NG911: The Industry’s Most Misunderstood Buzzword

What exactly is next-generation 911? When people talk about it, they use the phrase like a noun, yet it’s not a person and it’s not a place. You may consider it a “thing,” although I can tell you that it most certainly is not, at least in the physical sense.

NG911 is not something you can buy and plug into your existing public safety network, miraculously transforming a legacy environment into a “next generation” environment. And yet, it’s often described that way.

Personally, I believe NG911 is best described as a true “solution.” It’s comprised of several components, each with a specific Functional Element that provides what the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) describes as a functional framework that provides definitive services that work in harmony. By themselves, any one of these components itself is not “next-generation 911.”

The current state

Across the country, dispatchers work around the clock in more than 6,100 emergency contact centers, also known as public-safety answering points, or PSAPs. The underlying technology that powers public-safety answering points was created in the era of landline voice, and is truly optimized for people who call 911 from a traditional telephone.

Today, the great majority of 911 calls are mobile, but most public-safety answering points aren’t designed to effectively handle mobile—if you’ve ever called 911 from your smartphone, invariably the first question you’ll be asked is, “What’s the location of your emergency?”

Some 10 percent of 911 centers (so far) have adopted text-to-911: technology that promises the ability for people to send photos, video and text their emergency responder, optionally share their GPS coordinates and get relevant information delivered back to them via text.

The reality is far more modest: Most text-to-911 rollouts are bolted onto legacy infrastructures, hobbling their future capabilities. Most just allow back-and-forth text—no location, no direct multimedia.

Poorly-defined terminology

Nearly every week, new headlines tout that a public-safety answering point somewhere has “upgraded to NG911 technology” by adding text-to-911 technology. Adding new technology to an old infrastructure doesn’t magically make it a next-generation solution.

A good litmus test that can be applied to establish an agency’s level of NG911 readiness is to analyze how the agency defines NG911. If it’s using NG911 as a noun, there’s likely to be a disjointed understanding of the base premise behind the technology and architecture.

“We’ve implemented an NG911 PSAP solution,” the agency’s IT manager might tell a journalist, and there the cycle of misunderstanding begins.

The industry is doing a great disservice to the public by allowing these misconceptions to endure, as they lead citizens to believe they have something they do not.

The future state of 911

A true NG911 solution means dispatchers can receive voice, video, text, email and other forms of multimedia on a SIP-enabled infrastructure. NG911 is designed to accept PIDF-LO data in the call setup header that can contain other relevant contextual information. To truly describe an upgraded environment as next-generation 911, an Emergency Services IP Network containing required i3 Functional Elements (as defined by NENA) must be built and deployed, replacing the legacy E911 network.

Agencies may argue their system is “NG911-ready,” “NG911-capable” or some other derivative, but in reality, those phrases are semantics being used as a technical loophole. Most people simply don’t understand the subtle nuances of those terms: People hear “next-generation 911” and equate that to being better, more capable and something they should spend money on.

When a network outage invariably occurs, the public is left to wonder, “What happened to that shiny new next-generation thing that was featured on the news and cost all that money?”

As text-to-911 is increasingly deployed across the country, the term “next-generation 911” will continue to crop up in the news. We need true NG911 services, delivered over a real Emergency Services IP network. If we accept anything less, we’re shortchanging ourselves and the public of a life-saving technology that’s available, but not deployed.

 

Fletch_Sig

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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 directs the strategic roadmap for 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, in 2014 – 2015 he served as co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the European Union, providing valuable insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

Happy 48th Birthday 911!

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

HaleyvilleHaleyville, 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’ve saved countless lives, including mine.

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 directs the strategic roadmap for 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, in 2014 – 2015 he served as co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the European Union, providing valuable insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

 

Hear No 911, Speak No 911, See No 911

AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG IS HERE ON SOUNDCLOUD

Clearly the digits 911 are a brand that is recognized worldwide. For anyone living in the United States, we are taught at a very early age that these numbers can, and will, provide you with assistance in a dire emergency.

They are so ingrained in our culture, that for many, the very first instinct is to dial 911. With the massive explosion of subscribers of cellular devices exceeding 100% in the US, most calls today originate from these devices; this also holds true for calls to emergency services. This leads to a recipe for disaster, as the present day 911 network has unfortunately stagnated in its evolution of technology, or at least severely lagged behind the common communications modalities that we have become accustomed to, and use on a daily basis.

