Are You Ready for the New 911 Regulations?

Companies may be at risk for litigation and negative media attention if end users are not able to connect to 911 quickly and accurately during an emergency

Serious problems can occur when organizations don’t provision accurate address information specific to each enterprise location. In most cases, a default location—usually the billing address for the PBX or VoIP switch—will be used to route the call to public safety. It’s this information that will appear to the 911 call-taker. This address may or may not be near where the call originates. This means that incomplete or incorrect address information can result in 911 calls routing from a regional office to a local public safety answering point (PSAP) across the country. As one might imagine, this can dramatically slow 911 response times, as these calls must be manually transferred to the appropriate PSAP. During an emergency, address inaccuracy wastes valuable and potentially life-saving seconds and even minutes. This risk is more pervasive than most organizations realize. In 2013, NENA, the public safety industry association, estimated that 70 percent of all multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) were not compliant with correctly provisioned location information. 

911 in an On-Premise Environment

To support voice and 911, IT departments historically maintained expensive TDM, PRI, or POTs circuits from their PBX or VoIP server into the local PSTN. In fact, this is how many companies manage their telephony today. When a 911 call is made, it reaches the PSTN and is directed to a special 911 tandem (called a Selective Router), which uses location information provisioned by the organization to route the call to the appropriate PSAP responsible for dispatching first responders. 

Moving Telephony and 911 to the Cloud

Organizations of all sizes are transitioning some or all of their telephony to the cloud. This shift helps organizations gain more control over their voice solution while reducing infrastructure costs. Without proper planning and implementation, however, this move can have negative consequences for 911. 

By replacing dedicated circuits with cloud-based SIP trunking, companies are replacing previously essential connections to the PSTN and public safety wherever they have employees. This is where having a 911 service provider—like Bandwidth—capable of supporting cloud-based communications with interconnection into all of public safety becomes critical and can even simplify some 911 workflows. Keep in mind that there are roughly six thousand 911 call centers in the US and Canada, so the numbers are staggering. Companies will be able to provision all of the 911 endpoints in all of their locations in a centralized database and service providers can populate the regional ALI databases and use the location information to route the call to public safety, making it available to the 911 call taker for emergency dispatch.

Relying on Dynamic 911 Location

Increasingly, companies are moving away from desktop phones in favor of more flexible and cost-effective softphone applications. For many employees, desk phones are still an essential tool for productivity. Others rely on in-person interactions, instant messaging, and email for their primary means of communication, with softphone applications filling in the gaps. These users may spend less time at their assigned workstation and more time collaborating in teams or working alone on solo projects.

These types of enterprises require more “dynamic” 911 location determination—that is, the 911 location that is not pre-assigned to one user per an assigned workstation but is instead determined at the time of a 911 call. Dynamic 911 solutions leverage Presence Information Data Format-Location Object (or PIDF-LO) technology, which allows organizations to pair their 911 callers with a current location at call time. The dynamic location is used to route the 911 call and is made available to the PSAP for emergency response. It is the most accurate method available today to help organizations support highly mobile IP-based users while meeting both existing state and new federal E911 legislative requirements. 


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