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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs


Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he directs the strategic roadmap for Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, in 2014 – 2015 he served as co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the European Union, providing valuable insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

Solution? Or Knee-Jerk Reaction?


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

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

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and is an active participant in EENA where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward best practices in both innovation and compliance.

Social Media Managment for Government and Public Safety

Group Of Business People Working And Global Networking Themed Im

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

The entire World is now Online

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

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

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

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

Intelligent filtering and classifying

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

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

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

Hacking 911: Is the Genie out of the Bottle?

For many years a level of frailty has existed in the nation’s 911 network and its primary level of protection has been “security through obscurity“. The configuration of the network and details of its inner workings were not documented, at least not publicly, and only a relatively small group of people understood the actual operations. With modern-day communications, social media, and the growingly popular hacker community events it was only a matter of time before the proverbial ‘genie’ was let out of its bottle. Information on hacking 911 networks and systems going mainstream with it.

Certainly one of the oldest hacker conventions on the planet, and by far the largest, is the DEF CON event held in Las Vegas. 2014 marked the 22nd year of this event, but it also had some significance to the public safety community. You see, it was on Saturday, August 10 at the 10 AM Track 2 session where Christian Dameff, MD (@CDameffMD )and Jeff Tully, MD (@jefftullymd) openly discuss the archaic nature of the 911 dispatch system and its failure to evolve with technology over recent years. In addition to being recently graduated medical doctors they are both DEF CON regulars and described themselves as “researchers with a passion for the intersection between security and healthcare”.

One of the things they noticed is that quite often when 911 recordings are released to the public they include DTMF tones that can be decoded. This could unintentionally expose information about the caller as well as the agency, which in turn could be used in a denial of service attack.

Based on this I would expect to see new NENA and APCO recommendations to public safety agencies that redacted these tones on future distributions of 911 call audio. Which would be a huge step in the direction of protecting the skimming of this sensitive information.

For the past several years in my Avaya CONNECTED Blog, I’ve been covering the various SWATTING attacks that have plagued public safety agencies large and small. Fortunately, most of those incidents have utilized relatively rudimentary tactics that included social engineering of a relay service operator who provides service designed for the deaf and hearing impaired. Many times those attempts will leave trace elements behind, and with tenacious investigation efforts many times the executors of those crimes are found, prosecuted, and sentenced.

Hacking the telephone network is certainly nothing new. Whether it was the “blue box” built by Steve Wozniak, or the Cap’nCrunch whistle used by John Draperthat could be modified to emit a perfect 2600 Hz tone (effectively putting the nation’s long-distance network at your beck and call), hacking has been an active pastime of many of the great innovators today.

Its original use was to bypass the incredibly high toll charges we were subject to by the telephone company for long-distance and international calls. Phone phreaking went mainstream when the story was published in the October 1971 issue of Esquire Magazine. A copy of that article is available online here.

While phreaking has all but died out, since toll fraud is no longer popular thanks to flat rate cellular plans and unlimited home phone long distance available for unbelievably low rates, phone “phreaking” took on a more sinister nature.

Will the recent Wired article have the same impact on hacking E911 that the Esquire article had on hacking telecommunications? While that’s yet to be seen, the potential impact is certainly much more dire, and that is something Public Safety needs to consider.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the EU, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.


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