When cellular phones first came on the market, they were typically installed in vehicles and not portable in nature. At best, your “bag phone” that could be carried with you, but impossible to fit in a pocket. While your location was still an issue with 911 calls from these devices, most calls to 911 were related to motorists reporting incidents on highways. Based on this statistical reality, it was common to route cellular 911 calls to the state Highway Patrol where they could be triaged and re-routed accordingly. The state of California was no different, and at first, all cellular 911 calls were directed to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) station close to the caller.

With cellular phones starting to become portable, easily slipping into pockets, their use is no longer limited to motorists in vehicles, everyone carries them. Therefore, routing cellular 911 calls to CHP may create a problem where there is a high residential population, as residents who need the Sheriff’s Department, will now first reach CHP. While CHP gathers the information about the caller, and determines the agency that needs to handle the situation, precious minutes are lost. To combat this situation in El Dorado County California, the Sheriff’s Department  TwitterLogo@ElDoradoSheriff is recommending that residents avoid calling 911 on cell phones, and instead call 530-626-4911, a number that goes straight to the 911 call center.

Has 911 location discovery from cell phones finally reached a point where it is now so epidemic that we have actually instructed citizens “NOT TO DIAL 911?” Have we really decided to go down this path of potential disaster? I believe this problem can be improved, but unfortunately, it will take a little bit of work from the cellular carriers, and of course work is not free, and carriers rarely do anything that costs them money without attaching an invoice to it.

Let’s look how basic “Phase 1” cellular call routing works. Each cellular tower has three antenna faces servicing 120° of the compass, creating three sectors as shown below. Plotting the coverage area of each sector on a map will yield a rough estimate of the appropriate community covered by this sector.

CellMap

Each community will have a designated 911 center assigned to receive emergency calls. Any calls received from that cellular sector are routed to this designated 911 center, based on the location of the caller and the antennae face they hit. While admittedly this is not 100% accurate, and areas of overlap can and will still exist, the idea is to groom the routing so that the majority of 911 calls for that particular area are routed correctly the first time, minimizing any calls from being misrouted but easily transferred if needed.

Unfortunately, this is more work for the wireless carriers. Not only do they have to make the changes, they have to research the data to determine what the changes should be. And all of that as a cost associated with it. It is also possible that another “sleeping giant” could be awakened by this exercise. A few years ago it was suggested by a company that was tracking and matching cellular 911 data and call dispositions, that many of the cellular tower listings in the database, were actually incorrect, as seen by many calls being rerouted after being answered.

While admittedly, nothing can be perfect 100% of the time, as a public safety industry, we must strive for excellence in everything that we do. Lives are on the line, and even the slightest misinterpretation can lead to tragic results that cannot be undone.

At the Federal Communications Commission headquarters this past Friday, Chairman Tom Wheeler himself stated, “we’re just not cutting it as a nation”, referring to the technology we have deployed in our emergency services network, and our overall transition into next generation 911 services. While the reason for protecting our critical infrastructure surrounding emergency calls is clear and evident, we cannot bury our heads in the ground, and ignore commercial best practices that have been established over the years as our nation’s banking and financial institutions, as well as global retailers, have built large-scale resilient and secure networks, that it expanded our modern economy.

If we’re going to move public safety into the next paradigm of technological existence, we need to take a good long look in the mirror and leave our Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil attitudes at the door. Our safety and well-being globally is in the hands of a small group of dedicated, well-trained, and passionate emergency call takers. Let’s do our part, and give them the tools that they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

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 directs the strategic roadmap for 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, in 2014 – 2015 he served as co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the European Union, providing valuable insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

 

Let’s Eat Grandma! or Let’s Eat, Grandma!

Punctuation is critical. Without a comma, an innocent child saying, “Let’s eat, Grandma!” is twisted into a questionable “Let’s Eat Grandma!”

AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG IS AVAILABLE HERE:

While this internet meme has been going around for quite some time, just this last week I witnessed this identical lack of punctuation steering some of our valued customers in a direction of 9-1-1 remediation that was far more complex, and expensive, than what they were required to do; or what even made sense for their facility and specific situation.

Just after the NENA Model MLTS Legislation was published in 2008/2009, several states started their legislative process to implement legislation.

