Emergency Services and the Remote Worker

Employee safety is the primary goal of every employer. To accomplish that goal, as well as be compliant with new Federal legislation that recently went into effect (i.e. Kari’s Law and the pending RAY BAUM’S Act §506), commercial enterprises have been scrambling to implement and deliver compliant services to their workforce. With the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of workers have been forced to suddenly shelter in place, or self-quarantine, and have found themselves operating in a remote environment, with little forethought or planning, especially for 911 calling from those devices.

IT administrators have had to scramble just to establish to set up basic connectivity, let alone advanced functionality as the pandemic has flushed many employees from their high-rise offices to their residences. This creates the dilemma of trying to maintain some sense of business flow while at the same time practicing the ever-important social distancing required to combat the spread of this virus.

While most businesses have had some form of remote working capability for workers for some time, often the solution may not have included actual telephony. Additionally, the bandwidth engineering estimates never considered voice and the mass amounts of simultaneous workers. Another issue is the system has never been really been put under a load test of this magnitude and demand as it has now.

For some employees, telephony is secondary. Their need is to just collaborate with each other. For this group, they can utilize teleconferencing  applications such as Zoom, Teams, WebEx, the Avaya Spaces solution (available free for 90 days), along with scores of others providing a virtual team or online meeting room. Most of these are fine internally, but fall short with basic telephony and calls to and from customers in the outside world.

Even while the push has clearly been to move to multimedia sessions, the phone is still an important part for some environments and verticals. For those, employees continue to require some form of remote solution from their PBX telephone system, and often a Contact Center. Many customers deliver this through an IP softphone or integration into the desktop such as the Avaya IX Workplace for Ocrana®, or in some cases, a physical IP telephone device, like the Avaya J179 SIP Phone connected back into the corporate environment though a Session Border Controller.

And this is where the problem begins. A Recipe for Disaster.

To a child or family member 911 is 911 on any phone.

Remember, even though it is at your home, your phone is connected to your corporate PBX telephone system on a virtual ‘extension cord’ that is miles long. The actual PSTN telephone lines are in the PBX at the address of where work is located, or worse, someplace in the cloud. But the number on your telephone is associated with the address of your office at work. These three ingredients can easily lead to disaster if you dial 911 from the work provided IP telephone in your home office, and the proper accommodations have not been put in place to deliver the proper address.

One of the great misnomers that exist out there, is that your telephone system can actually transmit the location of the person making a phone call to 911. Sorry – FALSE – IT CAN’T.

How does that work then? The current 911 network is fairly simplistic in how it works. Calls get routed to the local 911 center based on Caller ID (called Automatic Number Identification) and the install or billing address. See the problem?

What about answering your 911 calls yourself? Many THINK this is a good idea, but it’s actually NOT PERMITTED unless you are a Public Safety Answer Point. Are you? Find out for your self:

Through the magic of the Internet, we’re able remotely place a physical telephone miles or even states away from where the telephone company (and the 911 center for that matter) believes it’s located. This is where most people will just say, “I’ll just not use that phone for 911. I know better.”

While there may be a thread of truth in that, what about your family members? What about your mother or father that don’t really understand technology? What about your child, or the babysitter? Or what about anyone else who happens to be in your home where your ‘special phone’ is the closest phone when they need 911?

Don’t worry, all is not lost. As quickly as technology can break something as simple as dialing 911, there’s more technology that we can layer on top to correct the situation we’ve created. Today brand new NG911 technology exists in the network that will allow you to, provide the location of your device, let an administrator provision the location, or even have the device discover where you are using common forensic discovery tools. In any case, where you are can likely be determined in some form or another. This Youtube Video highlights the Location Discovery issue.

But, that is only half the problem.

Once the location is known, the call routing issue can be solved using a carrier based 911 solution known as a VoIP Positioning Center or VPC. The job of the VPC is similar to that of a long distance telephone company. Just like AT&T, Sprint, and MCI can route to your calls anywhere in the country, the 911 VPC has the same ability on a specialized 911 network.

The PBX simply routes all remote user calls to the VPC, with the location information, and the VPC takes care of getting the call to the right PSAP, and delivering location information. When a device registers as a phone, the location was discovered, and the routing entry is created for the VPC database.

In order to deal with the immediacy of the Coronavirus Pandemic, and the masses amounts of people headed home to work, Avaya has worked with our Select Partner, 911 Secure, LLC to provide a basic level of 911 service that can be deployed immediately with minimal expense. The service is called SecureNOW™ and until May 26th, they are offering this temporary static VPC routing service for remote users for only $0.25 per user per month. Location changes can be made, but are updated manually.

This is a scaled down solution of the Frost & Sullivan 2019 Best Practice Leadership Award winning SENTRY™ solution.


The SecureNOW™ Temporary Remote User 911 Service By: 911 Secure, LLC

A simple 911 call routing change is made in the PBX for Remote Users, redirecting them to a special 10-digit PSTN access number of the VPC service, and the routing database will terminate the call at any one of the ~6500 911 PSAPs in the US that corresponds to the home address of the user.

In the following video, I along with Brian Anderson, Director of Avaya Public Safety Solutions review the entire landscape and technology.

