Does 911 Work in Government Buildings?

On February 22nd, 2012, President Obama signed H.R. 3630, also known as the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012  into  law. In this Act, under Section 6504 -REQUIREMENTS FOR MULTILINE TELEPHONE SYSTEMS- it  states explicitly that “[T]he Administrator of General Services, in conjunction with the Office, shall issue a report to Congress identifying the 911 capabilities of the multiline telephone system in use by all federal agencies in all federal buildings and properties.” The GSA, in addition to being the purchasing arm of the US Government, is the agency responsible for constructing, managing, and preserving government buildings by leasing and managing commercial real estate. According to their website,, the agency also promotes management best practices and efficient government operations through the development of government-wide policies, and their mission is “[T]o deliver the best value in real estate, acquisition, and technology services to government and the American people.” In total, they are responsible for nearly 10,000 federally owned or leased buildings, all of which would have been covered by the aforementioned GSA report that was required by Congress. It only seems logical that the US Government, a large Enterprise in itself, would have the same concerns that commercial businesses have with proper 911 access from Federal Buildings.

The Dog Ate my Homework

As of Saturday, June 18, 2016, that report remains 1308 days (three years and seven months) past due. The Act also required that no later than 90 days after the date of enactment, a notice is issued seeking comment from MLTS manufacturers on the feasibility of including within all systems manufactured mechanisms to provide sufficiently precise indications of a 911 callers location.

MLTS manufacturers have long since responded with features and functionality to address emergency calling from these types of systems systems, and most, if not all, contain the basic capabilities to deal with the situation, requiring add-on functionality for only the more complex environments. There still remains, however, a lack of awareness and in many cases these features are not properly configured or  implemented. This simple lack of awareness leaves many government employees at risk. History has proven time and time again that this problem knows no boundaries  affecting schools, businesses, hotels, and any other facility where a multi-line telephone system is used. While admittedly, surveying all 9,600 properties reportedly under the control of GSA, the mandate ordered in this Law was not to remediate the problem; the mandate was to produce a report on the scope and expanse on the problem.

What You Don’t Know MAY Hurt You

It is only with the information from this report that the facts become well understood, and assessments of the risk can be made. If nothing else, awareness of the problem will be raised.  Despite the current situation, has every new facility opened or upgraded in the past three years had this situation addressed? Likely not. The problem is well known, and documented, and to ignore it at this point is simply foolish and borderline egregious.

Case in point, the Federal Communications Commission headquarters building in Washington, DC itself was noncompliant and unable to dial 911 directly, as reported by FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly in his June 2, 2014, blog. Commissioner O’Reilly reported, “Our employees and any visitors must dial 9-911 to reach help in an emergency.  I asked that the agency look into options for fixing this problem.  Since then, we have learned how simple reprogramming our telephone system would be.” A short time later, Chairman Tom Wheeler ordered the system to be reprogrammed, and FCC staff are now able to dial 911 directly.

This glaring lack of compliance for basic emergency calling could have been noted on a report issued by the GSA on multiline telephone system capabilities for emergency calling, had they produced one. But unfortunately, they did not, and as of this point that report is more than a year and a half overdue. How many other buildings suffer this same ailment? Likely many if history in the Enterprise space is any indicator.

fcc-commissioner-ajit-pai-cropOn March 11, 2015, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai sent a letter to acting GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth asking about the status of this report directly requested by Congress, and as part of the Law enacted with HR 3630. At the time the letter was sent, the report was 843 days overdue, yet to this date, there has been nothing but silence from the GSA. One has to wonder, if we need to wait for another tragedy to occur, and an innocent life lost before we recognize this simple problem and address it? The other burning questions are; Why is the GSA withholding this information? Have they done any work at all in the past 3 1/2 years? Are they worried that they are so out of compliance that a considerable expense would be required to correct the issue?

Is is Broken? Then FIX IT!

If the GSA is responsible for facilities and the technology, I am sure this also includes maintenance coverage for ‘break-fix’ matters that come up from time to time. I will offer the point of view that if my phone system will not dial 911 effectively and report the proper information to local emergency services personnel, then that system is broken, and should be fixed. We can no longer ignore this critical life safety issue. Additionally, how bold do you have to be to ignore a formal request by an FCC Commissioner? Obviously, brave enough to also overlook a mandated order by the U.S. Congress, as designated by Federal law.