The legislative requirements that spelled out in Massachusetts 560 CMR 4.00 state:

The purpose of 560 CMR 4.00 is to establish regulations to carry out the provisions of Massachusetts General Legislature – Chapter 6A, §18J to require that, beginning July 1, 2009, any new or substantially renovated multi-line telephone system shall provide the same level of enhanced 911 service that is provided to others in the commonwealth.

There are a considerable number of definitions, which are often overlooked, but in reality define the embodiment of applicability, and this is where our customers were led astray. They were advised that section 4.04 of the law states:

4.04. Beginning July 1, 2009, each operator of a new or substantially renovated multi-line telephone system shall provide (1) a call back number; and (2) PSALI to the station level.

But they failed to advise the customer of two other important items; First the requirement of Callback to the ‘station level’ would seem to require a record for each and every station; however in the definitions section, Callback is clearly defined as being the station that called, OR: “[T]he number of a switchboard operator, attendant, or other designated onsite individual with the ability to direct emergency responders to the 911 caller’s location 24 hours a day, 7 days a weeks, 365 days a year.

The second issue is punctuation and the ‘period’ at the end of that sentence. It is actually a ‘semi-colon’ followed by the words, “; OR an ERL identifier.”, indicating that an Emergency Response Location zone is completely acceptable.

Zone Response to MLTS 9-1-1 was a concept introduced in October 2008 in the NENA 06-502 v1 Technical Information Document “Industry Common Mechanisms for MLTS E9-1-1 Caller Location Discovery and Reporting”.

It provides an appropriate level of granularity for Emergency Response when coupled with the Crisis Alert functionality or the enhanced On Site Notification functionality provided by DevConnect applications like SENTRY from Conveyant Systems. These solutions take all of the relevant additional data that exists about an emergency call event and correlates that information in an intelligent dashboard that internal first responders can utilize to formulate an appropriate response and coordinate with Police, Fire and Medical personnel that are also responding. Or the information can be put up on a display in the event the building is not manned.

By using an Over The Top delivery model on today’s network, or directly in-band on tomorrow’s NENA i3 compliant Next Generation 9-1-1 Emergency Services IP Network (ESINet), public safety will have all of the Big Data and the relevant information about an environment at their finger-tips facilitating faster emergency response, with the best possible resources. This isn’t the future, this is NOW, and we will be globally demonstrating it live as part of our Public Safety Solutions display at the 2016 Avaya Technology Forums in:

Bangkok, Thailand on February 25-26
Dubai, UAE on March 15 -17
Orlando, Florida on April 5 -7
Dublin, Ireland on May 10-13

ATF – A Smart Journey for your Digital Enterprise
We hope to see you at one of these great events!

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 directs the strategic roadmap for 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, in 2014 – 2015 he served as co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the European Union, providing valuable insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

The BEST thing I stole this Christmas

While I take great pride in writing my own blog posts, I do read quite a bit, and I often run across great content that I am inclined to share a little further than the ‘SHARE’ button. When I see those certain nuggets, I invite them to reiterate their thoughts on my little island in the vast interwebs and share them with my, dare I say, friends. With that, I give you the BEST thing I STOLE this Christmas, and that is the RAVE Mobile Safety Top 5 List of Public Safety Events for 2015.

Originally published on Rave Mobile Safety’s Blog Site

2015-16-300x143

It’s that time of year when we look back at the past year and forward to the next. To understand where we are going, it’s helpful to look at the road we’ve already traveled. In that spirit, here is a look back at the Top 5 Trends that had the biggest impact on Emergency communications in 2015.

Costly Failures

9-1-1 needs to work. This message was heard loud and clear by service providers when earlier this year, the FCC doled out fines totaling more than $20 million to Verizon Communications Inc., CenturyLink Inc. and Intrado Inc.. No technology is perfect, and occasionally issues happen, but the FCC’s aggressive response clearly showed that our public safety communication infrastructure needs not only redundancy at all steps but rigorous process and timely notification and visibility into corrective actions. As the industry moves to enhance networks, software and processes we can’t lose site of the difference between the cost of a consumer application not working and a public safety service not working. If an app “locks up”, a data connection drops, or a 10-digit call fails, we simply try again. We don’t really know or care why it didn’t work. It is simply a minor annoyance. It’s more than a minor annoyance when lives are at stake. 9-1-1 is different. It needs to work and we need to continue the process of continual improvement to build resiliency into the entire emergency call handling chain.  It’s why we tell people to call 9-1-1 and not some other number.

