MLTS 9-1-1 Bad Practices

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While many of the podcasts and lists that we create focus on how to do something or a best practice, of equal value are lists of how NOT to do something. With the recent tragedy on December 1, 2013 in Marshall, Texas, the nine-year-old daughter of Kari Hunt watched as her mother was stabbed to death by her estranged husband in a hotel room. Allegedly the nine-year-old tried to dial 9-1-1 from the hotel room phone, but was unable to due to a 9 being required for an outside line.

This incident has sparked a number of comments, some of which are good common sense, and others that may sound logical, but when you look closely at the problem, it becomes clear that these may not be good choices.

Placards
178-Dial9911.gifProbably the most common knee-jerk reaction that I hear is to put a sticker on the phone that says Dial 9 9-1-1 for emergencies. The problem with placards is that you are assuming everyone’s primary language is English which is not the case, you are assuming that someone will read the placard, and don’t forget about persons who are blind, and you have the case where a small child may know to dial 9-1-1, but may not be able to read, hence rendering the placards useless.

Dialing 8 for an outside line instead of 9
178-Dial8.gifThere is a popular belief that the reason you cannot dial 9-1-1 directly from a telephone behind PBX is because 9 is used to make an outgoing call, therefore conflicting with 9-1-1. While this may have been true many years ago, it simply is no longer the case in most modern communications telephone systems. In the past, 9 would connect you to a trunk, where you would then dial the digits you needed. Most PBX telephone systems today collect all of the dialed digits, analyze them for routing and authorization, and then select a telephone trunk to place the call. While some programming is typically needed, dealing with 9-1-1 directly and 9 9-1-1 is a simple administrative task that should have been taken care of by the telephone installer. The fix is to allow 9-1-1 to reach 9-1-1.

Locally terminating 9-1-1
178-LTERM.jpgA common request by many large corporate entities is to redirect 9-1-1 calls to a local security desk where the calls are answered internally. It’s commonly assumed that on-site individuals are better equipped to deal with an emergency, and can do so faster. This is a fatal assumption to make for several reasons. Unless the position where you are terminating the 9-1-1 calls is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has the ability to handle multiple simultaneous calls, you are potentially exposing an internal 9-1-1 caller to the risk of not having their call answered. Additionally, public safety 9-1-1 dispatchers are typically certified as an EMD or emergency medical dispatcher. They have been trained to deal with emergencies, and can provide basic instructions that can provide a little bit of breathing room in the response. For example, if someone is choking they can provide instructions on how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. If someone is bleeding they can provide basic first aid instructions that can give first responders precious extra minutes to get to the scene.

Confusing and unclear 9-1-1 legislation
178-CPUC911.pngQuite often 9-1-1 laws have been made in a vacuum, without input from industry technologists. Because of this, the legislation that exists in the 18 states that have it can be unclear or ineffective. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) published model legislation in 2008. This legislation was crafted by industry experts and public safety representatives to provide a baseline of functionality for owners and operators of multi-line telephone systems (MLTS/PBX). Those baseline functions have been used in recent states like California in their pending legislation. The NENA MLTS Model Legislation suggests:

Access to 9-1-1 with and without a trunk access code
178-Num9.gifDialing plan conflicts are often no longer an issue with modern communications systems. People are taught to down 9-1-1 from a very young age. It’s critical that this functionality carries forward on all devices, regardless of what they’re attached to.

Location granularity aligning with fire alarm zones
178-FloorPlan.pngOne of the common areas of discussion around emergency calling from behind a PBX, is what specific granularity of location should be provided to the Public Safety Answer Position (PSAP). You would immediately think that the most granular information is the best. What you need to stop and realize is while cubicle 2C231 may be extremely relevant to people within the building, public safety first responders do not carry floor plans, and this extraneous information means nothing to them. Before a first responder can provide assistance, they need to be able to arrive at the right building, and right entrance way. Once they get there, local on-site responders should be well aware that there coming, and also should have knowledge that a 9-1-1 call has taken place, so they can take proactive steps in providing access, or even first aid while public safety is in route.

On-site notification of 9-1-1 call events
178_POP.pngThis functionality, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, is really the key to “situational awareness” that an event is, or has, taken place. It allows internal responders to confirm and assist the person who has dialed 9-1-1, and provides notice that first responders are on the way so that preparations can be made. This includes ensuring access doors are unlocked, elevators are available and hallways are unobstructed.

There is a large misnomer in the industry that E9-1-1 functionality in a PBX is one that is expensive to implement, and administratively difficult to maintain. This is a remnant from companies with technologies designed to manage user mobility in the public safety PS-ALI database. By removing the requirement to manage at the station level, with information that is cryptic and not useful to public safety, the cost of the solution is significantly reduced as the simplicity is significantly increased.