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Fixing 911 Overload

Every year, NENA – The National Emergency Number Association – estimates that there are over 240 million calls into 911 call centers (known as Public Safety Answer Points or PSAPs). A common problem among all PSAPs continues to be non-emergency calls arriving into the center on Their specialized 911 trunks that exist specifically for emergency calls. The quantity of these trunks is typically limited in each center and and the amount has been carefully engineered to handle the normal volume of 911 calls from the community served by that agency along with a few spares and diverse CO routing where available. The problem is that when they become flooded with non-emergency traffic, legitimate emergency calls could be blocked.

This design also makes the PSAP more susceptible to SWATTING and DDoS attacks by practically anyone and from anywhere. In some areas, emergency calls into a center that is busy may overflow to an adjacent PSAP. While this seems like a logical idea from a backup perspective, let’s examine the bigger picture here.

Not only does this expand the attack face from a SWATTING and DDoS perspective, it is actually quite useless unless there is a Mutual Aid and MOU agreement in place with the other agency. Without the proper authority and the radio comms infrastructure, as well as access to the CAD, there really isn’t much that those agencies can do other than answer the call and write down the information. They then need to figure out a way to get that incident to the agency that can provide service. Typically, if there is no access to the radio network of the adjacent community, or no visibility to the computer-aided dispatch or CAD system, there is little they can actually do with the information they have. Also, remember that if the call has overflowed to them in the first place, they might not even have a way of reaching the original agency using conventional methods, Where is the problem?

The Core Problem: Dedicated 911 Trunks

The existing 911 network in the US is dependent on specialized CAMA trunks. Queries for location use the Automatic Number Identification (ANI) received with the call to determine the location of the caller, and a direct peer-to-peer relationship exists between the PSAP and the local exchange carrier 911 Central Office using these single-purpose trunks.

Since these trunks are limited in number, when a non-emergency call arrives on an emergency trunk, that line becomes tied up for the duration of that call, even if the resource that handles the call is a non-emergency resource. This creates a traffic engineering problem, because now the number of trunks reserved to handle emergency calls are taking the additional non-emergency traffic, something that totally Skews the Erlang calculations used to engineer the number of circuits.

311 to the rescue?

Many believe, and cities like NYC and Philadelphia have implemented, a localized 311 non-emergency service designed to offload non-emergency calls from 911 Call centers and call takers. The call handling technology used to deliver a 311 service is similar to that in the 911 center. This allows the 311 facility itself to become a natural choice for a disaster recovery location or if a facility is needed to house a temporary relief workforce for the 911 center due to capacity or physical damage.

The fact that a 311 center exists though, does not itself provide a solution to the problem, a little more is required. The root cause of the overload issue noted earlier is that people dial 911 when they should have dialed 311. In other words, their call is arriving on the wrong network, and that wrong network has limited resources from a trunking perspective.

Are rubber bands the fix?

While fixes for critical emergency communications from the public should never use duct tape and rubber bands, “elasticity” does bring significant value. Looking back on legacy trunking, of nearly any kind, there is the limitation of a physical circuit on a pair of copper wires. If I need one, I order one. If I need 10, then I order 10. If I need 10, but I only can get 8, then I am short by 2, and there is not much I can do about it. SIP trunking, on the other hand, is delivered over a data facility. The actual bandwidth on that facility can often be dynamic and Is commonly referred to as “a pipe.”

When thinking about the characteristics of data, often it equates very nicely to water. If I need to deliver more water, I need to get a bigger pipe; if I need to deliver more data, the same concept applies. That being said, an inherent benefit of a “data pipe” is that often the delivery medium is the same regardless of the capacity or size. Now a request to the carrier can turn-up or turn-down service capacities through software or configuration. Because of this, the size of the pipe becomes elastic and flexible to my current trends and needs.

Re-engineering with new capabilities

With this new elasticity capability in our network, let’s re-engineer things a little bit to take advantage of its capabilities.

Modern NG-911 Network on Dynamic Trunks

With all of these circuits moved to intelligent SIP trunking, I now have flexibility and sizing capabilities that allow me to be more dynamic with emergency and non-emergency call center call routing. The initial overall pipe capacity reflects best guess estimations for ALL TRAFFIC, and a new control layer of communication between my premise and the carrier networks exists to communicate any changes Required in the specific trunk route sizing required.

Sending these real-time statistics and state changes to the carrier allows real-time elasticity of IP trunking size to realize the most efficient use of resources. Calls to 911 are automatically flagged as such and routed to the 911 CPE where call takers answer. Similarly, calls to 311 are automatically flagged as such and routed to the 311 CPE, where call-takers also answer those calls. By doing this, the number of simultaneous calls to each type of service is controlled by the CPE.

Should a 911 call end up being a non-emergency situation, and the call gets transferred to the 311 center for assistance, a signal is sent to the carrier to add additional bandwidth to the inbound 911 trunk group to compensate for the non-emergency call.

