FIXED: Cellular E911 Location

The two biggest issues with cellular emergency services:
Text to 911 and Cellular Location Accuracy

But the question is, how can this be so in today’s ultra-modern broadband connected world?

The answer, it turns out, is simple. The Emergency services network no matter where you are located is, for the most part, an analog-based legacy infrastructure with only the ability to convey VOICE calls and no data services. Because of this simple fact, we have pigeonholed ourselves into a quagmire of isolation from the modern communications capabilities that have become commonplace and inherent in the devices nearly all of us seem to be carrying.

How do we extract ourselves from this destitute pit of captivity? The answer is quite simple. We need a rope, and it just so happens that Google has decided to provide that lifeline, with of course a brand-new acronym; AML for Advanced Mobile Location.

Currently, on the network side AML is  only deployed in Estonia and in the United Kingdon however, the functionality (which has been code-named ‘Thunderbird’) is actually embedded in every current  Android device with operating systems from Gingerbread forward. To discuss the history of Thunderbird, and how it came to be, I sat down for a Podcast with European Emergency Number Association Executive Director, and colleague of many years, Gary Machado.

Listen to the Podcast here:


Fletch:
The big story in the news is location and emergencies in cellular phones, and you guys have really come up with something that’s pretty interesting over in Europe. Tell us about AML?


Gary:
Thank you, Fletch. Yes, we came up with AML, which stands for Advanced Mobile Location, a few years ago. Actually, the idea is not ours. The Advanced Mobile Location was created in the UK in 2014 by a guy named John Medland, who works for BT 999/112 emergency services.

He basically lost faith in the EU’s ability to regulate of the sector and to contribute to the improvement of caller location in Europe, so he decided to start talking with the handset manufacturers and the mobile operators here in Europe, what in the US you call I think carriers, and he came up with a simple idea: how can we find an easy way to retrieve the location data that is in the phone that we all use everyday to order pizza, to order Uber, et cetera, and how can we take this data and deliver it to the PSAPs as easily as possible?

That’s how the project started. John led the whole project in the UK. It started slowly in 2014 with AGC, the handset manufacturer, and one mobile operator named EE, and since then, AML has been very successful. We have about 85% of locations that are below 50 meters, within 50 meters, and AML has been extended to other handset manufacturers, namely Alcatel, Sony Mobile, Samsung devices, and extended also to other mobile operators in the UK.


Fletch:
I think the big thing was when Google jumped onboard. Google saw what John had proposed doing, and basically in a nutshell, the way I explain it to people is, when the carrier, when the mobile operator looks from the network towards the handset, it’s one view, but when the handset looks out towards the world, they can see much more. It’s like looking through a peephole on a hotel room door the wrong way, right?

From the carrier side, you get a very myopic view of where that device is, but the device can take advantage of cellular, it can take advantage of GPS, it can take advantage of WiFi signals that [can be seen], not necessarily connected to, but just seen, and then all of that information together [delivers] a much more accurate resolution. One number that I saw published was 4,000 times more accurate?


Gary:
Yes. Fletch, I want to say I love the way you describe it, which is exactly correct. What happens, we actually happened to meet Google at the right time, were starting to look into the project, they were wondering on how to get this information delivered to the PSAPs, and so we actually bridged between BT in the UK, Google and ourselves and we started to have about a conference call per week, basically, and we started to progress, let’s say, the Google way, which is very fast. Yes, as you said, Google wanted to benefit from the use of their Google fused location provider and have this accurate location information we use everyday installed on all Android devices in the world. That was what they were trying to achieve. Since they saw the success of the project in the UK, which was running on Android devices already, on Android-based smartphone manufacturers, they decided to work with us and

Since they saw the success of the project in the UK, which was running on Android devices already, on Android-based smartphone manufacturers, they decided to work with us and BT to, let’s say, upgrade all the devices in the world with this accurate location. Now, where are we right now? All Android devices in the world back to Gingerbread have been upgraded with Advanced Mobile Location, so it’s in every Android phone in the world, besides a few phones that haven’t been updated because they haven’t been charged or connected to the WiFi and didn’t get the update, of course, but otherwise it’s already

Now, where are we right now? All Android devices in the world back to Gingerbread have been upgraded with Advanced Mobile Location, so it’s in every Android phone in the world, besides a few phones that haven’t been updated because they haven’t been charged or connected to the WiFi and didn’t get the update, of course, but otherwise it’s already in your phone. If you have an Android phone, AML is there. You just have to check your phone, look for the Google Play Services, and if you have a version of Google Play Services which is something like 9.0+, then you have AML in your phone. AML

You just have to check your phone, look for the Google Play Services, and if you have a version of Google Play Services which is something like 9.0+, then you have AML in your phone. AML is deployed in two countries in Europe. It is fully deployed in the UK and Estonia.

That means that everyday, UK and Estonian emergency services receive extremely accurate location information, again, 85% at below 50 meters using GPS or WiFi location, and yes, when we look at the figure, it’s about 3,000 to 4,000 times more accurate than what we get in Europe currently, which is only the primarily cell ID.