With increased simplicity, there is a more likely chance of deployment. Within more likely chance of deployment, incidents similar to what happened in Marshall, Texas can become a thing of the past.

Don’t get caught up in the hype. Barging in on a 9-1-1 call, or locally recording a 9-1-1 call, or interfering with the 9-1-1 call path are all knee-jerk reactions that are not considered best practices by the industry. Providing situational awareness in ease of access to 9-1-1 are things that are both built into most PBX systems today and that’s where the focus on 9-1-1 should be.


Want more Technology, News and Information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at http://avaya.com/APN . There you will find additional Podcasts from Industry Events such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN Staff.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

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Kari's Lil' Hero

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What makes a hero? What drives that special person to do that special thing, at that special time? Whatever it is, it can be found in anybody, including a nine-year-old girl.

On December 1, 2013 several people’s lives changed forever. A step-mother and father lost their daughter of 31 years, and three children lost their loving mother right in front of their eyes. I’ve blogged about this story several times, covering the technology shortcomings, the disparate legislative dilemma that exists in the US, and have communicated this story in person to Commissioner Ajit Pai, as well as an open letter to newly appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

While I’ve been in touch with Kari’s father, Hank Hunt, through Social Media and Facebook, on Saturday I had an opportunity to speak with him live to convey my thoughts from my meeting at the FCC on Friday. Hank, his wife and other family members are caring for the three grandchildren, whose names will remain private, so we will call the eldest of the siblings “Kari’s Lil’ Hero”.

As part of my presentation to the FCC, I wanted to take the opportunity to let Hank deliver a message to the commissioner and his staff. That message was:

The quote on Kari’s grave marker will be, “She loved with purpose”.
In kind, this mandate should be implemented with purpose.

In the words of Kari’s father, Hank Hunt:

“It’s hard to describe the things that go through my head when I think about that day. Did she suffer much? Did she fight back? Did she know she was going to die, and if she did, did she cry for me to help her?

Torturing questions I can’t get out of my head.

But, the most bothersome thought is what my grand daughter was hearing while she tried to dial 911. What was this 9 year old thinking, hearing, all while trying to get help and push her younger siblings to safety. We have repeatedly told her that she did right, that she is the “hero” of all this but while she smiles at that, her eyes go to the floor as if she’s wondering if what we are telling her is true.”

One of the things that I can’t get out of my head is the fact that for some reason “Kari’s Lil’ Hero” doubts her actions of that day. But after all, she’s nine years old. She doesn’t understand what a PBX is, and she has been told her entire life that in an emergency you dial 9-1-1. Despite the horror that was going on in front of her, she did just that. After all, she’s “Kari’s Lil’ Hero”.

When she tried to dial again, the call still didn’t go through, so she came up with Plan B. She huddled her two younger siblings together, and despite the horror that was happening in front of her she rushed them into the hallway to safety. After all, she’s “Kari’s Lil’ Hero”..

She tried to communicate with some housekeeping staff, but there was a language barrier, so it was time for plan C. After all, she’s “Kari’s Lil’ Hero”..

After knocking on the door of another room, she finally found help who was able to dial 911 and protect her and her younger siblings. After all, she’s “Kari’s Lil’ Hero”..

I can barely contain my emotion when I think about this little girl, and all that she did that fateful day. She did all the right things; it was the implementation of the technology that failed her. But her actions that day very well may have saved the lives of her two siblings, as well as her own. In addition to improving technology, and providing ubiquitous access to emergency services by dialing 911, another thing that we as an industry can fix is the self-esteem of a brave little nine-year-old.

After all, she’s “Kari’s Lil’ Hero”.

Let her know that by telling her so at: https://www.facebook.com/changeitforkari

The petition for Kari’s Law can be signed online at:
http://change.org/KarisLaw

A Give Forward Campaign supporting Kari’s children is at:
https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/ybl3/kari-hunt-s-children


Want more Technology, News and Information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at http://avaya.com/APN . There you will find additional Podcasts from Industry Events such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN Staff.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

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Hotel E911 Check-Up for Owners and Guests

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Tragedy always brings out awareness. Would you know what to do if you needed to dial 911 from your hotel room? If you operate a hotel, have you considered what guests need to do to place an emergency call? In many cases, too little or nothing has been done, or what were thought to be “best practices” are, in reality, not such a great idea according to the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and their model legislation for multiline telephone systems (MLTS/PBX).

Here’s a handy little Hotel 911 Check-up that you can do yourself.