One also has to wonder, where is the US GAO in all of this? This independent, nonpartisan agency works for Congress and is often called the “congressional watchdog,” part of their job is to investigate how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. If MLTS systems were purchased, and not able to dial 911, I would imagine that could be argued as a point of dispute, between the US Government and the supplier. At least for any system purchased and installed after Congress passed the bill and it became law.

Who’s shoulders does this fall on? According to their web page, the head of GAO, the Comptroller General of the United States, is appointed to a 15-year term by the President from a slate of candidates Congress proposes. Gene L. Dodaro became the eighth Comptroller General of the United States and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on December 22, 2010, when he was confirmed by the United States Senate. He was nominated by President Obama in September of 2010 from a list of candidates selected by a bipartisan, bicameral congressional commission. He had been serving as Acting Comptroller General since March of 2008.

Who Let the Dog Out? No One

If the GAO is the “Congressional watchdog”, shouldn’t they look into this issue? I believe so. Transparency, openly ignoring authority, and failure to perform tasks that are legally obligated seems to be something that would be right in their wheelhouse.

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.


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Predictive Assistance via Caller Context

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

The Architecture Problem:


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


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

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

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

Fig. 2 Interagency trunking disrupts traffic engineering formulas

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


Fig. 3 – Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet)

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


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

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

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

N11 – More than just Emergencies

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

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

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

Proactive Citizen Outreach

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

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


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

Mr. Hunt Goes To Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



Hank Hunt  Commissioner Ajit Pai, Fletch


FletchHank Hunt, Representative Louie Gohmert


FletchSenator Deb Fischer, Hank Hunt


FletchHank HuntSenator John Cornyn


 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, where you can follow the progress on the initiatives and make a donation to help support the cause.


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.

The future of ANI/ALI in NG911 Networks

What is ANI?

ANI is Automatic Number Identification. The ANI is a 10-digit Telephone Number (TN)  associated with a device originating a 9-1-1 call. The ANI may be the actual number of a device, such as at your home; it may be a number that represents your Billing Telephone Number (BTN). This representation is often the case when calling from a business MLTS / PBX; it also may be called an Emergency Location Identification Number (ELIN), often used to indicate a more granular location within a business, especially in large campus or building environments.

What is ALI?

ALI is Automatic Location Identification. The ALI information is the ‘911 call location data’ that is displayed to the 9-1-1 call taker on their computer display when answering 9-1-1 calls. The company designated as the State E911 provider provides the maintenance of the ALI database. As telephone numbers are installed, decommissioned, and moved from address to address, the carriers generate Service Order Interface records, and these are used to update the ALI database.

ANI-ALI-AvayaThe format of the ALI records is defined by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and designates the size and order of the fields containing information such as Business Name, Apartment or Suite number, Street Address with Suffix and Prefix, City and State, as well as other fields of relevant information.

While several variants of the record format exist, all have a specific field used to populate the location information of a device. Depending on the ALI version in use in a particular area, these location fields only contain between 11 and 60 characters of information. For a telephone to have an ALI record associated with it, there must be a unique corresponding ANI or Telephone Number. It is this unique number requirement, and the monthly recurring charges from the LEC, that makes the use and management of this process for 9-1-1, both complex and costly. This leaves the level of detail as the remaining value of the information, also known as the “ALI Granularity” covered in detail below.

ALI Granularity

There continues to be considerable debate on ALI Granularity or the precision of the location information contained in the ALI record. For example, in our homes, and on our home telephone lines, the level of granularity is the address of your home. If you call from the bedroom, the living room, or the kitchen, the same address gets reported. The reason for this is because all of the telephone devices share a single phone line, and therefore a single telephone number with the 9-1-1 network. The telephone company uses your Caller ID as your ANI for billing purposes, and to decide what 9-1-1 center your call should be routed to. In the Emergency Network, this functionality is known as Selective Routing. When the call arrives at the PSAP, specialized equipment extracts the ANI and uses it to query a database housed by the Local Exchange Carrier for a matching ALI database record. This record contains the billing address, or ALI information, associated with that ANI. This is location information, commonly referred to as the Dispatchable Address, is used to dispatch particular units to the specific incident.

While most of us have homes that are single buildings at single address locations, the same is not always true for commercial MLTS PBX systems. For example, if you are in a corporate campus environment with multiple buildings, it is important to at least send a unique ANI telephone number for each building on the property. This allows the PSAP 9-1-1 call taker to best understand the address to give to 1st responders.

Get that Fire Truck out of my lobby!

