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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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.

When the Media gives a killer a voice . . .

This post initially appeared on Hank Hunt’s Facebook Page. For those of you that are a regular reader of my Blog, then you understand the close bond I have with this family and the true tragedy that is behind  the situation.  

A little girl who was 9, a mandatory  telephone dial-out prefix of 9, and new laws that are sweeping the nation, state by state and now at the Federal level. Many have said over the years that “Laws exist for when ethics fail”. Unfortunately, that remains true even today, as this problem persisted for so long until legislative pressure created change.

I can assure you that for Hank Hunt, every day starts and ends with thoughts of his daughter. For me it’s an inspiration, for him, well I cannot even begin to imagine what it is. What I can do for him, is provide his voice a platform to speak to others, to get them to stop and think, not just about technology, but about themselves and doing the right thing. Hank writes:

When turning on the nightly news or picking up the local paper what are you looking for

Sports scores?
National news or local news?

Who do you rely on to bring you the news about your surroundings?

What if one Sunday morning you made your cup of coffee, settled down in your favorite quiet spot, opened your morning paper to see a front page, above the headline fold a photo of the man that murdered your daughter?

Would you read it?
Fold the paper up and throw it away?

Or would you sit frozen, unable to move, a pounding in your chest when the headline suggests that this person is the “inspiration” for a law that will save lives?

That was me.

I actually knew the story would be coming out, I did not know it would give him credit for “inspiring” an initiative to save lives that is supported by many people the world over.

I say it again, he was not the inspiration for my actions concerning Kari’s Law; a law named for my daughter who was murdered in the most horrific way by the man the paper lends credit to for “inspiring” it.

He had no contribution to society the time I knew him and he doesn’t to this day.

Some have said it was my daughter Kari that was the inspiration for Kari’s Law. The fact that she paid the ultimate price for legislation that bears her name doesn’t negate the fact that, weird as it is, she was not the inspiration for Kari’s Law.

The inspiration for Kari’s Law still looks at me with eyes full of wonder and sometimes sadness. She is an active 11-year-old trying to move ahead in her life without her parents.

Put yourself in an 11-year-old child’s place, a child that at 9 years old witnessed her father murder her mother and knowing that she followed the “rules” and the “rules” failed her.

Just a few hours after my daughter’s death this nine-year-old little girl sat on my lap in the lobby of a Police Station and looked at me with eyes that will forever be emblazoned in my mind. Eyes that asked why and eyes that squarely put the blame on myself and every other adult in the United States.

Eyes that said, “ I did what you taught me to do, what my Mother, my teacher, my grandparents, the Police and The Fireman told me to do but it didn’t work.

“I tried 4 times Papa but it didn’t work”

What do you think I said?
Nothing….. what could I say; she was right.

We don’t teach children to dial a “9” first on a Multi-Line Telephone System such as those found in a Hotel or Motel, an office building, a SCHOOL or anywhere a prefix number such as 9 or 8 or 7 are required for an “outside” line.

Those aren’t the only things required by some places. I stayed at a hotel in Waco Texas that required the person using the hotel room phone to dial 6821 in an emergency. Who would that call? Even if you had an emergency would your “lessons” from the past automatically make you stop, look at the phone and “Learn” how this phone reaches 911?If you’re reading this then you probably know the story and I need not bore you with the rest.

The inspiration for Kari’s Law was a 9-year-old little girl that depended on her instruction from adults on how to handle an emergency, and those adults let her down.

Now, it’s the adults who MUST fix the mess they have created. 911 should be 911. If it isn’t available on any phone, anywhere, anytime then the instruction should be removed from every Police car, Fire Truck and Ambulance.

Hank Hunt, Kari’s Dad

My friends, there are a small handful of people in this world that truly impress and inspire me. I can tell you that Hank is close to the top of that list. No one would blame him if he crawled into a corner and cried away the rest of his time on Earth. Instead, he decided to promote change, make a difference, and most of all, DO THE RIGHT THING. I can tell you it is an honor and inspiration to know this man, and I appreciate all of the support that my friends have extended to him and his cause. For this, I can only say Thank You!.