How bandwidth is calculated and allocated is something that now becomes totally under the control of the receiving agency. For example, let’s go back to our disaster recovery scenario. A significant natural event is impacting the local area. An anticipated  20% increase of 911 call taker staff will require 15 additional call-taker seats. In the 311 Center, 15 seats get flagged as auxiliary 911 positions and get staffed by 911 personnel. An increase in carrier bandwidth allows for the additional call volume expected.

This scenario is just another example of why the nation needs to move to NG 911 quickly. The Legacy 911 network in the US uses analog CAMA trunks that are special-purpose and fixed in their capacity. Increases must be pre-engineered and may take weeks or months to implement or sit idly unused, causing unnecessary charges to stack up to municipalities. The technology to accomplish this architecture already exists in nearly every commercial market in existence today. We should heed the lessons learned over many years and provide the same level of innovation to our most essential call centers, ones that save lives.

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP
Chief Architect – Public Safety Solutions – AVAYA

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
Listen to my Podcasts

July 4th | 9‑1‑1 | Fireworks – A Perilous Combo?

Back in 1980, when I was a police dispatcher in Sparta New Jersey, I can remember that inevitably every year on July 4th at about 8:00 PM, nearly every line on the phone would light up. For the most part, the conversation would go something like this:

Me:      “Sparta Police, dispatch”
Caller:  “Uhhm . . . yeah . . .  Can you tell me what time the fireworks start?”
Me:      “Same as last year sir, at dusk, usually right around 9:00PM”
Caller:  “OK . . . Thanks”

Not every call asked this, there were some interspersed inquiries:

Me:      “Sparta Police, dispatch”
Caller:  “Uhhm . . . yeah . . .  Can you tell me where I can WATCH the fireworks?”
Me:      “Probably in the sky . . . ”
[OK, so maybe my snarky attitude wanted to say this, but of course I remained professional]

The SAME call scenario then repeated for nearly the next hour, over and over and over. Much of the time, every available line would be lit, and every caller had the same question. In a way, it was almost comical.  The residents of these 3 tiny municipalities, a total population of 30,000, were under my care, but I was unable to help them in an emergency as I was tied up answering these calls. There I sat, all by myself, hoping and praying that no one was experiencing a REAL emergency and needed a real response for help. In an effort to break up the monotony, at times, I answered the phone with:

Me:      “Sparta Police, dispatch . . . the fireworks start at dusk”z
There was usually a long silence and they would respond, slightly confused
Caller:  “Uhhm . . . Thank you?”

Eventually, just as this rash of calls started to diminish, the next wave started to come in:

Me:      “Sparta Police, dispatch”
Caller:  “OK, hi . . . so . . .  there are a bunch of kids with fireworks over on East Shore Trail”
Me:      “Ok, can you tell me what any of them are wearing or which way they are heading?”
Caller:  “Nope, but they are raising hell over here and I am trying to sleep”

But that was 40 years ago, and times were very different. The communications technology was in its infancy, and everything was written down on punch cards, and time-stamped on a time clock (ka-chunk, ka-chunk). There was no 9‑1‑1 in my center, just POTS lines on a 1A2 Key system. Heck, while 9-1-1 may have existed somewhere in NJ back then, I didn’t know of anyone in the State that had it; and as for caller ID? Yeah, right! Ha ha ha! That was still a far-off fantasy. Back then, we worked under the bare minimums. Today, with four decades of techno-babble under my belt, quite a bit of self-taught programming in BASIC, QuickBasic+ and a little bit of C+, my favorite new word has become ‘workflow’ or scripting. At the core, a program is based on a flow chart. A list of actions and decisions that happen in a logical predefined order to create some effect or outflow of data. I quickly realized that when workflow was applied to nearly any problem, the resulting solution was often both effective and innovative. I may have automated a monotonous task.

The number of times I typed:
to do an NCIC check, has to number in the tens of thousands. . . .

or it may have just provided consistency in the data entry. In fact, some of the most innovative ideas are simply a combination of tasks strung together to solve a problem.

This is where AI can directly lend itself to enhance any industry – through automation. There should be no great surprise, as industry has realized this back when Ford implemented the Assembly line. But, before I get too deep into this particular topic, I want to make one thing perfectly clear to my readers, while artificial intelligence can greatly assist in making decisions, we are not talking about totally autonomous AI. Realistically, we are likely still a long way off from true artificial intelligence. This is because common sense is not always a binary decision. But, one thing that we can benefit from today is the mathematic probability and the assistive advice that AI can provide. This is where we need to start to change our thinking, especially in areas of public safety or critical life affecting decisions, such as the medical field.

I’m liking this to the change in thinking that has taken place with testing in schools. When I was growing up, calculators still we’re still uncommon. Bringing one into a test would be considered ‘cheating’. Now, along with the text books that are required for a particular class, advanced engineering courses require a scientific calculator, and often suggest several models. Keeping this frame of thought in mind, let’s revisit the first example I mentioned previously in this blog, but this time, I’ll apply some assistive AI logic, and present this solution in the form of a simple flowchart:


The simplified logic here is fairly easy to understand. When a call arrives, the following decision points are considered.