Fletch:
Before everyone runs out and turns on AML and expects this incredible accuracy to be there, there is the other side of this, and that’s the 911 center, the emergency center, the PSAP has to be able to, or the network I should say, has to be able to receive this data. One of the pieces of AML is a destination for this information to be sent, so that’s got to be in place, too. Now that’s the carrier responsibility.


Gary:
Yes. I would say the beauty of this project is its simplicity. When you dial an emergency number, 112, 911, it will trigger AML in your phone if you’re in a country where the service has been activated; in other words, where PSAPs are able to receive the information. Once you dial this number, it triggers the AML for 20 seconds, collects the location information and sends it over to the PSAPs over a mobile network.

Now there are two ways of doing that. The first way is using SMS. There are two kinds of SMSs that are used. I will not get into the specificity of those, but these two SMSs are working. One of these two can be implemented in any country. Either the message can be sent to an SMS endpoint, which is what both BT, our organization, EENA, and Google recommends, because it works in most cases, SMS, and it’s actually extremely reliable. So it can be sent to an SMS endpoint or it can be sent over HTTPS to the emergency services. Emergency services are free to choose.

In Europe, we work at the country level. [Governments] are free to choose whether they want SMS or if they want HTTPS. For now, in Europe, we have SMS installations, but other countries are deploying an HTTPS endpoint to be able to receive the AML data.


Fletch:
I’m going to assume that when you bring your handset online and you get your configuration from the carrier that this AML destination would be part of that provisioning.


Gary:
Yes. Actually, it’s managed by Google. Google defines the emergency numbers that should activate the service in a country. If a country has several emergency numbers, those numbers will trigger the AML service, which will turn on for 20 seconds and collect the location data, and then send it over to this endpoint selected by a country or a region or a county. Basically, what’s to be done by the PSAPs, the authorities and/or the mobile operator or carrier in the US, it’s very simple. Google needs to know the endpoint to be able to deliver that message. They need to be provided by an endpoint. The carrier needs to, for instance, in case of an SMS, allow it to be free of charge, and that’s what we have in most countries in Europe already with SMS for the deaf and hard of hearing, and/or they need to provide for an HTTPS endpoint to be set up, which often in the US I believe has been at the carriers rather than in the PSAPs. In Europe, we have a different setup for these things.


Fletch:
The very first thing people are going to complain about it is, “Hey, wait a second, Gary, if this thing gets turned on, Google’s going to start tracking my location. It’s bad enough that they know every website I go to and they’re putting cookies all over my phone, now they’re going to be tracking my specific locations and what I’m doing. I’ve already got the NSA in the US doing that. I don’t need Google on top of that doing the same thing.” Is there going to be pushback?


Gary:
As you can guess, we get it over here in Europe even more than in North America. People are very, very concerned about it here. I can say I have myself a certain interest for these issues. I actually help some of the privacy activist organizations here in Brussels on my private time, let’s say, and I never switch on my location on my own, for instance, but in case of emergency service, I want to have my location turned on. The beauty of this project and working with Google for more than a year, they have been extremely cautious with that. The location just turns on for the time of triggering the AML and turns off after 20 seconds. Google does not store that location. Google doesn’t want to see that location. That location is retrieved and is sent over to the PSAPs in an SMS or HTTPS, and that’s it. Google doesn’t want to see that location. I think, honestly, no one is [inaudible 00:11:05]. Google has plenty of locations everyday. I don’t think they are looking for more of that project. That’s not what they are looking for.

The location just turns on for the time of triggering the AML and turns off after 20 seconds. Google does not store that location. Google doesn’t want to see that location. That location is retrieved and is sent over to the PSAPs in an SMS or HTTPS, and that’s it. Google doesn’t want to see that location. I think, honestly, no one is [inaudible 00:11:05]. Google has plenty of locations everyday. I don’t think they are looking for more of that project. That’s not what they are looking for.


Fletch:
So they never even get the data to be able to store it. It goes directly into the public safety networks.


Gary:
Exactly.


Fletch:
Let’s face it, if you’re having an emergency, your location is something that you probably want to share. 


Gary:
Yes, exactly. That’s the case, and I’m sure it’s the same in the US, but in Europe, we have the proper legislation for that, that in case of emergency call, caller location is authorized. Yes, that’s one of the very few times where you actually need and you want your location to be used.


Fletch:
I’ve got to tell you, when I first saw this back in 2014 over in Europe, I was a little hesitant. I was a little hesitant because it was operating system-specific. At that time it was carrier-specific and even handset-specific, and [I thought], interesting idea, but it’s going to be the adoption that really makes this happen, and although it’s taken a couple of years, it is actually a great idea. It’s very simple in its form, it’s very basic. It doesn’t require a big uplift in the network. It doesn’t require huge upgrades in the PSAPs. It’s just a simple activation of information that’s already there, and it’s information that most devices already have anyway. Again, like you said before, if I want to order a pizza or if I want to order an Uber, they know exactly where I am with incredible accuracy, so it’s just activating that function that’s already there and creating the mechanism to transport that over to the PSAP, the people that actually need to use that. Really kind of a brilliant idea and John, John’s a great guy and I’ve known John for many years over at BT. It really took a lot of stamina just to keep pounding his foot down and saying, “This will work,” and getting Google in there is a big deal. Obviously the big question, what about iOS and Apple and Microsoft? What’s happening with those guys? Have they mentioned anything about this?