Kari’s Law

While the tragic death of Kari Hunt Dunn was in 2013, 2015 was the year her impact on public safety was most felt. Starting with legislation in Suffolk County, Long Island, it spurred changes in the existing Illinois law, and new legislation in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Texas where it came to the attention of Congressman Louie Gohmert who filed a Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would expand on the Texas law requiring direct dialing of 9-1-1 and on-site notification for multi-line telephone systems.  The tireless work of the Hunt family and supporters like FCC Commissioner Pai and Avaya Public Safety Architect Mark Fletcher, ENP resulted in rapid action across the country. While the changes to the MLTS configurations are clearly needed, this event makes my Top 5 list because of the example set in turning a tragic event into trend to solve a “hidden” issue, resulting in untold lives saved in the future.

Location, Location, Location

I grew up with a mom who sold real estate. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard about how it is all about location. Well, that is true in 9-1-1 as well, and 2015 was the year the FCC took aggressive action to improve both visibility into the location information being provided to PSAPs as well as the quality of that data (especially indoors). In February 2015, The FCC issued enhanced locations standards. Following on the indoor location roadmap endorsed by NENA, APCO, and the 4 leading wireless carriers in late 2014, the rules drive improved location accuracy for indoor callers over the next 7 years. The carriers, the CTIA and ATIS took quick action in developing standards and moving aggressively towards improving location. While meeting the standards will take a mix of different technologies, an RFP has already been issued for the NEAD (National Emergency Address Database) which will provide location information on WiFi access points – a key part of the indoor location mix. While those of us in public safety always want things to move faster, the reality is that a national roll-out, of a public safety grade solution, done correctly, on the timeline required is an aggressive undertaking and I applaud the FCC for creating consensus and driving the process. Within a short time frame, we will begin to see vast improvements in indoor location accuracy delivered by the carriers to PSAPs.

FirstNet Drives Public Safety Investment

In December 2015, FirstNet’s board approved the Request for Proposal (RFP) to deploy the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) and directed management to take all necessary actions to release the RFP in early January. While this is clearly a huge step towards a first responder network, the work towards defining the NPSBN and the level of momentum sustained by FirstNet is why this made my list for 2015. A by-product of this effort is an increased level of interest and investment in public safety by both the venture capital community and established companies that have traditionally been active in tangential markets (e.g. federal, defense, health care). The level of innovation and resources brought by these companies can only serve to help improve the options we have available to us in providing better service and response to citizens.

Technology Adoption Marches On… and Into Public Safety

According to the CTIA, more than 47 percent of American homes use only cellphones, and 71 percent of people in their late 20s live in households with only cellphone. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Study, “nearly three-quarters of teens have or have access to a smartphone and 30% have a basic phone, while just 12% of teens 13 to 17 say they have no cell phone of any type”. To improve service and offload the rapidly growing network traffic, the carriers have begun enabling WiFi calling on mobile devices (see this blog post for our WiFi calling to 9-1-1 testing results and implications). Well known to any parent, Pew also reports that Facebook remains the most used social media site among American teens ages 13 to 17 with 71% of all teens using the site, even as half of teens use Instagram and four-in-ten use Snapchat. So what does this mean for PSAPs?

Already nearly 10% of the country gets additional data on calls from Smart911, regions are rapidly rolling out NG9-1-1 to facilitate new call types, and despite the worries of many about getting swamped with text messages, texting-to-911 is becoming common place across PSAPs. Social media is also creeping its way into public safety with an increasing number of fusion centers and crime centers actively monitoring social media. As communication trends evolve, so too will our emergency communications capabilities.

 

CLOSING FROM FLETCH:

Thanks so much to the folks at RAVE. A very innovative company with an eye on the future providing support and fresh new ideas to PSAPs across the country as we all strive to push forward to the Next Generation of 9-1-1 services becomes a reality.

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 is an active participant in EENA where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward best practices in both innovation and compliance.

Solution? Or Knee-Jerk Reaction?