There are constant and considerably important discussions taking place amongst industry professionals regarding the level of detail of an address that is considered to be suitable for the dispatch of emergency services.While industry experts regularly debate the pluses and minuses of the various methods, these discussions often spark deep debates. Fire-Truck-In-LobbyUnfortunately, very little thought is given to those who have to actually perform the task of responding, and therefore, most evidence that is offered appears to be anecdotal at best and by those that have no real-life experience.

At one extreme, “Public Safety 1st responders must have the greatest level of detail on the location of the person calling 9-1-1” is claimed. At the other end, “You can’t get the Police Car, Fire Truck, any closer than the door”, is the counterpart argument. While there may be no one single correct answer to ALI granularity, as every building and the level of on-site services is unique, IT administrators responsible for developing the 9-1-1 response plan must consider the choices.

ANI/ALI in Next Generation 9-1-1 Networks

As the country moves to NG9-1-1 architectures, the obvious question is, “What happens to ANI/ALI Data in NG9-1-1?” Quite simply, it ultimately goes away.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 9.05.51 PM

The NENA i3 Functional Framework for a Next Generation 9-1-1 network provides a mechanism for the origination device or network to supply location related information in the SIP Message SETUP Header. Any Functional Element that can use this information has access to it, and therefore the need for ANI/ALI is eliminated.

Educating Public Safety 1st Responders

Building a public safety plan for your enterprise should never be done in isolation. In addition to consulting with IT administrators, Human Resources, Facilities staff and Security personnel, local Public Safety is often forgotten in the process. The solution to this is knowing who to ask for, what to ask them, and educating them about your facility while they educate you about their job and their capabilities.

Situational Awareness

The new Gold Standard in Enterprise Emergency response Solutions is detailed Situational Awareness coupled with Emergency Response Locations (ERLs) as defined by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). Identifying the location of the emergency to a reasonably defined area on a specific floor in a specific address, and then correlating that with on-site additional information, the response granularity concerns are addressed that satisfy the emergency first responders and the number of database records required is minimized to a level that does not waste precious financial resources on excessively granular information that is not relevant to the very people who are responding.  While detailed location information such as Cube 2C-231 is very specific, the chances that an external first responder will have sufficient knowledge of the building and location of that designation are minimal. On the other hand, INTERNAL emergency response personnel need that level of detail in order to deliver prearrival care or assistance before public safety arrives on-scene, and are ready to lead the response team to the appropriate area.

9-1-1 in the Enterprise does not have to be complex, or expensive; if it is, you have likely have not addressed the problem, or invested in the wrong technology to solve the problem.

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.

Breaker 911: 50-Year Old Technology Saves Lives

You can never know where technology will rear its head. Most of the time it is based on the future, but many times it can be based on our past. This week, I proudly turn my blog over to Professor Ima Pharceur, PhD. Professor Pharceur is the noted Chief Research Scientist at the world-class Social Media Communications and Information Sharing Institute of Technology (SMCISIT for short) in Brussels, Belgium.


Next Generation Citizen Band Emergency Services

There is no doubt that Social Media is deeply embedded in our daily lives today, however, it’s roots can be traced back to a Social Media craze that was popular 4 decades ago in the mid-70’s. Millions of people all over the country, and the world installed small, low powered two-way radio transmitters in their cars to talk to each other, converse with over the road truckers, and report emergencies to teams of dedicated people and police agencies monitoring CB Channel ‘9’, the official Emergency Hailing Frequency for the Citizen Band Radio Communications and Information Radio Relay System, or CBRCIRRS for short.

The Federal Communications Commission established Citizen Band Radios as a core system of low powered short-distance radio communications between endpoints on the same channel within the possible 40 channels that all exist in the 27 MHz (11 m) band.

This frequency range is distinct and separate from the existing Family Radio System (FRS), General Mobile Radio System (GMRS), Multi Use Radio System (MURS), and Amateur Radio Service commonly known as “ham” radio systems.

Unlike it’s more powerful cousins the Ham Radio, operation often does not require a license, and it may be used for both business or personal communications, and refrigeration is not required as with most Ham products. Since the frequencies, better known as channels, are open in nature, any user can share the channel in a simplex type of operation. This means that while one station transmits; other stations listen and wait for the channel to be available.

Initially, 23 channels were assigned by the FCC, however due to popularity in the late 70’s and 80’s, a massive increase in use was seen, and the FCC allocated and additional 17 frequencies, bringing the total to 40. To remain backward compatible with radios already in place, Channel ‘9’ remained as the designated emergency channel.

Today, with Next Generation Emergency Services on the cusp of deployment across the US, and with 3.5 Million professional truckers on the road in the US, that is potentially 14 Million individual eyes or ears that are keeping watch over every quarter square mile if distributed evenly.

