Social Media Managment for Government and Public Safety

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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.

E911 Big Data – The Next Horizon

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As we wrap up the events of 2012, I can’t help but look back on the fast-paced evolution that is taken place in the Public Safety industry. In the beginning of the year, NG911 was officially conceived when it was promulgated by the Next Generation 911 Advancement Act of 2012 that was part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act signed into law by the President in February.

By strange coincidence, just nine short months later, NG911 networks are being born around North America with texting to 911 being touted in several areas around the country. With these new emergency services networks being built, and ready to accept the extremely important “additional data” objects that originating networks can easily provide, the days of matching telephone numbers with street addresses in some archaic database that cannot be efficiently and affordably updated, are quickly going to enter their sunset phase.

Some naysayers said it would never happen, or be years into the future, and banked on the continuance of the overburdened backend architecture of the legacy 911 network. Others, took a completely different tact and turned to technology that was not necessarily innovative in its nature, but completely new to public safety networks. New mechanisms of dealing with the “Big Data” available in an emergency situation required a new way of thinking that was essentially foreign to this environment. Fortunately, enterprise businesses have been dealing with the concepts of “Big Data”, whether they knew it or not, since corporate networks came into existence.

“Your call will be answered in the exact order it was received”
Whoever came up with that concept had a very myopic view on business trends.

Unless you are a radio station giving away tickets to the latest concert, “the exact order in which your call was received” is probably the most useless business strategy when dealing with customers. Public Safety also has its share of customers, however those customers are usually calling with life-threatening issues. It’s easy to understand, how in the past, choosing the most important phone call out of a group of 10 would be nearly impossible. All of the buttons on the telephone flash at the same rate, and the ringer on the phone for each line is identical.

There is no indicator that is able to say “Hey! I am more important than the rest!” Given that scenario, potentially the fairest mechanism was “your call will be answered in the exact order it was received”.

Think about that for a second. That argument is really no longer valid, as the business world is full of analytical research. Businesses act a certain way based on statistical data that’s available. It could be consumer shopping habits around a holiday, web browser history and associated keywords, or just about anything else that’s measurable or recordable.

“Your NG911 call will be answered according to priority”
Here’s where the value of additional data, and Big Data, come into play. A classic example that’s commonly used when talking about intelligent call routing in an NG 911 environment is, a motor vehicle accident on the highway is generating 10 or more simultaneous calls into a single PSAP. These calls are identified based on two things. First, their origination network is the cellular network. Secondly the geodetic coordinates of the device match the coordinates of a motor vehicle accident already being worked.

Assumption:  Callers 2 through 10 are most likely calling about the motor vehicle accident. If there are no additional calls in queue, these can be answered “in the exact order in which they were received” following the legacy standards already in place.

But, caller 11 shows up in the queue, and is originating from a landline telephone registered to a residence across town.

Assumption: Caller 11 is most likely NOT calling about the known motor vehicle accident, and therefore is escalated in the queue, or assigned to a call taker who has been reserved for when these conditions have been met.

Those of you who operate enterprise call centers, can already see the pattern developing here. While legacy public safety vendors are busy spinning their wheels trying to figure out how to deliver multimedia sessions to emergency call takers, folks like Avaya have figured that out years ago, and in many cases pretty much invented the call handling functionality, or at least were the first to implement it.

It’s called workforce optimization or WFO, and it’s a common function found within the contact center products. We already know how to deal with “Big Data”, analyze it, and use it to efficiently route to call taker resources in large multisite networks. Although some may say calling a large retailer to complain about your refrigerator delivery carries nowhere near the urgency or resiliency required for public safety, and while I agree there is a significant difference in the nature of the calls, I also need to remind you of some simple facts.

Most recently during hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, the utilities infrastructure was badly damaged with countless individuals out of service. For those citizens who had emergencies, in many cases those calls went to fast busy or unanswered as the legacy 911 network became oversubscribed and the calls went into a black hole “in the exact order they were received”. On the other hand, if you called Delta Airlines to find out if your flight was delayed, you were routed to a resource that could provide you with information or assistance. You might also be able to call your power provider, and based on your customer profile, you may be presented with a power restoration estimate.

The bottom line is that intelligent call handling, offloading calls that matched a particular pattern, and looking at the “Big Data” associated with sessions, the network can dynamically fine tune it’s routing functionality to ensure that “Your call will be routed to the Best Resource, in the exact order in which it was received.”

While doing some research on this topic, I ran across a great article by colleague of mine, Kathy McMahon, who was the Technical Services Manager for APCO International. If you are looking for a nice read on the topic of GIS, take a look at her article from 2010 in Law Officer HERE.