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

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

The New Eyes and Ears of Public Safety  

Press PLAY to listen to the Podcast on SoundCloud

Calling for help or assistance in an emergency is one of the core capabilities in almost any communications platform. When a good day turns into a bad day, information about the emergency is critical. But that is not what it has always been about. When the first 911 network was implemented in Haleyville Alabama in 1968, the primary purpose was ease of access. Up until then, local seven digit numbers were used in each municipality to reach police, fire and ambulance services. Not only did you need to know where you were, you needed to know the local telephone number of the agency you needed.

Initially, 911 systems only routed callers to local police agencies, eliminating the need to know and dial specific local access numbers. Caller ID had not yet been introduced, therefore  Public safety agencies still needed to ascertain the location of the incident, as well as the nature of the call. In the mid-80s caller ID services, among others, were introduced into the new digital central offices being deployed. This information provided public safety agencies with their first taste of “data” being delivered with emergency calls. A short time later, that caller ID information known as ANI (Automatic Number Identification) was used to retrieve billing address information, which then provided public safety with a dispatch-able address.

While public safety technology decided to pick this point and form a beachhead, the digital age and technological evolution continued to move forward driven by the emergence of the “technology bubble”. Computers became a part of our everyday life, and the Internet provided Global connectivity and interaction at levels never thought possible. Technology allowed communications to become ingrained in the social fabric of our lives, expanding audio and voice into email and instant messages, and ultimately video communications as broadband networks and handheld devices capable of delivering Omni channel experiences became ubiquitous.

Once citizens began using  these new multimodal forms of communications in their day-to-day lives, commercial businesses realized the value of reaching those customers through similar channels, and commercial social media became a powerful marketing channel. Obviously, with this new form of communications available to reach the masses, public safety began to jump on the bandwagon, albeit quite slowly at first. Because public safety had put a stake in the ground so early in the evolution of the technology, they found themselves locked into legacy environments all designed prior to the emergence of common best practices that are in place today. Because of this, the emergence of newer technologies has been difficult, as seen by the slow adoption of text to 911 services, which is deployed in less than 10% of the 6800 or so 911 centers that exist in the US today. In fact, although a very small number, there are still some 911 centers that do not receive location information, or Enhanced 911 service.


While we talk about improving 911 solutions for specific commercial environments like Kari’s Law requiring direct access to 911 in hotels, and the iLoc8 utility providing cellular device location accuracy and multimedia, these concepts are valid at a much higher level. Direct access to emergency services is important in any environment, including schools, businesses, or any other facility where the public may use the telephone device to summon emergency services. It is also our corporate responsibility, something that Avaya takes great pride in, to educate not only our younger generation, but government regulators that define legislation and requirements surrounding access to public safety communications. Knowledge is power, and education raises awareness. Just 681 days after Kari Hunt was murdered at a hotel in Marshall Texas, another stabbing took place. But this time, when 911 was dialed, the call went through and help arrived in time to save their life.

Public safety communications don’t have to be complex. Public safety solutions don’t have to be expensive, in the enterprise, or in 911 centers. Public safety solutions need to be resilient, reliable, and redundant. They need to take advantage of the way we communicate today, and utilize the technologies that are commonplace. We have moved to a mobile environment of connected broadband devices, and just like the massive commercial customer contact centers that we build around the world, public safety needs to embrace the same technologies for life safety solutions, and stop wasting money on prolonging legacy architectures that are inefficient, and a drain on the industry.

In the past three decades we have moved from an environment where fax machines barely existed, to where full multimedia broadband devices can fit in our pocket. Shouldn’t we be able to move public safety in to this same environment within the next decade?

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, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

E911 Big Data – The Next Horizon

Screenshot 2015-10-25 13.57.05

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.