It’s very simple in its form, it’s very basic. It doesn’t require a big uplift in the network. It doesn’t require huge upgrades in the PSAPs. It’s just a simple activation of information that’s already there, and it’s information that most devices already have anyway. Again, like you said before, if I want to order a pizza or if I want to order an Uber, they know exactly where I am with incredible accuracy, so it’s just activating that function that’s already there and creating the mechanism to transport that over to the PSAP, the people that actually need to use that. Really kind of a brilliant idea and John, John’s a great guy and I’ve known John for many years over at BT. It really took a lot of stamina just to keep pounding his foot down and saying, “This will work,” and getting Google in there is a big deal. Obviously the big question, what about iOS and Apple and Microsoft? What’s happening with those guys? Have they mentioned anything about this?

Really kind of a brilliant idea and John is a great guy.  I’ve known him for many years over at BT. It really took a lot of pounding his foot down and saying, “This will work,” and getting Google in there is a big deal. Obviously the big question, what about iOS and Apple and Microsoft? What’s happening with those guys? Have they mentioned anything about this?


Gary:
First, I want to join you here in saying I really admire what John has done. He’s taken this idea, he’s been fighting for it. He’s been going step by step. He’s very cautious. He wanted to validate every step of the project. We owe John a lot, as all in the public safety community, I believe. I also want to thank the guys at Google, of course, and also congrats to the Estonians. The Estonians implemented AML in less than six months with Google and they are one of the countries that are fully enabled right now. About Apple and Microsoft, we are in contact with Microsoft, trying to get some information, some progress on this. At this stage, we do not see a lot, but we are hopeful that it will progress. We are also trying to get in touch with Apple. We’ve informed Apple via many emails, conference calls and so on. We haven’t seen a lot back from Apple, though we actually discovered just by Googling one day that Apple has published a patent on the location topic, which seems to be rather an idea pretty similar to what we’ve just talked about during this podcast. Very interesting. Very interesting. We’re hopeful that Apple will join the project. We also started to see the first articles, one article in Estonia last week, clearly explain that they believe that Apple will start joining the

We haven’t seen a lot back from Apple, though we actually discovered just by Googling one day that Apple has published a patent on the location topic, which seems to be rather an idea pretty similar to what we’ve just talked about during this podcast. Very interesting. Very interesting. We’re hopeful that Apple will join the project. We also started to see the first articles, one article in Estonia last week, clearly explain that they believe that Apple will start joining the project, because people will think of Google’s Android phone as the safe phones. That was an opinion written in an Estonian article, which is in English.


Fletch:
I have to agree with that. If somebody’s going to make a telephone purchase and this one has got safety features that this one does not, that’s going to become a decision. If I’m going to buy a phone for my daughter who’s going off to college now, I’m going to make sure she’s got a phone that’s going to provide her with as much safety as possible. That’s going to bring the financial model into play and it’s not going to be long before somebody over in Cupertino says, “Hey, wait a second, sales are going down. We need to turn this on,” and Microsoft’s going to do the same.


Gary:
Let’s hope so. Apple Keynote is coming out soon, so, let’s wait.


Fletch:
Listen, Gary, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. It’s been a while since we’ve chatted. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about this. Tremendous progress on this. Congratulations to everybody over at EENA who drove this, and of course to John Medland over at BT, who had the brainchild and the fortitude to get this program moving.


Gary:
Thanks, Fletch. Bye-bye.

999 – The history of the ‘Hooter’

For and AUDIO version of my Blog – Check it out here on SoundCloud:

While the digits 9-1-1 win the popularity contest for the most popular emergency service globally, the very first emergency number ever to be put into circulation was ‘across the pond’ in London on June 30, 1937, by British Telecom.

As is typically the case it, the need for the service was inspired by a disaster involving to tragic loss of several lives. In November of 1935, five women died during a fire on Wimpole Street. As the story goes, neighbors who saw the fire, tried desparately to report it by dialing zero and asking the operator for the fire services. This method for summoning the fire department had been the long standard practice since 1927. Unfortunately, on this particular occasion, the telephone operator switchboard had been particularly jammed with non-emergency calls; therefore the emergency callers were unable to get through to report the emergency.

General-post-office-logoThe General Post Office, who at the time ran the telephone network in London, decided that a new, easy to remember three-digit number was needed, allowing citizens to reach emergency services quickly. Ensuring calls received the appropriate level of priority by BT operators; an alert signal would be triggered indicating the emergency call. Using the latest technology available in the late 1930’s, a flashing light accompanied by an audio device -dubbed as a “Hooter”.

I’ll give you all a moment to recover from your snickering – All done? Great, then let’s continue with today’s history lesson.

The trigger for the lights and their accompanying Hooter was the number 9-9-9. If you are a tech history geek like myself and are interested in the full story behind choosing 999 as the number, Gary Holland from the BBC wrote an interesting article on this very topic telling the entire story.