CB-911-CircuitWith most radios in use today being digital in nature, the addition of a new additional channel, specifically designed for NG911 usage is a simple low-cost addition to nearly any radio transmitter. In an effort not to ‘step on’ existing communities and their usage of the existing public airways, this new technology, patented by the SMC Institute, uses a new Bi-Polar Wave Guide Induction Ionosphere Relay Circuit or B-PWIIRC for short, to create a new dynamic frequency waveguide that is capable of transmitting information at speeds equaling 100 Gbs, which is perfect for voice, video, text, email, IM, Internet Relay Chat, TTY-TDD, and Morse Code, making it 100% backwards compatible with technology.

200px-CrazyeddieThis very well may be the thing that brings corporations like RadioShack and Syosset, NY-based Lafayette Electronics back into business, and there are rumors that the estate of ‘Crazy’ Eddie Antar is interested in setting up mobile sales venues in Truck Stops and Shopping Malls across the northeast.

Next Generation Emergency Services expert Mark J. Fletcher, ENP from Avaya was quoted as saying, “I’ve run the numbers myself, and what they are claiming seems to work out, mathematically speaking. Obviously, rigorous interoperability testing will be required.” Fletcher added that he see’s several uses for the product, like summoning local drones and passing truckers to emergent events, because they “usually carry band-aids, and many times are armed.”

The system is only compatible with 911 solutions today, but being digitally based, there are already models on the drawing board for 112 and 999 solutions in the UK and Europe. With the 3D printing capabilities that exist now, anything that is on the drawing board is a real possibility.


Thanks to Doctor Pharceur for his tireless work on this topic, and I hope that he keeps the hammer down, and things are clean and green as he brings this technology to fruition. Happy April 1st everyone!

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

GUEST BLOG: Leaving a Legacy 9-1-1 Style

Those who have chosen 9-1-1 as a career have a unique legacy. They have chosen to work in a job of self-sacrifice. Frankly, the financial rewards aren’t commensurate with the sacrifice of family and emotional toll the job takes. I am also always taken back by how active our “industry” is in fund raising for fellow telecommunicators or responders that are having issues or just the willingness to volunteer time to help in charitable causes or even to further the industry itself. The NG911 standards development process itself is a testament to volunteerism.

Additionally, telecommunicators are in the unique role of rarely seeing the results of their daily efforts and sacrifice. Unlike the EMT who revives a patient, or the law enforcement officer who prevents an altercation from escalating, those manning the phones rarely see the outcome of their efforts (whether positive or negative). It is for this reason, stress management is such a critical issue for telecommunicators. There is rarely closure on an incident.

Unfortunately, those serving in 9-1-1 rarely see the impact they have on those they are helping. As we approach National Telecommunicator week (April 10-16, 2016) and reflect on the profession, I’m glad to see the number of awards honoring those who go beyond the call of duty (shameless plug for our own Smart Telecommunicator awards), but I can’t help but think of all the lives impacted that our industry doesn’t know about or never hears from. Our engineering and services team loves to hear about how our products helped in a response. It is encouraging and motivating and I’m always getting pumped for more details. I work with a non-profit that helps expectant mothers. It is always a joy for the volunteers when those mothers come in and show off their new babies. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a better way for our telecommunicators to get some of that kind of feedback on the results of their efforts? Even if just a short optional survey at the end of a shift for the responders?

Even if we often don’t have the feedback that would be so encouraging, I’d like those of you who man the radios and phones to think about the legacy you passed on this week that you may never know about. The father that will come home to his family because of the rapid dispatch of EMS, the young woman that was safely removed from a violent situation because you recognized something wasn’t right in her voice, or maybe it was just a confused elderly caller that you coached to call a loved one who was able to help them. I’m sure the legacy you left on those families will be more impactful than a winning tip for blackjack.

Thanks for that excellent article Todd. It is something that we all should think about and consider in our daily jobs. The things we do today, may live on for decades to come, and we must set the ultimate example of best practices and procedures for those behind us to follow.  To the tens of thousands of Public Safety Officials that provide us with a safe environment, to you I say, “Thank You”, your efforts are greatly appreciated.


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.



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


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.


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.


The BEST thing I stole this Christmas

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

Originally published on Rave Mobile Safety’s Blog Site


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

Costly Failures

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

Kari’s Law

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

Location, Location, Location

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

FirstNet Drives Public Safety Investment

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

Technology Adoption Marches On… and Into Public Safety

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

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



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

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

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

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