• . Do I have a Call Taker Available?
• . If I do, then deliver the call. If I don’t, then determine if:
• . Is it July 4th between 20:00 and 21:00?
• . If not, que to the call takers, but if it is, intercept and play an informational message about where the fireworks are, and even direct them to the web for more information and safety tips.

Ideally this could eliminate many of the calls from tying up call takers, but those that need to speak to them are placed in queue, or routed elsewhere

This is done easily as once we play the message, we ask if they need further assistance, and disconnect, queue as needed, or even branch further to other common information resources.

Plan 9 from Outer Space?

Now, here is where we can really get a little far out with a solution.

By prompting the caller with an IVR, we can ask them if they’re calling from a mobile device?
(remember, in many markets this is a 80% – 90% of the call volume)

If the caller is on a text enabled device, we can clear them off the 9-1-1 line while offering them a more informative and interactive experience by simply pushing a web link to their device. Once the citizen clicks on the link, very simple HTML 5 technology can be embedded in the webpage that can extract their specific location, after they agree to share it, and then based on the response provide geo-targeted information that would be relevant to the caller.

This is a great transition into NG311 services, something that I’m getting asked about nearly every week. I’m convinced that the biggest success factor for a government 311 service, is the user awareness programs and publicity created by agencies. This could significantly reduce the number of  ”Information calls” into the 9‑1‑1 system, while providing a public resource, and an excellent EOC environment during disasters, as the basic premise of 9‑1‑1 call taking utilizes identical infrastructure on the backend.

I believe that this is one of the areas where Avaya brings technology to the table that a normal public safety vendor does not. They have the luxury of focusing on a very narrow use case of emergency services requests. But as communications evolve and become more multimedia in nature and omni- channel, the communications architecture embedded within public safety must involve with it or it wil lbe left behind, again. Those that want to play it safe by remaining stagnant, are actually depriving constituents of modern communications that could save lives.

To the current Sparta Chief of Police Neal Spidaletto, I remember you back in the early 80’s running around the house like a little terror, driving your Dad crazy. Congrats on your appointment as Chief, I am sure Joe is very proud of your career and accomplishments.
please tell ‘Baby Face Joe’ that Fuzzy says he still looks great and as distinguished as he always did. Always a great friend, and I cherish the many shifts we worked together.

Please remember to follow me on Twitter @Fletch 911, check
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Kari’s Law – Countdown to Compliance

At the time I’m writing this, 477 days have passed since I stood in the Oval Office along with Hank Hunt as we witnessed Kari’s Law becoming the law of the land. While not strongly worded as such, the intent of the law was that, from that day forward, an MLTS phone system installed or put into service would be compliant with direct access to 911 without an access code, any calls to 911 would route directly to the PSAP and not be intercepted internally, and unless an upgrade was required, the system would provide some mechanism of notification that an emergency call took place.

Any existing MLTS systems that were installed prior to that date would have a two-year grace period in which to make their system compliant, with February 16, 2020 as the final date when legislatively this would be required. While system administrators and vendors have had almost 16 months to deal with the issue, many still have not. Now, with the deadline approaching quickly, the mad rush is on to secure system capabilities, and provide safe work environments for employees and guests.

Last year at the Avaya ENGAGE Event, Hank Hunt (Kari’s Dad) graciously sat down and recorded this video message:

Hank Hunt on Kari’s Law

Just a little more than a month after Kari’s Law was signed, the president signed Ray Baum’s Act, named in honor of a popular political figure that had recently passed away. The primary purpose of this act was to reauthorize the Federal Communications Commission and establish its operating budget.

With this act being a ”must pass” piece of legislation, it is popular for many other bills that will not stand on their own to become attached to it. One of those pieces of legislation is known as section 506 of the Ray Baum’s Act, and it has recently caused a bit of a stir in the MLTS community.

In this legislation, it establishes a requirement that the FCC conclude a proceeding within 18 months examining it further requirements are needed for location reporting on multi line telephone systems. The due date for that proceeding conclusion is September 23 of this year. This section calls off the need for a dispatchable location to be provided to public safety answer points when and MLTS initiates a 911 call. BUT, as I’ve said many times before, the most critical piece of any law is the definition of specific terms, and the same is applicable here.

In the Act, a dispatchable location is defined as one that, “means the street address of the calling party, and additional information such as room number, floor number, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party”.

Unfortunately, this is being hyped as requiring the exact room or cube number of the caller being delivered directly to the PSAP, when in fact that information is completely irrelevant without additional context. The fact that I sit in cube 2C-231, has no meaning to anyone outside of my company.

1st responders don’t know where 2C-231 is within the building, or even what floor it is on, so it has little relevance. It is very relevant, to internal first responders within the facility, and it could be provided to public safety first responders on an electronic display, and now with context, like a floor plan. This can now be provided directly with the 911 call itself, thanks to new over-the-top NG 911 technology provided by the Rapid SOS NG911 Clearinghouse.

Screen Pop information made available to internal 1st responders and now deliverable to PSAPs via the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse
Additional Context Available in the Enterprise

In the past, establishing 911 database records for every station within the facility created two problems. The first, was that every single device needed a unique and dialable public telephone number in order to identify itself, and secondly a unique record for each device needed to exist in the 911 ANI/ALI database, which incurred a significant monthly recurring cost. While at the surface, this seems to be useful information, it actually creates a false sense of security, as well as an administrative management nightmare, while providing minimal useful information. This is because in legacy solutions, the ability to pass additional context such as a floorplan is next to impossible.