Logo_112_20100929Currently, across the European Union member states, 112 is recognized as the official emergency number, and along with 911 are recommended by the IETF as the preferred primary emergency numbers. Despite 112 being in place, in most places, the historical and legacy numbers continue to operate. According to EENA the European Emergency Number Association, technology is not always the primary concern. The most troubling hindrance is the lack of knowledge by citizens. Even though 112 has been the EU-wide emergency number for some time, according to recent surveys, only single-digit percentage growths have been seen over the past several years with three out of four European citizens still not aware that they can dial 112 all over Europe.

PBX or MLTS administrators, when addressing their emergency call dialing, should examine their user base and understand the need to support additional emergency numbers. 911 and 9-911 are distinct entries in your emergency dialing tables, but if you find that you have a large employee base that includes folks from Europe, it would be wise or to provision 112 and 9-112 or 999 and 9-999 as valid dialing patterns in the PBX as well. Just make sure that you translate anything that is not 911 to the digits 911 as today’s landline carrier networks are likely not provisioned to recognize emergency numbers beyond 911.

Oddly enough, this isn’t the case on most cellular networks today. In fact, not only does my iPhone understand 911 is an emergency number, others such as 112, 999, 000, 114 and 118, and likely several others, are treated the same. Dialing any of these will put the device into “emergency mode”, invoking functionality or disabling others as defined by the carrier profile. The phone never actually ‘dials’ anything, it merely indicates to the network that the user is making an emergency call. This mechanism is how multiple numbers are all supported and translated to the proper emergency service in the country where you are located.

In turn, the network then connects me as if I had dialed 911, or the appropriate local emergency number, directly.

DISCLAIMER: 
PLEASE TAKE MY WORD ON THIS, AND TRUST ME THAT THIS WORKS.
DO NOT TRY TO TEST THIS YOURSELF. YOU’LL SIMPLY TIE UP EMERGENCY LINES WITH NON-EMERGENCY TRAFFIC, PUTTING LIVES AT RISK. THE 9-1-1 OPERATOR WILL NOT SEE ANYTHING DIFFERENT THAN IF YOU DIAL 9-1-1, THE NORMAL EMERGENCY NUMBER, OR EVEN KNOW THAT YOU HAVE DIALED ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY.

As we move forward with new communication technologies and modalities, SIP will be the primary protocol used for transport. Based on this, phone numbers will become less and less relevant, and an endpoint or destination name will replace it. My identity, and how to reach me will shift from 908-848-2602 to something more like my email address FletcherM@Avaya.com. Which is another reason why routing emergency calls based on telephone numbers is an archaic construct that does not fit the next generation 911 model, and we must STOP relying on phone numbers as a location cross-reference.

While the people that manage those databases have the financial incentive to keep customers locked into this irrelevant technology, maintaining phone number to location correlation, there’s far too much automation, complexity, and expense associated with that to remain as the right way forward.

Emergency services need to be able to migrate to simply “SOS” as an emergency destination address, and location information needs to be conveyed in the PIDF-LO location object in the SIP header. If the financial model has to change for some providers, then so be it; these folks must learn to adapt, or cease their operations. We are talking about life safety services, and profits need to be put on the back burner. While there is nothing wrong with cost recovery of sensible technology, 9-1-1 is not a license to steal.

Predictive Assistance via Caller Context

A concern that can exist in nearly any city, county, state, or even country, is that once an easy to remember emergency number, such as 911 in the US, 112 across the European Union, and the 999 available in the UK, has been deployed, massive misuse of the system by non-emergency calls starts to put strain on the network; equipment and even staff must now cope with the increase of non-emergency citizen outreach beyond the purpose of the service. Because there isn’t a catchall category of call types, there often isn’t a single, all-encompassing solution to the problem. Technology can help and when properly deployed, is capable of providing support for dealing with many of the strains that are put on Emergency Networks and Systems.

The Architecture Problem:

 

BLOG-PO-Pic1

Fig. 1 Silos of Call Types for Public Safety and Citizen Services

 

In the past, when we built and designed Public Safety networks, the solutions were siloed, purpose built creating disparate, disconnected islands of connectivity. An agency decided what their inbound traffic would be for that particular service, and then engineer the incoming trunks for a P.01 grade of service, meaning that 1 out of every 100 calls could be blocked during the busy hour. This is a standard level that is accepted by the Public Safety industry for Public Safety Answer Points.

But this creates a problem when a service (9-1-1 for example) receives more calls than expected. Typically, they would track analytics and call volume reports that displayed trend information. These reports guided them on the increase of the number of positions and trunks to handle the new projected call loads. You would think that expansion should not be a problem for agencies, as they are tasked with providing service to a geographic area, and when the population increases, call volumes increase and budgets should naturally increase.

Unfortunately, however, quite often population increases along with call volume, but agencies are always being asked (read demanded) to do more with less.

BLOG-PO-Pic2

Fig. 2 Interagency trunking disrupts traffic engineering formulas

While other organizations may be able to aide with the call volume, the problem of citizens dialing 9-1-1 for everything and anything still exists. Because the network was built as independent islands of service, virtual inter-agency barriers naturally evolved. In specific cases, inter-departmental trunking can be created that allows adjacent agencies to transfer calls over those facilities directly. Now the caller is communicating with the right resource that can assist them, and we have freed up the original 9-1-1 resource to allow them to take another call, but we create another problem on the back end.

