The people you work with will become like family. They will help you, support you, take care of you, look out for you and your life will be far more “rich” for knowing them.

This will not be because you completed all the tasks on the checklist. It will not be because your words and opinions prove your worth to the organization. No, your actions and your approach to your job will show others (and yourself) that you belong. Imagine a baseball player who got the highest salary but never hit a home-run. Or a chef who never stepped foot in a kitchen? It’s not what you say that earns you trust or builds your reputation, it is how you work. Show your fellow dispatchers you care by your actions.

Take the time to learn and never stop. Go to the weddings and the funerals. Sign the birthday cards. Bring in food for the shift once in a while. Take part in the important rituals that are part of any great organization. Most of all, learn how to be a great dispatcher. We learn not by speaking, but by listening, watching, showing an interest, and asking questions. This is hard. In this day and age, we want to share our opinion, to stake our claim. This will not endear you to those you work with. In public safety we must often act based on intuition, just knowing what is going on and what is required. In order for intuition to be effective, trust is required. Do everything you can to build that trust– trust of yourself and trust of others– and you will soon find out what many of us have known so long, being a part of the 9-1-1 world is one of the greatest jobs you will ever know.

C. Carver, ENP

This classic, and timeless post by Christopher Carver, ENP, is one that I am proud to put on my little space in the interwebs, for your education and enjoyment.  Chris has had a long and reputable career in Public Safety, whose actions and guidance to others likely saved countless lives that will never know or appreciate. Early in 2015, Christopher Blake Carver joined NENA the new PSAP Operations Director. In this role, Carver oversees projects related to current, emerging, and prospective issues affecting 9-1-1 centers. He is someone I consider not only a close colleague in the industry, but a true friend.


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9-1-1: Fix it Once . . . Fix it Right

It’s no great secret that the existing E911 infrastructure in the US is well overdue for an overhaul. Does it need an upgrade? NO.. Does it need a refresh? NO..  Does it need a complete overhaul? Unequivocally, YES.

On February 16, 1968, technicians from the Haleyville Phone Company in Haleyville Alabama decided to take on and challenge Ma Bell to a race. They worked tirelessly to design and deploy the very first 911 system in the country. It wasn’t necessarily a technological revolution,  by today’s standards, but it was incredibly disruptive thinking applied to a problem that needed to be solved. Over the years, updates and upgrades were placed on our telephone network. These added capabilities like Selective Routing in the Northern Telecom DMS-100 Digital Switch Platform, as well as using CAMA trunk technology (borrowed from the Hotel/Motel industry to report room long distance to lodging operators) to provide the originating number to the PSAP operator, as this was long before the invention of Caller ID.

In the network, call routing to the right 911 PSAP was based on telephone numbers, and Ma Bell being the keeper of telephone numbers and their installation addresses. At the time, this became the de facto standard for ‘location’ discovery and proved to be very accurate. This worked well for years, and again, the technology was patched and band-aided to add capabilities like PSAP to PSAP call transfer, at least within localized areas of the country.

Then, in the mid 80’s a disruptive new communications technology reared its ugly head. That technology is what we all now know and understand as the cellular telephone. This fantastic technology provided mobility to those that had the service, initially vehicle bound, but soon these devices gained legs and were portable. First introduced as ‘bag phones,’ handheld devices became small and cheaper, and within 15 years, this new trend in communications became well entrenched in our lives.

Fast forward to today, the cellular penetration has exceeded 100% in the US, in fact, the latest report from the CTIA put the figure at 117%. While this fantastic new technology developed and flourished, the 911 emergency network remained stagnant with little to no improvements. Even the devices no longer had a fixed location, the Legacy model of the telephone number to street address correlation remained in place despite its growing uselessness.

When we look at modifying the existing 911 network to utilize the vast data that smart devices bring to the table today, everyone searches for the magical box that will convert old technology to new. Want to talk about this publicly, I always warn the crowds that this is the part where I need to use the ‘F-word,’ so please be ready and don’t be offended. There is the magical box. There’s no magic wand that I can wave to transform old to new. If you want to change the existing network to a new next-generation network, (get ready for the ‘F-word’), you’re only going to have to ”Forklift” what you have today. I know that term is not well-liked by many in the technology industry, but it is, unfortunately, a reality.