Defining the Problem:
Before you can come up with a solution, you need to define the problem. The problem of 911 in MLTS/PBX systems, can be one that is very convoluted with many different facets depending on the environment. When we look at the hotel motel industry, this is a very simple E911 implementation environment, that doesn’t carry the extra baggage of location discovery, FCE data center environments, and work at home VPN users that a normal commercial enterprise MLTS PBX may have.

SOLUTION 1: Dialing 911 WITHOUT an access code (9-911)
In an emergency, we are all taught at a very early age to dial the digits 911 to reach police, fire or medical assistance. While we as adults may understand that dialing “9” for an outside line might be common practice, think about those that do not use a telephone on a large PBX, or a child, as in the case of the recent tragedy in East Texas that has sparked national attention.

Check out these pictures of good and bad Hotel placards contributed here.

The fact of the matter is that most modern PBX systems today can accommodate dialing 911 as well as 9 – 911, therefore in most cases, this should not even be an issue as it’s a matter of turning on a feature that is already there.

SOLUTION 2: On Site Notification
When dialing 911, time is usually of the essence. Help is needed for a medical emergency, or a physical assault. When hotel staff are alerted that a guest has dialed 911, they can then respond immediately while emergency services are in route to the location. They can assist with AED (automatic electronic defibrillator) devices, provide life-saving CPR, or the Heimlich maneuver, or their sheer presence may disrupt a physical assault just enough to make a difference, once again something that may have helped Kari Hunt when she was brutally attacked and murdered in her hotel room in East Texas.

SOLUTION 3: Getting the call to the 911 center
This is the one that often confuses people. Why? Because sometimes MLTS PBX systems, are programmed to redirect the 911 call to the hotel operator. In other cases, emergency numbers are advertised on the hotel room phones. There are several examples of hotel placards that instruct guests to dial a special internal number, or dial the operator in the event of an emergency. What people don’t realize is that by doing this, the caller is being delayed access to trained emergency dispatchers, who are equipped not only to dispatch emergency services to the location, but provide life saving instructions on everything from severe lacerations, CPR, and even childbirth.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Since 911 identifies the caller’s location based on the originating telephone number, unless a hotel motel has dedicated telephone numbers in each room, there is no easy way to signal to the PSAP or 911 center the originating room. At least not a way that is operationally manageable.

This goes back to solution number 2, where on-site notification becomes a critical factor. In the past, the common practice for MLTS PBX systems has been to manage what is known as the ALI database. This is also where the bulk of the expense of solutions has come from. When we step back from the problem, just a little bit, getting emergency services EN ROUTE to the proper address is the primary focus. When we couple that with on-site notification, not only can hotel staff assist prior to the arrival of emergency services if possible, they can certainly be expecting them, and direct them immediately to the location of the incident.

This practice allows a hotel motel to be responsive to the emergency situation, without any added expense in most cases, as these are common features found in most PBX systems today.

When you’re a guest in a hotel, take notice of your environment. Make sure you understand how to summon emergency services by making a mental checklist of these important items:

1. How do I dial 911? Do I need an access code? Make sure that you know this in advance.
2. What is the address of the hotel?(Hint: it’s usually printed on the telephone itself)
3. On what floor of the hotel is your room located?(Hint: it’s usually the first digit of your hotel room number)
4. What’s your room number?Although this may sound silly, it may not be on your telephone.
5. Understand how to get out of the building in the event of a fire or emergency.

PBX OWNERS – DON’T FORGET TESTING!
Putting a system in place, without testing it could be as good is not having a system that all. But just how do you go about testing 911 without tying up valuable resources?

The very first step in testing for 911, is to get out the telephone book. Remember those?
If you can’t find one, go on the Internet in search for the police department in your local municipality.

Once you have found the administrative or non-emergency telephone number listing, call them and explain that you would like to test a 911 call from your facility to ensure the proper information was being displayed to the 911 call taker.

Each municipality may have explicit test instructions that you need to follow, as well as specific testing times and procedures. Follow those procedures, but you may also want to schedule a visit from your PBX maintenance provider to address any concerns that come out of that testing. It’s also a good idea for them to review the configuration of your PBX, and ensure that the 911 programming has been properly established. There is no sense in testing unless you think you are going to pass.

While these might sound like simple things, it’s amazing what you will forget in an emergency, and reacting to these things during the emergency is just not going to happen. Most people simply react to what we’ve been taught. What we have been taught is to dial 911, and that’s why 9-911 may never come to mind.


Want more Technology, News and Information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at http://avaya.com/APN . There you will find additional Podcasts from Industry Events such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN Staff.