Is this too much work, with no time to complete it?

Depending on the size and complexity of the enterprise, the 911 plan can be quick and simple to implement, or it may become a long drawn out process. This is where a waiver can help tremendously providing some additional time, where warranted. One of the initial states to adopt legislation was the State of Texas, Kari’s home State. During various hearings that took place in Austin, I suggested that waivers be granted to those that specifically apply for them, and as part of the application, the MLTS make and model number, as well as its software release be put on file, as well as evidence that a good faith effort was made to purchase a new system.

This simple clause solved a couple of primary issues. First and foremost, it forced businesses to make an effort and investigate what their situation was, and secondly it created a list of compliant MLTS systems, and release levels, which prevented unscrupulous distributors from up selling the general public when it wasn’t warranted. The waivers were good for one year, and needed to be renewed each September.

Since 2016 when the law went into place, the number of waivers filed each year has dropped by 20%, as more and more noncompliant systems were replaced with those that were compliant. As the graph below shows, in 2016, the very first year, 630 wavers we’re granted. In 2017, that number dropped significantly to 386, and in 2018 it was further reduced to only 252. Those systems granted a waiver also needed to make sure that users of their system we’re well aware of how to dial 911, with very specific placard requirements. Obviously, any new system purchased what have to be compliant upon installation.

MLTS Waivers Issued (and projected) by Texas CSEC 2016 – 2020

911 is the most critical call you may ever have to make. As manufacturers of systems globally, we make sure that our users are well aware of this problem, and that’s why we stood behind Hank Hunt’s initiative on Kari’s Law from the very beginning.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
Check out my Podcasts on APN

Tackling Enterprise 911

Kari’s Law goes into effect for ALL SYSTEMS nationwide on February 16, 2020, after the expiration of a 2-year grace period allowing system administrators to become compliant. Kari’s Law requires businesses entities with multi-line telephone systems to provide the following capabilities on all phones:

  • Allow direct dialing to 911, without any prefix
  • Provide On-Site Notification when 911 is called
  • Route 911 calls directly to the local 911 PSAP

Avaya Partner Altura Communications has started a public awareness campaign in conjunction with Avaya and 911 Secure that is designed to inform customers of the issues at hand and offer solutions that are both functionally efficient and financially affordable. You can read their 3 part Blog series by Hank HuntMark Fletcher, and Kevin Kito on the topic here:

Read the Blog: 
A Daughters Cry Goes Unanswered

In part one of our three-part series examining how Kari’s Law came about, guest blogger and Kari’s father, Hank Hunt recalls that terrible night when his life changed forever

Read the Blog: 
A Grandfather’s Cry for Help Gets Answered

In part two of our three-part series examining how Kari’s Law came about, guest blogger Mark Fletcher – ENP, Avaya’s Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions recounts how he becomes involved

Read the Blog: 
Making Next Generation 911 a Reality

In part three of our series, Kevin Kito, CEO of 911 Secure discusses how 911 Secure brought the SENTRY™ solution to the market

A Message from Hank Hunt

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.

Moving the Yardstick With Innovation

Raymond Sims Baum (August 18, 1955 – February 9, 2018) was an American lawyer, lobbyist, and politician. His Wikipedia page notes:

Baum was born and raised in La Grande, Oregon. He studied at Brigham Young University and Willamette University College of Law. Baum was admitted to the Oregon bar in 1983 and practiced law in La Grande. Baum served in the Oregon House of Representatives in 1988. He was majority leader in the state house for the Republican Party starting in 1995 but did not seek reelection in 1996. In 2003 Ted Kulongoski appointed Baum a member of the Oregon Public Utility Commission. He served there until 2011, serving as chairman starting in 2010. Baum worked for the National Association of Broadcasters and served as vice-president of government affairs. He died at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland from prostate cancer.

In honor of his career, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act of 2018 or the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018 was raised in his namesake as a testament to his service to the American people.

The RAY BAUM’s ACT  has picked up many small provisions where those issues on their own didn’t warrant, or could not muster support for their cause in a separate bill. An item particularly intriguing within this act, is in Title IV, under Section 506. It states,

“The FCC must conclude a proceeding to consider adopting rules to ensure that dispatchable location is conveyed with 9-1-1 calls, including calls from multi-line telephone systems, regardless of the technological platform used. “Dispatchable location” means the street address of the calling party and additional information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party.”

While I am certainly NOT a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, I can most certainly read and write the English language. The first 10 words of Section 506 say it all; “The FCC must conclude a proceeding to consider adopting rules”. That’s right, they have to finish making up their mind about having to make up their mind, or in other words, Get Ready to Get Ready. That’s it, end of the story – period.

Once again, the legacy database providers (a.k.a. the providers about to lose large revenues from database management fees) are running around telling their clients that the sky is falling, and they need to be compliant with a dispatchable location, pawning that off as individual station level reporting to the PSAP. Why? This seeds their coffers with revenue but actually provides very little actionable information to 1st responders.