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Emergency services in India have evolved over the years. But instead of consolidating access numbers, the decision was made to implement different numbers for everything. At the 9-1-1 Goes to Washington event in March of 2014, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai  referred to this problem during his address to the Public Safety community.

“We in the United States often take our 911 system for granted. But my recent trip to India reminded me how fortunate we are. In India, there isn’t a single number that people can call for help. There’s one number to reach the police, another for the fire department, and yet another if you need an ambulance. There are even different numbers for senior citizens, women, and children to use. I learned that many Indian households have a long list of numbers stuck on their walls and refrigerator doors to remind them which number to call for which emergency. All of this leads to needless confusion and delayed response times.”

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai

In an effort to solve this problem of confusion, a recent initiative has been initiated by India’s Women & Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi. After much discussion about how to solve the issues, the idea of ‘pressing and holding the 9 button’ on cell phones was given the go ahead in a recent meeting of representatives from the various service providers as well as mobile phone manufacturers. Apps were discussed, but dismissed, based on the same reasons they have not been effective elsewhere in the world.

[I]t does raise a few concerns . . .

For an App to be useful, it has to be used, the device must have it installed, and it has to be current and active. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of  this level of planning, before we have an emergency. Additionally, pressing ‘9’ on an older analog cellular phone could effectively be implemented at the carrier level, and not exclude these devices, which are prominent in many parts of the India suburban areas.

While I have to commend the essential simplicity of this action, it does raise a few concerns that may not have been completely vetted, and may actually have some unintended negative impact. Unfortunately, the source article did not contain enough information detailing how long the ‘long press’ needed to be to activate the function.  This leads to several questions, including:

  • How exactly long is a long press?
  • Can it be canceled?
  • What will multiple rapid presses do?
  • Pocket Dialing is a huge problem. How many misdial events will this potentially generate having a negative impact on public safety resources that are already running paper thin on staff and budget?

Without a study being done on the misdial call load on PSAPs alone (something that can be tracked measured) it appears this solution may be a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to a problem, and has the possibility of making the situation worse by impacting public safety.

“Any Device, Any Time, Any Where . . .

Another point to consider is the potential confusion that this may cause to citizens. Clearly, 911, 112, and 999 are well-known emergency access numbers globally. They all have been promoting the concept of  “Anywhere, Anytime, and on Any device” for more than a decade.

While this addresses mobile phones, it is likely the ‘long press’ of 9 on telephone devices that are NOT cell phones could be difficult, if not impossible to reproduce or replicate. This would then eliminate the universality of access to emergency services we currently enjoy today.

The IETF states that the numbers for emergency services globally should be 911, and 112.

After 2 years of fighting the policy battle in the US, we are just beginning to win the “No 9 Needed” battle with MLTS PBX systems. This initiative, know best under the name ‘Kari’s Law’,  requires MLTS Systems to recognize just the digits 911, 112 and 999 as emergency numbers; effectively eliminating the “9” normally needed to get an outside line. The popular tagline for Kari’s law is “No 9 Needed”, but now we need to modify this message to be “Except in India where you just press 9”? Hank Hunt may have a comment or 2 on that.

The IETF states that the numbers for emergency services globally should be 911, and 112. In the UK, 999 has been locally engrained, and although attempts and suggestions have been made over the years to change it, history will live on, and the best that we will see is support for 911 and 112 in the local PSTN, and 999 will continue to live on in perpetuity.

Clearly the problem will continue, but it is good that people are looking to solve the issues. I would highly recommend to the Ministers of India take into consideration the expertise contained in organizations like NENA, EENA, and APCO International are consulted before potentially life-changing decisions like this are made under a great emotional influence, and without completely vetting the technical and social impact of the decision.

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 is an active participant in EENA where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward best practices in both innovation and compliance.

Social Media Managment for Government and Public Safety

Group Of Business People Working And Global Networking Themed Im

How do you know which social media conversations are most relevant? And how can you turn them into a positive citizen experience creating new outreach opportunities?

The entire World is now Online

Many tools are available for monitoring social media conversations. However, you still need to sift through the thousands of posts provided by these listening engines to discern the really important conversations — ones that are actionable in a measurable way. Without such a capability today, you have a significant blind spot in your social media intelligence. Or, if you’re having your department manually review thousands of posts, you’re wasting valuable resources time. Avaya Social Media Manager addresses this challenge head-on. With it, you can connect seamlessly to social media channels detecting those social media conversations that directly relate to your agency, municipality, citizens and even local events.