 

BLOG-PO-Pic3

Fig. 3 – Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet)

Although the issue of routing is solved, the problem still exists where the limited trunking that connects the 9-1-1 center to the PSTN remains an issue and another blockage point. This blockage is easily corrected. By removing these trunks from the equation, and replacing or augmenting them with an IP pipe that is dynamically expanded and contracted as needed, based on the application of rules logic that takes into consideration the number of available 9-1-1 call takers that are currently available and ready to take calls.

 

While I realize that every Public Safety person who is reading this just got a chill up their spine, and muttered, “Your CRAZY Fletch”, this is what needs to happen to solve the problem, and is not new bleeding edge technology. in fact, local carriers have been offering SIP-based trunking to the commercial market for years. The technology has been refined and the largest contact centers in the world use this architecture to bring calls into their network, where they decide the best resource to apply to the inbound call.

BLOG-PO-Pic4With the right tools on the right network, solving these type of problems becomes simpler and a routine process in the contact center, and there is no reason why this technology and thought process cannot be applied to Public Safety Answer Points to assist in improving efficiency and reliability during large-scale national disasters. At the same time, this can also radically improve service to callers. For example, meet Ava. Ava requires 911 services on a regular basis. She is considered to be, what Public Safety has nicknamed, a ‘Frequent Flyer.’
This term is not meant to be derogatory, in fact, Ava has a medical condition that requires Emergency Transportation much more often that the average citizen, but her condition is not life-threatening.

When Ava calls 9-1-1 for medical transport, most of the time, resources are available and dispatched immediately. But on occasion, Ava’s request arrives in the middle of complete chaos. Because the 9-1-1 network is unable to differentiate Ava’s call from any other call being processed by the system, all calls are treated with the same priority level, despite the vast prior history and information that may be available. By collecting and examining this information in a context store, and associating it with a particular call event can dynamically apply specialized call handling. Simply by knowing that Ava is a frequent flyer caller, and her condition is not life-threatening, her call is answered by a Speech Recognition enabled IVR that collects the relevant information giving Ava the opportunity to escalate the call to a call taker.

N11 – More than just Emergencies

9-1-1 has been called the most widely recognized ‘brand element’ in the world. Nearly everyone is aware of the number, and despite the attempt to increase awareness of other avenues of access, 9-1-1 remains to be the winner. Unbeknownst to many in the US, several other N-1-1 services are available to citizens. In most of the cases, these are geographically routed the same way 9-1-1 emergency calls are routed to centers that are close to the caller. Following the N-1-1 format, these easy to remember numbers are as follows:

2-1-1  Reserved for the World Health Organization and Red Cross
3-1-1  Reserved for local government non-emergency services
4-1-1  Not officially reserved, but often used for local Telco information
5-1-1  Reserved for Highway and Traffic information systems
6-1-1  Not officially reserved, but often used for local Telco repair
7-1-1  TDD Relay services for Deaf, Hard of Hearing or Disability
8-1-1  Reserved for the Call before You Dig utility mark-out hotline

While these services can often provide valuable information to citizens, they are often under-publicized, and under-utilized. By consolidating connectivity in the cloud, we gain flexibility in dynamically adjusting the trunking required, and calls destined for other agency remediation. This can effectively eliminate the public education and awareness problem. While the dialed number can be an indicator of the nature of the request, calls can still be handled efficiently, and resources are no longer limited and blocked.

Proactive Citizen Outreach

When a known issue exists, reaching out to the public in an affected area can be an efficient and dynamic countermeasure that can significantly reduce the number of inquiries for more information while reassuring concerned citizens that an issue is being addressed. In addition to providing information, a query can be made to ensure no other problems exist. If the citizen does have an additional concern, the system is already ‘context aware’ of the identity of the citizen, and they can be queued up against the appropriate resource. Upon connection to the person or agency that can provide the additional information they need, information about the previous interaction can be displayed to the call taker, facilitating quicker response and better service levels.

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.

Mr. Hunt Goes To Washington

It was a comfortable Spring afternoon when Hank landed at the Reagan National Airport. He was not there to see the sights, or take one of the many tours of our national treasures. Hank was there for a much more important reason, to honor the legacy of his daughter, Kari Rene Hunt, and the meaning that her life has recently become. Just 865 days earlier, after the tragic murder of his daughter in a Texas hotel room where his granddaughter was unable to directly dial 911 because the MLTS phone system required a 9 before any outside call, Hank was getting ready to tell his story to the Congressional Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Just last year in December 2015, Hank’s Congressman, Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX-1) sponsored H.R.-4167 (Kari’s Law Act of 2015) in the House of Representatives, and it was referred to theSubcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Many that claim that emergency calling from an MLTS is not a huge problem. When Avaya first brought this issue to the FCC in an open letter to the FCC Chairman, the Honorable Tom Wheeler on December 27, 2013, with a cc: to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner Ajit Pai, and Commissioner Michael O’Reilly.