For the record, I am NOT against providing detail to those responding to an emergency. In fact, I am all for that practice. What I take issue with is forcing a consumer to provide detail that is useless, at great expense and hardship, only to create revenue for those who store the data for public safety. Most often my arguments are deflected with the response, “Any small level of detail can be helpful when trying to locate a person in an emergency, and seconds count!”

Yes, seconds DO count. That is my precise argument. Instead of providing great detail that isn’t actionable (an EMT has no idea where cubicle 2C-231 is located in my building) why are we not using technology to create intelligent displays in the lobby that actually SHOWS a responder where they are needed, and how to get there in the event there is no one on site to guide them? The legacy Automatic Location Identification (ALI) record used today to convey information to first responders) is a text-only record just over 500 characters in length. There are minimal fields in there that provide the ability to include any relevant textual data.

NG911, on the other hand, is IP based and extensible. Information can contain text and URLs to additional data that can be retrieved dynamically if needed, and wherever it exists. The one problem that remains is the legacy voice network, capable of transmitting one thing and one thing only, VOICE. How do we get the data over this network?


We have been waiting for a decade or more for the NG911 ESInet to be built, but that is coming in dribs and drabs, and access is anything but ubiquitous, so we did the next best thing. We took the information we had in our SENTRY™ solution in the Shelby County Buildings Department and delivered that information to RapidSOS during a 911 call. The call reached the Memphis Police Department in Shelby County, and they were able to retrieve the associated floor plans and information about the station that placed the 911 call.


Along with floor plan information and emergency contact context, the SENTRY™ management console allowed text notes to be added to the incident record, and those additional notes were displayed to the call taker. History was made, and we moved the yardstick.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

FIXED: Cellular E911 Location

The two biggest issues with cellular emergency services:
Text to 911 and Cellular Location Accuracy

But the question is, how can this be so in today’s ultra-modern broadband connected world?

The answer, it turns out, is simple. The Emergency services network no matter where you are located is, for the most part, an analog-based legacy infrastructure with only the ability to convey VOICE calls and no data services. Because of this simple fact, we have pigeonholed ourselves into a quagmire of isolation from the modern communications capabilities that have become commonplace and inherent in the devices nearly all of us seem to be carrying.

How do we extract ourselves from this destitute pit of captivity? The answer is quite simple. We need a rope, and it just so happens that Google has decided to provide that lifeline, with of course a brand-new acronym; AML for Advanced Mobile Location.

Currently, on the network side AML is  only deployed in Estonia and in the United Kingdon however, the functionality (which has been code-named ‘Thunderbird’) is actually embedded in every current  Android device with operating systems from Gingerbread forward. To discuss the history of Thunderbird, and how it came to be, I sat down for a Podcast with European Emergency Number Association Executive Director, and colleague of many years, Gary Machado.

Listen to the Podcast here:

The big story in the news is location and emergencies in cellular phones, and you guys have really come up with something that’s pretty interesting over in Europe. Tell us about AML?

Thank you, Fletch. Yes, we came up with AML, which stands for Advanced Mobile Location, a few years ago. Actually, the idea is not ours. The Advanced Mobile Location was created in the UK in 2014 by a guy named John Medland, who works for BT 999/112 emergency services.

He basically lost faith in the EU’s ability to regulate of the sector and to contribute to the improvement of caller location in Europe, so he decided to start talking with the handset manufacturers and the mobile operators here in Europe, what in the US you call I think carriers, and he came up with a simple idea: how can we find an easy way to retrieve the location data that is in the phone that we all use everyday to order pizza, to order Uber, et cetera, and how can we take this data and deliver it to the PSAPs as easily as possible?

That’s how the project started. John led the whole project in the UK. It started slowly in 2014 with AGC, the handset manufacturer, and one mobile operator named EE, and since then, AML has been very successful. We have about 85% of locations that are below 50 meters, within 50 meters, and AML has been extended to other handset manufacturers, namely Alcatel, Sony Mobile, Samsung devices, and extended also to other mobile operators in the UK.

I think the big thing was when Google jumped onboard. Google saw what John had proposed doing, and basically in a nutshell, the way I explain it to people is, when the carrier, when the mobile operator looks from the network towards the handset, it’s one view, but when the handset looks out towards the world, they can see much more. It’s like looking through a peephole on a hotel room door the wrong way, right?

From the carrier side, you get a very myopic view of where that device is, but the device can take advantage of cellular, it can take advantage of GPS, it can take advantage of WiFi signals that [can be seen], not necessarily connected to, but just seen, and then all of that information together [delivers] a much more accurate resolution. One number that I saw published was 4,000 times more accurate?