Why 911 May Cost You Far More than a Phone Call


When you’re planning the 911 strategy for your facility, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you need an access code (like 9) to make a 9-1-1 call?
  • Are any common area phones in lobbies restricted from makling 9-1-1 calls?
  • If you dialed 9-1-1 from your PBX telephone right now, would anyone in your facility know you needed help?
  • Would you easily be able to be found in your building?
  • If you suddenly felt chest pains and dialed 9-1-1, but couldn’t speak, would the PSAP Dispatcher know where to send emergency responder based only on what they saw on their dispatch console?
  • What if your call was disconnected, would the 9-1-1 dispatcher be able to call you back?
  • If you were unable to answer, would someone else get the call?

QUESTION: How do I fix the problem? The logic is simple, send the wrong caller ID, and you could be sent to the wrong PSAP, or the call taker gets the wrong address. Either way the help you need is delayed. It’s that simple. On E9-1-1 calls you need to send a telephone number that has an ALI database entry that is relevant to where you are. The problem that VoIP brings to the table is that the telephone itself is extremely nomadic in nature, and users can easily move locations, without the aid of an administrator while retaining their phone number. If not properly managed, technology can lead to a horrible tragedy if the 9-1-1 handlng is not addressed.

QUESTION: What is the REAL Cost of 911? If you have gotten a quote for 9-1-1 on your communications system, you may have gotten a cost of as low as a few thousand dollars, or a quote of $50,000 or more depending on who you asked and how big your network is. I’ve seen proposals encompassing an entire state and all its agencies exceeding one million dollars. Fortunately, when planned properly, E911 can be deployed at a reasonable price that is cost effective on a per user basis.

QUESTION: What is the business case for implementing E9-1-1? Peter Krautle, Managing Principal of Avaya’s Strategic Communications Consulting group, recently created an interesting business case for E911 using liability avoidance. The model is fairly simple and easily cusotmized for your business. Contact Peter via email here if you’re interested in applying this financial model to your specific scenario. Peter will be more than happy to help, just mention the Avaya CONNECTED E911 Blog in your email.

QUESTION: Still don’t think you can I afford E911? When it comes right down to it, what you really can’t afford is a lawsuit. Even if you were to spend $30,000, on a solution, most likely that would be only a fraction of the retainer required for a lawyer to defend you in a liability suit. Also, did you stop and consider that you may be in violation of OSHA for not maintaining a safe workplace? In today’s litigious society, is it worth the risk?

Another common excuse I hear regularly is that “Only 16 states currently have legislation, and we are not one of them.” or worse, “We only bought E911 for our Chicago office due to the laws and not for the South Carolina office since there was no law there.”

Think twice about this approach, and run it past your Legal Department. These may end up being decisions that are scrutinized by twelve people with no telecom experience sitting in front of you and your company on a jury; Not to mention the negative local press that may be published about you.

QUESTION: What are the E911 Laws? PBX 911 specific laws, in the 16 states that do have them, are available on the NENA website. But remember, they are there to define requirements for E911 compliance. What most of them fail to do, however, is assign penalties for non-compliance with the law. Let’s not get confused here; this has nothing to do with your company’s liability and duty to maintain a safe work environment. The lack of a law is a weak argument to fall back on when you’re in court. And the best practice would be to deploy 9-1-1 at a consistent level enterprise wide based on the strictest E911 laws. After all, you have proven that you were able to deploy a better technology in some locations of your business; therefore you should be able to deploy the same solution in all parts of your business.

QUESTION: What Should You Do ? You need to carefully examine your E911 strategy when drafting an RFP or reviewing your communications infrastructure. Think about what you would award in damages if you were on a jury and someone was injured. Did you take all reasonable percautions?

That’s the REAL cost of E911 for your enterprise. As always I welcome your insights and comments on this and every blog.

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.

Fletch Goes to Washington


On Friday January 14th, 2010, I had the privilege to hop on the train, my favorite way to travel lately, and headed south to Washington, DC where I participated in the FCC’s Emergency Access Advisory Committee initial meeting.