It was this letter, and the companion tweet on Social Media that caught the eye of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, resulting in an initial meeting with the Commissioner and his staff in January  2014. As most people are when they first hear the story, the Commissioner was astonished at the claim that many businesses, schools, and most hotels could not access 911 directly from the telephones deployed. To validate our claims, the Commissioner launched an inquiry to the top 10 hotel chains in the United States asking them these 5 specific questions about their emergency calling environment:

  • How many hotel and motel properties in the United States does your company own?
  • In how many of those properties would a guest dialing 911 from the phone in his or her room reach a Public Safety Answering Point or 911 Call Center? In such cases, does the phone system also alert a hotel employee that an emergency call has been placed?
  • It how many of those properties would the guest dialing 911 from the phone in his or her room reach a hotel employee? In those cases, have hotel employees answering such calls received appropriate training in how to respond to emergency calls?
  • In how many of those properties would a guest dialing 911 from the phone in his or her room not complete a call to anyone?
  • If your company has any properties where a guest dialing 911 from the phone in his or her room does not reach emergency personnel, what is your company’s plan for remedying the situation? If you do not have a plan, why not?

At the NENA 911 goes to Washington conference in Washington DC in March 2014, Commissioner Pai reported the results of those inquiries, which were as follows:

  • Consumers may be unable to dial 911 directly at tens of thousands of buildings across the United States.
  • American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) survey data indicates that guests reach emergency services if they dial 911 without an access code in ONLY:
    • 44.5% of franchised properties
    • 32% of independent hotels
  • The vast majority of the 53,000 lodging properties in the United States are managed by independent owners or franchisees

While much progress has been made, as the fix for this problem is inherent in most modern MLTS/PBX systems today, the problem is still widespread. In fact, at the Choice Hotels franchise Comfort Inn, in Alexandria, where Hank and I stayed in was not able to dial 911 directly from the rooms. Recognizing the manufacturer of the telephone console that the front desk, I knew that the system was capable of doing it, yet it was not programmed properly, a poignant reminder that, without legislation and an enforcement mechanism, voluntary compliance is likely not enough to provide a solution to the issue at hand.

Fire-Pull-Box-smallTo add insult to injury just outside of Hanks room a fire alarm station pull was mounted on the wall. The instructions advising, “IN CASE OF FIRE”, you should “Pull the fire alarm and Call Fire Department (DIALL 911)”, but I guess they forgot to add “just not from the telephone in your room”.

Editor’s Note:
By the way, up here in New Jersey, “Dial” is spelled with one “L” in it . . .  just sayin’

While the subcommittee had seven public safety-related bills on the agenda for the day, they led off the witness testimony session with testimony from Hank.

 

Speaking in front of a large group is always a challenge. When that group contains only one or two people that you even know, it becomes even more challenging. It gets even worse when television cameras are trained on you; photographers are snapping away pictures, and the entire room is hanging on every word that you say. Despite this, Hank did an excellent job telling his story and making his point why the three basic tenants of Kari’s Law make sense.

  • Direct access to 911 from any device with or without an access code
  • On-site notification that the event has occurred and from where
  • No local interception of the call, unless by trained individuals

These capabilities, coupled with the NENA model legislation that recommends reporting to the PSAP by building, floor and emergency response zone, a safe environment for any building can be established.

This model is functional, efficient, and most importantly, affordable. It does not require a unique telephone number on each telephone device with an Automatic Location Information database record associated along with it, incurring monthly costs. This solution provides public safety with the information needed; when they need it. For larger more complex enterprise deployments, these solutions are completely in line with the NENA i3 Next Generation 911 Framework. This framework allows networks to contribute real-time information such as floor plans, heat sensor information as well as information about the facility, such as the location of nearby fire equipment or AEDs.

Getting to the right facility is important, as noted in my recent blog discussing the role of ANI/ALI and additional data in Next Generation 911 network environments. But the additional data and situational awareness will provide detail to the incident that can save time and lives in faster and appropriate response.

In addition to the House bill introduced by Representative Gohmert, a companion bill S. 2553  was introduced in the Senate by US Senator Amy Klobuchar (D.-Minn), and US Senator Deb Fisher (R.-Neb.) along with Senators John Cornyn (R.-Texas), Ted Cruz (R.-Texas), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). Senator Klobuchar is no stranger to 911. A former prosecutor and the co-chair of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus. The NG911 Institute supports the Caucus, who last year awarded Hank with the “Carla Anderson – Heart of 9-1-1” Advocacy Award: Presented in memory of the Institute’s past Executive Director, Carla Anderson, who recently passed away. This award recognizes an individual or organization whose contribution to public safety mirrors the passion and commitment demonstrated by Carla for 9-1-1. Avaya graciously provided sponsorship for this award, and I had the extreme honor to present this to Hank at the 2015 Event in the Rayburn House Office Building.