You can filter, distill and analyze social media posts, identifying those that are most important to your agency, and most importantly, actionable.

  • These messages are automatically distributed to the appropriate personnel or Public Information Officer (PIO) specialists located anywhere in your agency who are best qualified to respond.
  • And, best of all, those mentions and responses can easily be tracked and reported on through your Avaya Contact Center reporting tools.

With these capabilities, you reduce the risk of missing vital public posts and tweets. You maintain a more consistent omni-channel citizen experience through all public touch points — voice, e-mail, Web or video chat, and social media channels. You can identify new community relationship opportunities while measuring the impact of social media on your agency. Social Media Manager effectively becomes a focal point for all your social citizen interactions, helping you elevate the constituent experience, while automating the immediate identification of public relations opportunities.

Intelligent filtering and classifying

Social Media Manager applies customizable filters to social media mentions to eliminate spam, analyze mention relevancy and classify by language and other attributes such as sentiment. It also classifies social media mentions using social (external) or internal context, thereby providing a more complete picture of the public and a clearer understanding of how the social media contact is taking place:

  • Social context might include a constituent’s activity level on Facebook or Twitter, influence or social following or even post history or location.
  • Internal context could involve accessing your agency’s Records Management Systems (RMS) or databases for things such as previous incident history or a local citizen profile.

In these ways, social media mentions are correlated with other information to give you a broader snapshot of the public user and a clearer understanding of context at the exact time you interact with them, enabling you to provide improved levels of service. Social Media Manager also allows you to link to other municipal applications to identify potential opportunities of interaction with each constituent. Based on this analysis and categorization, Social Media Manager routes the mention to the function within your agency or municipal government that is best equipped to respond, such as Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation or Public Safety. With Social Media Manager, all these variables are handled automatically so that governments can respond quickly and with the appropriate specialist skill level and the right message.

The New Eyes and Ears of Public Safety  

Press PLAY to listen to the Podcast on SoundCloud

Calling for help or assistance in an emergency is one of the core capabilities in almost any communications platform. When a good day turns into a bad day, information about the emergency is critical. But that is not what it has always been about. When the first 911 network was implemented in Haleyville Alabama in 1968, the primary purpose was ease of access. Up until then, local seven digit numbers were used in each municipality to reach police, fire and ambulance services. Not only did you need to know where you were, you needed to know the local telephone number of the agency you needed.

Initially, 911 systems only routed callers to local police agencies, eliminating the need to know and dial specific local access numbers. Caller ID had not yet been introduced, therefore  Public safety agencies still needed to ascertain the location of the incident, as well as the nature of the call. In the mid-80s caller ID services, among others, were introduced into the new digital central offices being deployed. This information provided public safety agencies with their first taste of “data” being delivered with emergency calls. A short time later, that caller ID information known as ANI (Automatic Number Identification) was used to retrieve billing address information, which then provided public safety with a dispatch-able address.

While public safety technology decided to pick this point and form a beachhead, the digital age and technological evolution continued to move forward driven by the emergence of the “technology bubble”. Computers became a part of our everyday life, and the Internet provided Global connectivity and interaction at levels never thought possible. Technology allowed communications to become ingrained in the social fabric of our lives, expanding audio and voice into email and instant messages, and ultimately video communications as broadband networks and handheld devices capable of delivering Omni channel experiences became ubiquitous.

Once citizens began using  these new multimodal forms of communications in their day-to-day lives, commercial businesses realized the value of reaching those customers through similar channels, and commercial social media became a powerful marketing channel. Obviously, with this new form of communications available to reach the masses, public safety began to jump on the bandwagon, albeit quite slowly at first. Because public safety had put a stake in the ground so early in the evolution of the technology, they found themselves locked into legacy environments all designed prior to the emergence of common best practices that are in place today. Because of this, the emergence of newer technologies has been difficult, as seen by the slow adoption of text to 911 services, which is deployed in less than 10% of the 6800 or so 911 centers that exist in the US today. In fact, although a very small number, there are still some 911 centers that do not receive location information, or Enhanced 911 service.