For those of you not familiar with the EAAC, The following excerpt is from their Charter document:

The Committee’s Official Designation The official designation of this advisory committee of the Federal Communications Commission (Commission or FCC) is the “Emergency Access Advisory Committee” as prescribed by the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (Communication and Video Accessibility Act or CVAA). The Committee’s Objective and Scope of its ActivitiesThe EAAC is hereby chartered for the purpose of implementing sections of the CVAA that pertain to making next generation emergency 911 services accessible by individuals with disabilities, as a part of the migration to a national Internet protocol-enabled emergency network (NG911).

With one of the primary goals of the committee being to enhance emergency services for individuals with disabilities, in addition to the carriers, manufacturers, and public safety, there were a number of individuals with speech or hearing disabilities represented at the meeting. The Commission did a fantastic job accommodating these individuals, providing American Sign Language interpreters and closed caption text superimposed on the video feed using some very interesting automated technology called Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), a method of Speech-to-Text translation. I was completely awestruck with the level of interpretation provided, especially with all of the technical jargon. Besides the occasion Closed Caption mistake of “PEACE APPS” (wait for it, you’ll get the joke in a second), the transcription was right on the money.

It really brought home to me the fact that today’s antiquated and out dated 911 infrastructure was nowhere near capable of effectively communicating with individuals with disabilities in an efficient manner. On the other hand, an NG911 capable PSAP, backed by ESInet SIP connectivity could easily bring those individuals with disabilities into the modern century and away from their BAUDOT enabled TTY devices with acoustic couplers screaming away like the modems of days past. Go ahead, Google BAUDOT, then come back when you’ve stopped laughing. Do these folks deserve to be relegated to this slow outmoded technology in today’s high speed, always on world most of enjoy?

Video Killed the Radio Star One thing that really impressed me was the speed and ease of communication that the ASL interpreters provided. I had several conversations with different people that had their sign language translated to speech, and my speech translated to sign language, and I have to admit that the latency injected was minimal, and the flow of conversation was quite natural. It was then that I realized that given this natural flow of the conversation, and the ability to transfer complex thoughts and ideas via ASL, it was clear to me that this would probably be the communication method of choice for someone who was disabled.

Dr. Paul Michaelis, from Avaya Labs in Denver, mentioned another interesting point in his closing comments. He brought up the point that a person with a specific disability like being hard of hearing, for example, may prefer to communicate in a multi-modal nature. For example, they most likely would like to speak to the PSAP dispatcher, because their speech is not impaired, but receive their response via Real Time Text because of their disability. Ultimately, this places the responsibility on the PSAP to provide the appropriate translation resources. Once again, this is where NG911 comes to the rescue.

With NG911 being a network of networks, not unlike the internet, resources across a much wider geography can now be ‘pooled’ and shared where needed. For example, a small community on the outskirts of a large city may have only a single seat PSAP. Even under the best conditions, staffing that center with a call taker with every skill set would be next to impossible. But being part of the larger ESInet infrastructure, a dispatcher with a special language skill set or translation ability could be easily added to the collaborative contextual conference established for that incident.

So once again, I have proven to myself that no matter how much you think you know, there is always more to learn, and there is always another side to the story. I saw for myself the additional value NG911 could bring to the public, proving once again that we are not just developing technology for technology’s sake; we’re developing technology to save lives.

Since the EAAC meetings with be ongoing each month, and I will be attending as the alternate for Dr. Michaelis, I’ll be dedicating one blog a month to keep you in the loop on what’s happening with this important committee. I welcome your comments and questions on this, or any other topic related to E911 or NG911. You can email me directly here.

Update: February Meeting Info The second meeting of the EAAC will be held at the Commission headquarters, 445 12th St., SW, Washington, D.C. on Friday, February 11, 2011 from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST). All meetings shall be open to the public.

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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