At least some of my readers will still remember growing up with the black-and-white television. At some point in time, Color TV programming became available. But until we replaced that black-and-white TV with a color set, it would be impossible did you color content. If a television station New York City utilized a black-and-white television transmitter, even if they were transmitting programs that were recorded in color, anyone receiving their signal would be restricted to a black-and-white transmission. Until they took that black-and-white transmitter and replaced it with a color transmitter, their signal would be stuck in the black-and-white world.

Now, one may argue that the black-and-white television or the black-and-white TV transmitter could be disassembled, and then rebuilt with new color components. While that may or may not be true, it is most certainly the long way around, and likely fraught with problems. This is precisely where the Band-Aid approach has brought us today.

I often wonder why the carriers and 911 database providers take this approach. Well you understand there’s a financial advantage to tying a telephone number to every device, and then creating a database for that device, it’s incredibly inefficient and limits functionality and the ability to move forward. With no technological advantage, the only alternative left is revenue, something that carriers desperately hang on to, like it’s their lifeblood.

I was recently a member of a panel discussing real-time text (RTT) at the Federal Communications Commission. During that, the question came up about location capabilities with RTT. The way text to 911 is delivered today, location is often omitted and not available to the 911 call taker. It seemed to be a legitimate question since RTT is a form of digital IP communications, the originating device, which is well aware of its location, now has the ability to communicate that information directly with the PSAP. But, I was shocked to hear the representative from a large 911 database company respond with, “we’ll use the same mechanisms that we use today, and communicate location through telephone numbers.” After hearing that response, I nearly dropped to the floor. Here we have an opportunity to correct one of the biggest problems affecting Cellular devices and 911 calls. And we have a technology that is enabling a peer-to-peer IP connection that will allow passing the explicit data from the device to the dispatcher, yet we’re going to opt for antiquated technology that is ineffective for the mission. This would be like filming a movie in high definition Color, and then buying a high definition color TV to watch it on, but sticking a black-and-white TV transmitter in the middle to broadcast the signal.

What I listened to FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel comment a week earlier on implementing Kari’s Law, there is one part of her statement that ring true. She reminded everyone that not only do we need to correct this particular problem, but we need to set a deadline of when the work would be completed. I believe by establishing specific set timelines, in applying penalties for those that failed to meet them, we’ll change the financial model to be one that will support the upgraded and refresher technology, and we won’t be left with such a dichotomy of Origination device capabilities, and the network’s ability to carry the new data.

This is not rocket science. Many of the basic principles applied by commercial enterprises apply to public safety. In fact, the only difference is the amount of resiliency and redundancy apply to the architecture. The workflows are similar, if not the same. We’ve solved the multimedia problem for the airlines, Financial institutions, and commercial retail businesses. For them, it was a competitive advantage. Their customers were made up of the same Group of citizens that want to contact emergency services through new digital channels. Large commercial enterprises were faced with a forklift of their current technology or risk losing their customer base. Now, Public Safety isn’t that same decision point. Except, they won’t lose customers, they’ll lose lives. And that is something none of us can live with.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
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iOS 12 – Legacy 911 Meets its Match

On Monday, September 17, 2018, the very first nail in the coffin of the legacy 911 network will be firmly planted and driven home. Apple is set to release iOS 12 that contained several new features and enhancements, one of them being “EES,” Enhanced Emergency Services. In a white paper published in August of this year, Apple announced their Hybridized Emergency Location (HELo) technology providing precise, high integrity location data to 911 centers.

The white paper states, “Apple devices contain a variety of location sensors. […] Apple devices can “fuse” information from various sensors, such is [GPS] and Wi-Fi. [The technology provides] a low uncertainty, high integrity estimate of the devices location.”

As it was in the past
HELo is a radical and revolutionary step forward. Currently, the only source for location on a cellular device has been the wireless carriers, who provide this location information through often very inaccurate triangulation calculations. These give much less precise location information, or even worse, merely the cell tower handling the call. This causes a significant problem for those who cannot communicate precisely where they are because they either don’t know or are not capable of speaking. This is a problem for the deaf and hard of hearing community, as well as for individuals with speech disabilities. These individuals are forced through relay centers, outside of the 911 network, that have zero visibility into any location information.

