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.

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

Gohmert-Fletch-Hank-April-16

FletchHank Hunt, Representative Louie Gohmert

Fischer-Fletch-Hank-April-16

FletchSenator Deb Fischer, Hank Hunt

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FletchHank HuntSenator John Cornyn

Klobuchar-Fletch-Senate-April-16

 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.

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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

BLOG-PO-Pic1

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.

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.