Yes. Fletch, I want to say I love the way you describe it, which is exactly correct. What happens, we actually happened to meet Google at the right time, were starting to look into the project, they were wondering on how to get this information delivered to the PSAPs, and so we actually bridged between BT in the UK, Google and ourselves and we started to have about a conference call per week, basically, and we started to progress, let’s say, the Google way, which is very fast. Yes, as you said, Google wanted to benefit from the use of their Google fused location provider and have this accurate location information we use everyday installed on all Android devices in the world. That was what they were trying to achieve. Since they saw the success of the project in the UK, which was running on Android devices already, on Android-based smartphone manufacturers, they decided to work with us and

Since they saw the success of the project in the UK, which was running on Android devices already, on Android-based smartphone manufacturers, they decided to work with us and BT to, let’s say, upgrade all the devices in the world with this accurate location. Now, where are we right now? All Android devices in the world back to Gingerbread have been upgraded with Advanced Mobile Location, so it’s in every Android phone in the world, besides a few phones that haven’t been updated because they haven’t been charged or connected to the WiFi and didn’t get the update, of course, but otherwise it’s already

Now, where are we right now? All Android devices in the world back to Gingerbread have been upgraded with Advanced Mobile Location, so it’s in every Android phone in the world, besides a few phones that haven’t been updated because they haven’t been charged or connected to the WiFi and didn’t get the update, of course, but otherwise it’s already in your phone. If you have an Android phone, AML is there. You just have to check your phone, look for the Google Play Services, and if you have a version of Google Play Services which is something like 9.0+, then you have AML in your phone. AML

You just have to check your phone, look for the Google Play Services, and if you have a version of Google Play Services which is something like 9.0+, then you have AML in your phone. AML is deployed in two countries in Europe. It is fully deployed in the UK and Estonia.

That means that everyday, UK and Estonian emergency services receive extremely accurate location information, again, 85% at below 50 meters using GPS or WiFi location, and yes, when we look at the figure, it’s about 3,000 to 4,000 times more accurate than what we get in Europe currently, which is only the primarily cell ID.

Before everyone runs out and turns on AML and expects this incredible accuracy to be there, there is the other side of this, and that’s the 911 center, the emergency center, the PSAP has to be able to, or the network I should say, has to be able to receive this data. One of the pieces of AML is a destination for this information to be sent, so that’s got to be in place, too. Now that’s the carrier responsibility.

Yes. I would say the beauty of this project is its simplicity. When you dial an emergency number, 112, 911, it will trigger AML in your phone if you’re in a country where the service has been activated; in other words, where PSAPs are able to receive the information. Once you dial this number, it triggers the AML for 20 seconds, collects the location information and sends it over to the PSAPs over a mobile network.

Now there are two ways of doing that. The first way is using SMS. There are two kinds of SMSs that are used. I will not get into the specificity of those, but these two SMSs are working. One of these two can be implemented in any country. Either the message can be sent to an SMS endpoint, which is what both BT, our organization, EENA, and Google recommends, because it works in most cases, SMS, and it’s actually extremely reliable. So it can be sent to an SMS endpoint or it can be sent over HTTPS to the emergency services. Emergency services are free to choose.

In Europe, we work at the country level. [Governments] are free to choose whether they want SMS or if they want HTTPS. For now, in Europe, we have SMS installations, but other countries are deploying an HTTPS endpoint to be able to receive the AML data.

I’m going to assume that when you bring your handset online and you get your configuration from the carrier that this AML destination would be part of that provisioning.

Yes. Actually, it’s managed by Google. Google defines the emergency numbers that should activate the service in a country. If a country has several emergency numbers, those numbers will trigger the AML service, which will turn on for 20 seconds and collect the location data, and then send it over to this endpoint selected by a country or a region or a county. Basically, what’s to be done by the PSAPs, the authorities and/or the mobile operator or carrier in the US, it’s very simple. Google needs to know the endpoint to be able to deliver that message. They need to be provided by an endpoint. The carrier needs to, for instance, in case of an SMS, allow it to be free of charge, and that’s what we have in most countries in Europe already with SMS for the deaf and hard of hearing, and/or they need to provide for an HTTPS endpoint to be set up, which often in the US I believe has been at the carriers rather than in the PSAPs. In Europe, we have a different setup for these things.

The very first thing people are going to complain about it is, “Hey, wait a second, Gary, if this thing gets turned on, Google’s going to start tracking my location. It’s bad enough that they know every website I go to and they’re putting cookies all over my phone, now they’re going to be tracking my specific locations and what I’m doing. I’ve already got the NSA in the US doing that. I don’t need Google on top of that doing the same thing.” Is there going to be pushback?

As you can guess, we get it over here in Europe even more than in North America. People are very, very concerned about it here. I can say I have myself a certain interest for these issues. I actually help some of the privacy activist organizations here in Brussels on my private time, let’s say, and I never switch on my location on my own, for instance, but in case of emergency service, I want to have my location turned on. The beauty of this project and working with Google for more than a year, they have been extremely cautious with that. The location just turns on for the time of triggering the AML and turns off after 20 seconds. Google does not store that location. Google doesn’t want to see that location. That location is retrieved and is sent over to the PSAPs in an SMS or HTTPS, and that’s it. Google doesn’t want to see that location. I think, honestly, no one is [inaudible 00:11:05]. Google has plenty of locations everyday. I don’t think they are looking for more of that project. That’s not what they are looking for.