Of course, getting that data into the Emergency Services IP Network is required, but fortunately the one thing we have understood for several years, is how to share data and collaborate across disparate networks in a secure and resilient manner.

She also confirms a point that I also feel very strongly about:
“[although] the conventional concept of civic address validation will continue to be used for NG9-1-1. The terms ANI, ALI and MSAG will go away because their functions will be replaced by GIS databases and a new location validation function (LVF). The GIS data, once validated, will provide location information that will be used for routing emergency calls to PSAPs. All of these elements working together will form the new emergency call routing function (ECRF) that’s a critical component of NG9-1-1.”

My crystal ball says in 2013 “the NG911 adoption rate will be unprecedented in both speed and reach and in addition to Public Safety NG911 ESInet deployments across the US, you will see Enterprise networks providing Big Data to this new eco-system of information.”

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.

HELP! Operator! Gimme the number for 911!


True, it’s funny when Homer says it, but in many places around the world that actually may be a valid question. We talk about the first 911 call in the United States taking place on February 16, 1969 in Haleyville Alabama. But we need to look back even further to find the very first emergency call ever made, with the exception of Alexander Graham Bell calling for Watson when he spills battery acid on himself, as the story goes.

As typically the case, it was a disaster when lives were lost; 1935 five women died during the fire in Wimpole Street in London. Apparently neighbors, who had to dial zero and ask the operator for police fire or ambulance, found that the telephone operator switchboard had been jammed with calls, and weren’t able to get through.

The General Post Office, which ran the telephone network in London, decided that a new three digit number could be used to reach emergency services. Additionally, it would be able to trigger specialized alerting that would indicate to the operators the presence of an emergency call. The alerting was accomplished by flashing lights and an audio device called a “Hooter”. I’ll give you all a second to finish your childish snickering. All done? Great. The number chosen was 999, and if you want the reasoning behind that there is a great article by the BBC that tells the entire story.

Currently, across the European Union member states, 112 is typically recognized as the official emergency number. Although in most places the legacy numbers are also recognized. One of the problems Europeans experience, according to the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), is the lack of knowledge of 112 as the EU wide emergency number according to recent surveys. Only single-digit percentage growths have been seen over the past five years with three out of four European citizens still not aware that they can dial 112 all over Europe.

This past month at an International Telecommunications Union (ITU) conference on UN telecommunications regulations in Dubai, 193 nations committed to decide between either 911 or 112 as a standard global emergency number for new generations of mobile phones and other devices. If you’re going to go that far, and actually state one or the other, then, in my opinion, it only makes sense to support both.

Let’s face it, we’ve invested so much in our 911 education in North America, that it would just be counterproductive to “change” the designated emergency number. The same holds true in the European Union where 112 has been highlighted. Even adding in 999, popular in London and the United Kingdom, would limit the list to three, something certainly manageable at most levels.

PBX or MLTS administrators, in addition to remediating their 911 dialing, should examine their user base and understand the need to support additional emergency numbers. 911 and 9-911 are obvious 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. Just make sure that you translate anything that is not 911 to the digits 911 as today’s carrier networks are probably not provisioned to recognize 112 or 999 as emergency numbers.

Oddly enough, this isn’t the case on most cellular networks today. In fact, not only does my iPhone recognize 112 as an emergency number, putting the device in “emergency mode”, it translates the 112 numbers to 911, where the network then connects me as if I had dialed 911 myself.


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 Which is another reason why routing emergency calls based on telephone numbers is an archaic architecture that does not fit the next generation 911 model, and we have to STOP relying on phone numbers as location references. In order to maintain phone number to location correlation, there’s far too much automation, complexity, and expense associated with that. Moving forward, based on this thinking, emergency services will be able to migrate to simply “SOS” as an emergency destination address, and location information will be conveyed in the PIDF-LO location object in the SIP header.

Once that problem is solved, Homer can start working on a real problem:

I like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a safe, happy and healthy holiday of your choice. I greatly appreciate your support, and interest in fixing the emergency number problems in your MLTS/PBX systems, as well as those of you in the 911 industry itself, I would like to thank you for all that you do. Although I’m not a 911 “frequent-flier”, I’ve had enough incidents over the past couple years to personally appreciate the personal sacrifices you make and the dedication you give to your jobs.

Next week I’ll be taking off for the holidays, but, I’ll go through the 120 podcast and special reports, and post the most popular episode over the past two years.

We’ll see you back live on Friday, December 28 where will do a 2012 year-end wrap-up. Until then, take care, enjoy your families, and once again have a safe and happy holiday.

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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