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While we talk about improving 911 solutions for specific commercial environments like Kari’s Law requiring direct access to 911 in hotels, and the iLoc8 utility providing cellular device location accuracy and multimedia, these concepts are valid at a much higher level. Direct access to emergency services is important in any environment, including schools, businesses, or any other facility where the public may use the telephone device to summon emergency services. It is also our corporate responsibility, something that Avaya takes great pride in, to educate not only our younger generation, but government regulators that define legislation and requirements surrounding access to public safety communications. Knowledge is power, and education raises awareness. Just 681 days after Kari Hunt was murdered at a hotel in Marshall Texas, another stabbing took place. But this time, when 911 was dialed, the call went through and help arrived in time to save their life.

Public safety communications don’t have to be complex. Public safety solutions don’t have to be expensive, in the enterprise, or in 911 centers. Public safety solutions need to be resilient, reliable, and redundant. They need to take advantage of the way we communicate today, and utilize the technologies that are commonplace. We have moved to a mobile environment of connected broadband devices, and just like the massive commercial customer contact centers that we build around the world, public safety needs to embrace the same technologies for life safety solutions, and stop wasting money on prolonging legacy architectures that are inefficient, and a drain on the industry.

In the past three decades we have moved from an environment where fax machines barely existed, to where full multimedia broadband devices can fit in our pocket. Shouldn’t we be able to move public safety in to this same environment within the next decade?

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, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

9-1-1 Glitches

911Glitch

Press PLAY to listen to the Podcast on SoundCloud

The 9-1-1 Network is there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Public Safety touts 5  9’s reliability, resiliency, and a redundant network, to be ready when the worse happens. Why is it then, when the worse does happen it turns out to be a very bad day for all?

Exactly 3 years ago during the last week of October in 2012,  Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeastern US, and it was a bad week with central offices flooded, networks out of service, and battery backups failing to react, or not providing the uptime that were designed to provide. Much of the PSTN in the Northeast was offline, including many of our 9-1-1 centers.

Just before midnight on April 9th in 2014, the Pacific Northwest experienced a 911 outage that affected a total of 83 PSAPs. This included five PSAPs in Florida, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania that all relied on a common 911 routing service. The root cause here wasn’t Mother Nature. This was a classic “sunny day” outage—one that did not result from an extraordinary disaster or other unforeseeable catastrophes. This outage was caused by a database overflow that prevented new calls from getting a critical record identifier to track them in the network, and, therefore, the calls failed to route and terminate properly.

Yet again, we have another ‘9-1-1 Glitch’, this time in Western Pennsylvania. According to KDKA in Pittsburgh, the problem was the result of a computer communication fail-safe that failed to do its job. Approximately after about 2 hours, the unnamed software’s vendor was able to eventually fix the bug. But there are a few minor details that are still missing. What exactly was the reported ‘bug’ and who is this mystery software vendor? The relevance is that CenturyLink was involved with the Pacific Northwest outage, as well as the Western PA outage. If there is a similarity between the April 2014 outage and the October 2015 outage, the public has a right to know and understand that. It should also be a red flag to any other environment that uses a similar topology.

We like to think our 9-1-1 networks have 5 x 9’s reliability. But to achieve that, you are only allowed to have 5.26 minutes of downtime a year. with this outage being reportedly 2 hours long, that would mean out of the 525600 minutes in a year, they were up for only 525,480 of those minutes, which is 99.97% of the time, or just under 4 x 9’s. Maybe 5 x 9’s is not high enough to strive for? Or maybe we are not holding our 9-1-1 vendors to strict enough SLA’s?

Based on the news reports, there was some problem with the primary system going into a state of partial failure. Since it was not completely failed, the backup never kicked in. This, in itself, is also a failed Active-Standby design. High availability systems today are designed with Active-Active processing, there is no switchover or failover time. The best example of this is any commercial  airliner today. Although there are 2 engines on the plane, it is perfectly capable of flying on a single engine. Should one engine fail in flight, the plane can safely navigate and land at an alternate airport for repairs. Both engines are running from takeoff to touchdown, they don’t leave one off in case the first one fails.

I am hoping the true story behind this outage is made public, and soon. Public Safety Administrators have the lives of millions in their hands, and they want to do the best they can, and follow industry best practices. Unfortunately, it seems these system failures are becoming systemic, and while the FCC is stepping in with their Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture, I hope that is not too little too late.

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.o

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