State of Emergency?

9-1-1. It is likely the most well recognized ‘brand’ in the world. It is the three digits every man, woman and child know by heart recognized around the world. 

To provide a dispatchable location to emergency responders today’s Enterprise telephone system administrators have relied on the Automatic Number Identification / Automatic Location Information (ANI/ALI) database for years. This database provided 911 dispatchers a cross-reference, or reverse lookup of telephone numbers to critical dispatch location addresses. Another function of this core component was to work in conjunction with the Selective Router Database (SRDB) used to route calls in the PSTN to the right agency. This allowed number portability, among other things

However, it appears CenturyLink has provided their Washington State Enterprise accounts with notice that they plan to discontinue their critical PS-ALI services effective May 8, 2019. After this date, enterprise customers must establish a replacement service of their own through a 3rd party provider.

They specifically state in their customer notice:

It is the responsibility of the customer to update the PS/ALI database (via a third-party vendor) with the individual station address information.

A copy of the new Tarifs regarding this change can be found online here.

Time for a change?

This is troubling, as the short window of remediation is going to require MLTS system operators to make a snap judgment on a technology they may not fully understand, and the predatory sales tactics of some providers may hook an Enterprise into a long-term contract for services with a minimal roadmap to the future of NG911.

For our valued Avaya customers, WE CAN HELP. Don’t get caught up in the alphabet soup of acronyms you barely understand. We have our customer’s best interests at heart, and there are many ways to address this problem. Our team of industry experts is standing by ready to help you assess your current position, and guide new solutions that solve the p[roblem today, and well into the future. Kari’s Law is federally mandated starting February 16, next year, and the Ray Baum’s Act Section 506, is following close behind requiring dispatchable addresses.

The Avaya SENTRY™ solution was designed and built to provide full NG911 functionality, even over today’s legacy networks, complete compliance with all laws (active now and in the future), and deliver critical pre-arrival instructions to 1st responders with the actionable information they need to do their jobs. We are here for you to help you decide what’s right for YOUR business.

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
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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.

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