The location just turns on for the time of triggering the AML and turns off after 20 seconds. Google does not store that location. Google doesn’t want to see that location. That location is retrieved and is sent over to the PSAPs in an SMS or HTTPS, and that’s it. Google doesn’t want to see that location. I think, honestly, no one is [inaudible 00:11:05]. Google has plenty of locations everyday. I don’t think they are looking for more of that project. That’s not what they are looking for.

So they never even get the data to be able to store it. It goes directly into the public safety networks.


Let’s face it, if you’re having an emergency, your location is something that you probably want to share. 

Yes, exactly. That’s the case, and I’m sure it’s the same in the US, but in Europe, we have the proper legislation for that, that in case of emergency call, caller location is authorized. Yes, that’s one of the very few times where you actually need and you want your location to be used.

I’ve got to tell you, when I first saw this back in 2014 over in Europe, I was a little hesitant. I was a little hesitant because it was operating system-specific. At that time it was carrier-specific and even handset-specific, and [I thought], interesting idea, but it’s going to be the adoption that really makes this happen, and although it’s taken a couple of years, it is actually a great idea. It’s very simple in its form, it’s very basic. It doesn’t require a big uplift in the network. It doesn’t require huge upgrades in the PSAPs. It’s just a simple activation of information that’s already there, and it’s information that most devices already have anyway. Again, like you said before, if I want to order a pizza or if I want to order an Uber, they know exactly where I am with incredible accuracy, so it’s just activating that function that’s already there and creating the mechanism to transport that over to the PSAP, the people that actually need to use that. Really kind of a brilliant idea and John, John’s a great guy and I’ve known John for many years over at BT. It really took a lot of stamina just to keep pounding his foot down and saying, “This will work,” and getting Google in there is a big deal. Obviously the big question, what about iOS and Apple and Microsoft? What’s happening with those guys? Have they mentioned anything about this?

It’s very simple in its form, it’s very basic. It doesn’t require a big uplift in the network. It doesn’t require huge upgrades in the PSAPs. It’s just a simple activation of information that’s already there, and it’s information that most devices already have anyway. Again, like you said before, if I want to order a pizza or if I want to order an Uber, they know exactly where I am with incredible accuracy, so it’s just activating that function that’s already there and creating the mechanism to transport that over to the PSAP, the people that actually need to use that. Really kind of a brilliant idea and John, John’s a great guy and I’ve known John for many years over at BT. It really took a lot of stamina just to keep pounding his foot down and saying, “This will work,” and getting Google in there is a big deal. Obviously the big question, what about iOS and Apple and Microsoft? What’s happening with those guys? Have they mentioned anything about this?

Really kind of a brilliant idea and John is a great guy.  I’ve known him for many years over at BT. It really took a lot of pounding his foot down and saying, “This will work,” and getting Google in there is a big deal. Obviously the big question, what about iOS and Apple and Microsoft? What’s happening with those guys? Have they mentioned anything about this?

First, I want to join you here in saying I really admire what John has done. He’s taken this idea, he’s been fighting for it. He’s been going step by step. He’s very cautious. He wanted to validate every step of the project. We owe John a lot, as all in the public safety community, I believe. I also want to thank the guys at Google, of course, and also congrats to the Estonians. The Estonians implemented AML in less than six months with Google and they are one of the countries that are fully enabled right now. About Apple and Microsoft, we are in contact with Microsoft, trying to get some information, some progress on this. At this stage, we do not see a lot, but we are hopeful that it will progress. We are also trying to get in touch with Apple. We’ve informed Apple via many emails, conference calls and so on. We haven’t seen a lot back from Apple, though we actually discovered just by Googling one day that Apple has published a patent on the location topic, which seems to be rather an idea pretty similar to what we’ve just talked about during this podcast. Very interesting. Very interesting. We’re hopeful that Apple will join the project. We also started to see the first articles, one article in Estonia last week, clearly explain that they believe that Apple will start joining the

We haven’t seen a lot back from Apple, though we actually discovered just by Googling one day that Apple has published a patent on the location topic, which seems to be rather an idea pretty similar to what we’ve just talked about during this podcast. Very interesting. Very interesting. We’re hopeful that Apple will join the project. We also started to see the first articles, one article in Estonia last week, clearly explain that they believe that Apple will start joining the project, because people will think of Google’s Android phone as the safe phones. That was an opinion written in an Estonian article, which is in English.

I have to agree with that. If somebody’s going to make a telephone purchase and this one has got safety features that this one does not, that’s going to become a decision. If I’m going to buy a phone for my daughter who’s going off to college now, I’m going to make sure she’s got a phone that’s going to provide her with as much safety as possible. That’s going to bring the financial model into play and it’s not going to be long before somebody over in Cupertino says, “Hey, wait a second, sales are going down. We need to turn this on,” and Microsoft’s going to do the same.

Let’s hope so. Apple Keynote is coming out soon, so, let’s wait.

Listen, Gary, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. It’s been a while since we’ve chatted. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about this. Tremendous progress on this. Congratulations to everybody over at EENA who drove this, and of course to John Medland over at BT, who had the brainchild and the fortitude to get this program moving.

Thanks, Fletch. Bye-bye.

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.

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