As it will be going forward
HELo is the United States adaptation, of a technology that’s been operating in the European Union for a few years, called AML (Advanced Mobile Location) and operating on Android devices since last year. The concept is simple and initiated initially by John Medland at BT in England. HELo, AML operate nearly the same, conceptually, and even the European eCall (the EU version of OnStar) initiative follows a similar approach on the backend consumption of the data.

How it works

Screenshot 2018-09-16 14.07.49
When your cellular device initiates an emergency call, the voice call is sent to the legacy 911 network as it is today. The wireless carrier uses the cell tower information to route your request to the closest Public Safety Answer Point or 911 PSAP. At the exact same time, HELo takes the location data from your phone (the precise same location data that Uber and Domino’s uses in their app) and places that in a National NexGen 911 Clearinghouse Data Repository with your telephone number as the index reference. When the 911 center gets your emergency call, they initiate the standard database queries to the carrier and are displayed the legacy location parameters, but many 911 desktop application providers have added the functionality to immediately make a secondary query to the National NexGen 911 Clearinghouse Database. The location from that response is often exact and considered to be “high fidelity”. The 911 call taker gets a second plot displayed on their display along with the original location accuracy estimates from the carrier.

Where it will work
While native support for EED will be available to compatible Apple devices when they do the free software update to iOS 12, some carrier networks may block or impair the service from operating as designed. For example, not all networks support simultaneous voice and data. So, if a carrier prevents the outbound data connection, the device would only be able to communicate the location payload over a Wi-Fi connection. I experienced this phenomenon two years ago when Avaya was testing similar technology being accessed through HTML 5. Our initial tests went perfectly, but we happened to make a check in an area where my connection was downgraded from LTE to 3G. Under these conditions, my carrier blocked external data connections during a voice call that was an emergency. It was a perfect example of legacy thinking bubbling through current technology impeding innovation. I had to actually file formal complaints with the FCC against several carrier networks to get this practice changed and removed, under the basis that it had no merit in today’s environment.

Privacy – Everyone’s concern
I am sure that Apple is going to maintain confidentiality and security as a core value. Apple has stated that they will take “extra steps to ensure that our products and services protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of our users data during an emergency call.” to enforce this stance on the issue, Apple plans to use Geofiltering to minimize the potential for disclosure even to trusted parties that are not associated with the incident. Also, if the PSAP servicing the user’s location has not opted in to receive this new information, the data is dropped and not stored.

Security – Data Encryption
Data between the user’s device, the RapidSOS clearinghouse database, and the PSAP is all encrypted with strong ciphers and long keys. Additionally, the data remains encrypted while in transit, and even at rest in the databases.

Data Longevity
To prevent a future data breach from yielding information about previous events, Apple discards all data that fails to match geolocation criteria of a PSAP servicing that location, and all data is deleted after 12 hours. Any information that is sent to the RapidSOS clearinghouse database follows the same guidelines. Any data that is ultimately transmitted to a PSAP, state and local records retention laws apply and are up to the receiving agency to enforce as with all data they received today.

Thanks – Not for me . . .
I sat racking my brain trying to figure out a reason why you would NOT want this service activated, but unfortunately, came up blank. Even with that being the case, Apple has provided an opt-out capability, and EED, although enabled by default, can be easily deactivated and disabled in the settings app of an iOS device at any time.

I’m excited
While this new capability is currently limited to Apple iOS 12 devices, this puts in place a key component for next-generation emergency services in the United States. The National NG 911 Clearinghouse, officially known as an ADR (additional data repository) is a crucial element in the transition from the legacy network to next-generation 911 capabilities for all devices. This element must exist for originating devices to place their data in and will serve as a DMZ boundary for PSAP’s to reliably trust adding explicit information to emergency call events.

While the legacy 911 databases remain an essential source of information today, the implementation of architectures like this allows intelligent networks and devices with relevant information not only about the location but situational awareness of the environment, to now have a mechanism and pathway to public safety first responders that can utilize this information.

Knowing that Mark Fletcher sits at cube 2C – 231 is irrelevant information that isn’t actionable because first responders have no idea where that is without a map of my building. Now I can provide them with a floor plan, as well as the fact that it’s 185° at that location. Hmmmm . . . That’s a little warm. Maybe something’s on fire?

That’s actionable data, and worth formulating a system to collect, correlate and propagate to public safety.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
Check out my AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs




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