APN Blog Banner

Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Fletch_Sig.png 


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CacheFly is the world’s fastest CDN, delivering rich-media content up to 10x faster than traditional delivery methods. With a proven track record and over a decade’s worth of CDN experience, companies around the world choose the CacheFly CDN for reliable and unbeatable performance. For more information, visit www.cachefly.com

Really? NOT!

In 1897 responding to inaccurate rumors Mark Twain said to a news reporter, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Like the news of his fictitious demise and magnified in this age of instant communications many things reported as “facts” are later found to be inaccurate or untrue. From the false rumors of George Zimmerman winning a $37 million lottery to the viral conspiracy theories that are often so amusing to contemplate, today’s rumor mill spins with warp speeds. As Twain was not then deceased so too do so many falsehoods become revealed given time to digest the truth.

Here at Avaya we’ve found ourselves recently swept up in a similar inaccurate network of conversations. Avaya solutions are present in over half of the more than 6,500 government run contact centers that answer incoming 9-1-1 calls and manage response to emergencies. Avaya solutions empower response across many other entities in the public safety chain of care. Each second of each day Avaya technologies reliably and consistently support the real-time communications at many thousands of:
– Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP);
– control centers;
– police, fire and emergency medical dispatch centers;
– police stations;
– fire stations;
– hospital emergency rooms;
– on military bases; and
– support all manner of critical communications centers in the US and across the globe.

Even in the face of the clear and present evidence to the contrary demonstrated by this consistent performance, the rumor network has decided that Avaya is no longer in the business of providing communications solutions in support of emergency services. As Seth Meyers & Amy Poehler might ask, “Really?”

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Avaya values the sizable amount of business derived from this vibrant part of Avaya’s customer base. More importantly Avaya upholds the commitment to supporting the mission of public safety and emergency response as strenuously as any commitment the company keeps.

Avaya holds scores of patents in this segment of the industry. As public safety and emergency communications move into the next generation, Avaya looks forward to leveraging the skills and knowledge accumulated in decades of helping customers from across the globe and in many industries as they have migrated from analog to digital technologies and then to modern IP based communications architectures. No other company either by itself or through acquisition has more experience deploying next generation communications than Avaya. The world’s largest commercial centers, financial institutions and government entities run on Avaya solutions. This goes on day-in and day-out, never skipping a beat, tirelessly providing resilient reliable communications in the world’s most challenging environments.

Avaya has many experts in applying the technologies of our portfolio to the special needs of the public safety communications customer. Avaya also boasts an extensive network of resellers who invest heavily in the needed knowledge, personnel and tools critical to support public safety communications and emergency response. In addition through formalized and funded programs Avaya nurtures an ecosystem of technology partners who provide the specialized communications tools and adjunct capabilities required in public safety communications domain.

Many technology companies providing emergency response solutions including AmCom Software, Synergem Technologies, Tiburon, TriTech Software Systems and VPI have integrated their technologies to Avaya’s. These companies take advantage of the Avaya DeveloperConnection program’s comprehensive documentation of Avaya’s industry standards based development environments provided to members. Their technical personnel take advantage of the significant amounts of training and support provided by Avaya to create rock solid integrations. All members of Avaya “DevConnect” are entitled to bring their products into the Avaya testing facilities where those solutions are thoroughly put through their paces. The integrations are then documented and the documentation is released publicly in order that Avaya, our partners and our customers may install and support public safety applications to exceed the requirements of the mission.

Avaya personnel are active participants in many industry initiatives including active contributions to committees and working groups of the Association of Public Safety Communication International (APCO), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the European Emergency Number Association (EENA). An example of this is how leveraging Avaya’s unique understanding of the power of Social Media, we volunteered to promote the goals of NENA at the recent annual conference. Staffing “The Podcast Zone” Mark Fletcher, who is a NENA Emergency Number Professional hosted many guests in the booth near the registration and member service area. I did my “Guy on the Street” shtick as the roving reporter during the Technology Showcase. During the conference we produced and posted more than 20 segments of new content from NENA2013 that you may listen to on the Avaya Podcast Network landing page. To date these interviews of NENA officials, honored guests and event sponsors have received over 60,000 downloads. This effort brought significant attention from listeners from across the globe to NENA and the work of its members.

Like Mr. Twain’s demise and Mr. Zimmerman’s lottery winnings, the notions that Avaya’s commitment the public safety communications industry is wavering are false. If you hear the rumors please let them pass or better seek out your Avaya representative who can clarify. You can contact Mark Fletcher or me or any of the many Avaya executives who have had first hand experience and who hold a solid commitment that no communication is more important than one that delivers needed help during an emergency.