 

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Hank Hunt  Commissioner Ajit Pai, Fletch

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FletchHank Hunt, Representative Louie Gohmert

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FletchSenator Deb Fischer, Hank Hunt

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FletchHank HuntSenator John Cornyn

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 Fletch, Senator Amy KlobucharHank Hunt

In an effort to raise awareness about MLTS/PBX 911 programming and compliance, and to support initiatives behind Kari’s law, Hank Hunt has created a 501 (c)3 Non-profit organization: The No Nine Needed Foundation, http://NoNineNeeded.com where you can follow the progress on the initiatives and make a donation to help support the cause.

Print

The Change.Org Petition remains active at http://Change.Org/KarisLaw should you wish to add your name to the list of 550,000 supporters from around the world.

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.

When the Media gives a killer a voice . . .

This post initially appeared on Hank Hunt’s Facebook Page. For those of you that are a regular reader of my Blog, then you understand the close bond I have with this family and the true tragedy that is behind  the situation.  

A little girl who was 9, a mandatory  telephone dial-out prefix of 9, and new laws that are sweeping the nation, state by state and now at the Federal level. Many have said over the years that “Laws exist for when ethics fail”. Unfortunately, that remains true even today, as this problem persisted for so long until legislative pressure created change.

I can assure you that for Hank Hunt, every day starts and ends with thoughts of his daughter. For me it’s an inspiration, for him, well I cannot even begin to imagine what it is. What I can do for him, is provide his voice a platform to speak to others, to get them to stop and think, not just about technology, but about themselves and doing the right thing. Hank writes:


When turning on the nightly news or picking up the local paper what are you looking for

Sports scores?
Obituaries?
National news or local news?

Who do you rely on to bring you the news about your surroundings?

What if one Sunday morning you made your cup of coffee, settled down in your favorite quiet spot, opened your morning paper to see a front page, above the headline fold a photo of the man that murdered your daughter?

Would you read it?
Fold the paper up and throw it away?

Or would you sit frozen, unable to move, a pounding in your chest when the headline suggests that this person is the “inspiration” for a law that will save lives?

That was me.

I actually knew the story would be coming out, I did not know it would give him credit for “inspiring” an initiative to save lives that is supported by many people the world over.

I say it again, he was not the inspiration for my actions concerning Kari’s Law; a law named for my daughter who was murdered in the most horrific way by the man the paper lends credit to for “inspiring” it.

He had no contribution to society the time I knew him and he doesn’t to this day.

Some have said it was my daughter Kari that was the inspiration for Kari’s Law. The fact that she paid the ultimate price for legislation that bears her name doesn’t negate the fact that, weird as it is, she was not the inspiration for Kari’s Law.

The inspiration for Kari’s Law still looks at me with eyes full of wonder and sometimes sadness. She is an active 11-year-old trying to move ahead in her life without her parents.

Put yourself in an 11-year-old child’s place, a child that at 9 years old witnessed her father murder her mother and knowing that she followed the “rules” and the “rules” failed her.

Just a few hours after my daughter’s death this nine-year-old little girl sat on my lap in the lobby of a Police Station and looked at me with eyes that will forever be emblazoned in my mind. Eyes that asked why and eyes that squarely put the blame on myself and every other adult in the United States.

Eyes that said, “ I did what you taught me to do, what my Mother, my teacher, my grandparents, the Police and The Fireman told me to do but it didn’t work.

“I tried 4 times Papa but it didn’t work”

What do you think I said?
Nothing….. what could I say; she was right.

We don’t teach children to dial a “9” first on a Multi-Line Telephone System such as those found in a Hotel or Motel, an office building, a SCHOOL or anywhere a prefix number such as 9 or 8 or 7 are required for an “outside” line.

Those aren’t the only things required by some places. I stayed at a hotel in Waco Texas that required the person using the hotel room phone to dial 6821 in an emergency. Who would that call? Even if you had an emergency would your “lessons” from the past automatically make you stop, look at the phone and “Learn” how this phone reaches 911?If you’re reading this then you probably know the story and I need not bore you with the rest.

The inspiration for Kari’s Law was a 9-year-old little girl that depended on her instruction from adults on how to handle an emergency, and those adults let her down.

Now, it’s the adults who MUST fix the mess they have created. 911 should be 911. If it isn’t available on any phone, anywhere, anytime then the instruction should be removed from every Police car, Fire Truck and Ambulance.

Hank Hunt, Kari’s Dad

www.change.org/KarisLaw
www.NoNineNeeded.com


My friends, there are a small handful of people in this world that truly impress and inspire me. I can tell you that Hank is close to the top of that list. No one would blame him if he crawled into a corner and cried away the rest of his time on Earth. Instead, he decided to promote change, make a difference, and most of all, DO THE RIGHT THING. I can tell you it is an honor and inspiration to know this man, and I appreciate all of the support that my friends have extended to him and his cause. For this, I can only say Thank You!.

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.

Universal Access to Citizen Services

A concern that can exist in nearly any city, county, state, or even country, is that once an easy to remember emergency number, like 911 in the US, 112 across the European Union, and the 999 available in the UK, has been deployed, massive misuse of the system by non-emergency calls starts to put strain on the network; equipment and even staff must now cope with the increase of non-emergency citizen outreach beyond the purpose of the service. Because there isn’t a catchall category of call types, there often isn’t a single, all-encompassing solution to the problem. Technology can help and when properly deployed, is capable of providing support for dealing with many of the strains that are put on Emergency Networks and Systems.

The Architecture Problem

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In the past, when we built and designed networks, solutions were siloed and purpose built, creating disparate and disconnected islands of connectivity. An agency decided what their inbound traffic would be for that particular service, and then engineer the incoming trunks for a P.01 grade of service, meaning that 1 out of every 100 calls could be blocked during the busy hour. This is a standard level that is accepted by the Public Safety industry for Public Safety Answer Points.

But this creates a problem when a service (9-1-1 for example) receives more calls than expected. Normally, they would track analytics and call volume reports that showed the trend information. These reports let them increase the number of positions and trunks to handle the new projected call load. This is normally not a problem for agencies, as they are tasked with providing service to a geographic area, and when the population increases, call volumes increase and budgets should naturally increase.

Unfortunately, quite often, population increases, along with call volume, but agencies are regularly being asked to do much more with less.

BLOG-PO-Pic2While other agencies may exist that can deal with the call volume, the problem still exists of citizens dialing 9-1-1 for everything and anything. To make matter worse since we built the voice networks as independent islands of service, we have likely, albeit unintentionally, created virtual inter-agency barriers that cannot be easily spanned.

Although inter-departmental trunking can easily be created over private or public networks, allowing agencies that have received a call better serviced by another, to simply transfer the call over those interagency facilities, while the caller is communicating with the right resource that can assist them, the original inbound resource is not freed up. This prevents the original agency from taking another call.

BLOG-PO-Pic3The problem where limited trunking connecting the 9-1-1 center to the PSTN still remains an issue, and another blockage point. This can be corrected by removing these problematic trunks from the equation; and moving to an IP pipe that is dynamically flexible where it can be expanded and contracted as needed, based on the application of standard rules logic that takes into consideration the number of available 9-1-1 call takers that are currently available and ready to take calls.

 

Of course, every Public Safety person reading this just got a chill up their spine, and muttered, “Your CRAZY Fletch”, but this is exactly what needs to happen, and this is not new bleeding edge technology. Local carriers have been offering SIP-based trunking services to the commercial market for years. The largest contact centers in the world use this basic architecture to bring calls into their network, and then they decide the best resource to apply to that inbound call.

With the right tools on the right network, solving problems becomes simpler. For example, meet Ava. Ava requires 911 services on a regular basis. She is considered to be, what Public Safety has nicknamed, a ‘Frequent Flyer’.

BLOG-PO-Pic4This term is not meant to be derogatory, in fact, Ava has a medical condition that requires Emergency Transportation much more often that the average citizen, but her condition is usually not life-threatening.

When Ava calls 9-1-1 for medical transport, much of the time, resources are available and immediatelydispatched. But on occasion, Ava’s call arrives in the middle of complete chaos. Because the 9-1-1 network is unable to differentiate Ava’s non-emergency call from any other call being processed by the system, all calls must be treated with the exact same priority level, despite the vast prior history and information that may be available. If this information was collected and examined in a context store and associated to a specific call event, the system can dynamically apply specialized call handling. Simply by knowing that Ava is a frequent flyer caller, and her condition is typically not life-threatening, her call can be answered by a Speech Recognition enabled IVR that collects  relevant information, giving Ava the opportunity to escalate the call to a call taker.

N11 – More than just Emergencies

9-1-1 has been called the most widely recognized ‘brand element’ in the world. Nearly everyone is aware of the number, and despite the attempt to increase awareness of other avenues of access, 9-1-1 remains to be the winner. Unbeknownst to many in the US, several other N-1-1 services are actually available to citizens. In most of the cases, these are geographically routed the same way 9-1-1 emergency calls are routed to centers that are close to the caller. Following the N-1-1 format, these easy to remember numbers are as follows:

2-1-1 – World Health Organization and Red Cross
3-1-1 – Local government non-emergency services
4-1-1Not officially reserved, but often used for local Telco information
5-1-1 – Highway and Traffic information systems
6-1-1Not officially reserved, but often used for local Telco repair
7-1-1 – TDD Relay services for Deaf, Hard of Hearing or Disability
8-1-1 Call before You Dig utility mark-out hotline

While these services can often provide valuable information to citizens, they are often under-publicized, and under-utilized. By consolidating connectivity in the cloud, we gain flexibility in dynamically adjusting the trunking required, and calls destined for other agency remediation. This can effectively eliminate the public education and awareness problem. While the dialed number can be an indicator of the nature of the request, calls can still be handled efficiently and resources are no longer limited and blocked.

Proactive Citizen Outreach

When a known issue exists, reaching out to the public in an affected area can be an effective and proactive countermeasure that can greatly reduce the number of inquiries for more information while reassuring concerned citizens that an issue is being addressed. In addition to providing information, a query can be made to ensure no other issues exist. If the citizen does have an additional concern, the system is already ‘context aware’ of the identity of the citizen, and they can be queued up against the appropriate resource. Upon connection to the person or agency that can provide the additional information they need, information about the previous interaction can be displayed to the call taker, facilitating quicker response and better service levels.

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.

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

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.