If You Dial 911, You Should Be Able to REACH SOMEONE

 

“The greatest weapon on our arsenal is awareness. Once people learn of this problem, they want to help. So when you go back to your communities, please take up the baton. Ask those who manage your local hotels, office buildings, and schools whether their phone systems allow a caller to reach help by dialing 9-1-1 without an access code. If they don’t know the answer to this question, help them find out. And if the answer is no, ask them to fix their systems and offer to help them figure out how to do so. Working together, we can ensure that anyone who dials 9-1-1 can reach someone who can help – no matter where they’re calling from.”

These words, spoken by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, were part of the keynote address delivered to several hundred attendees of the 911 Goes to Washington conference, held this past March.

After the conference, this is exactly what the Texas Commission on State Emergency Communications did.

Their next scheduled monthly commission meeting is slated for Wednesday, May 14 at 10 AM in Austin, and on page 57 of their proposed agenda is a report by Executive Director Kelli Merriweather detailing emergency dialing test results made by the 23 Regional Planning Commissions (RPCs) from businesses, hospitals, hotels and schools.

Related article: My Top 5 Takeaways from IAUG Converge 2014

In total, 232 test calls were placed that resulted in 73% of those calls reaching a 911 PSAP. While these numbers initially seemed positive, digging in further to the details highlight areas requiring significant improvement.

PASS OR FAIL?
For this particular test event, the pass/fail criteria was that the call reached a PSAP, IT DID NOT take into consideration, however, the accuracy of the Automatic Location Information (ALI) that was delivered with the call.

The test also did not differentiate between calls using an outbound digit, i.e. 9-9-1-1, or dialing 9-1-1 directly.

The report did acknowledge that out of the call failures, which equated to 63 or 27% of the total test calls, more test calls (58%) were successful by using an outbound digit, as opposed to calls where 9-1-1 was dialed directly.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
As previously stated, the goal of this test was to determine the ability for a user to reach a 911 center dialing 9-9-1-1 and 9-1-1 directly.

While location is important and critical, that was not the focus of this particular test.

The results were tabulated, however, and 94% of the test calls (160 out of the 170 successful test calls) did deliver ALI data; but the report goes on to acknowledge that correct data was not displayed in all cases.

SURVEY SAYS
The commission staff also surveyed members of the National Association of 911 Administrators (NASNA), and were able to solicit responses from nearly half of the organization.

Of those responding, eight reported that there are some type of penalty is legislation in place in their state.

Within the industry, it’s generally agreed that while a total of 22 states have legislation or active legislation pending, the actual number of states with legislation current on the books is 18.

While no immediate recommendation or action is cited in this particular report, the CSEC plans to host a workshop this summer that will facilitate dialogue and develop a working relationship with the industry that includes the business and hospitality community as well as hospitals and school districts.

This is yet another data point that supports the notion that 911 is in fact a problem across multiple industries utilizing telephones serviced by an MLTS or PBX, and it is a stark reminder that while NENA promotes 9-1-1 on “Any Device, Any Where, Any Time,” this clearly is not the case from business telephone solutions that are deployed today.

It is also a relevant indicator that the functionality of direct access to 9-1-1 is one that’s a matter of choice in provisioning, and not a technological blockade, highlighting the three simplistic requirements behind Kari’s Law.

9-1-1 dialing with and without a trunk access code.
On-site notification that alerts local personnel when a 9-1-1 call was placed
Direct routing to a 9-1-1 center, without local interception by untrained staff

Remember, you can make your voice heard, and join 450,000 like-minded individuals by signing the petition to allow these basic, and often free, life safety features available to every telephone regardless if it’s attached to a PBX or not, by signing the petition at http://Change.Org/KarisLaw.

It costs you nothing more than a few moments of your time, but it may save someone from costing them their life.


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 E911. 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 at @Fletch911

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E911’s Fatal Flaw is Lack of Location Data—How Avaya Breeze Can Solve

The night of her husband’s death, Alison Vroome did everything she knew to be right. She grabbed her phone, called 911 and told the operator her address. Then she repeated her address a second, third and fourth time.

The call went to a different North Carolina county; the operator couldn’t understand her address. It was more than 10 minutes into the 911 call before paramedics arrived. Like anyone calling 911 in an emergency, Vroome expected her call to go quickly and smoothly, but it didn’t. Vroome’s call was one of 5.7 million 911 calls that come from wireless phones in NC—about 74% of all 911 calls in the state according to data from 2015. Yet 911 call centers rely on the cellular carrier to provide a cell phone’s location data. The legacy 911 network is voice only and cannot pass any data from the device. Instead, they can only receive the location data from the tower pinged by the call, something not nearly as accurate.

No one can say for certain if Vroome’s husband would be alive today had paramedics arrived sooner, but there isn’t any doubt that the current technology used in E911 emergency situations fails citizens. And this isn’t an issue isolated to the U.S. With the rise of mobile devices, countries and communities around the globe face the same technological flaw—the lack of location information.

As Avaya’s Jean Turgeon addressed in his recent blog on the current state of public safety and E911, accurate location information is one of, if not the most important piece of information that an emergency responder needs; and resolving this fatal flaw requires proactive urgency.

How Today’s #Tech Can Address E911’s Fatal Flaw

My Avaya colleague Mark Fletcher, ENP, recently wrote that when it comes to significantly improving public safety and E911 response times, tech is king. He’s right.

Case in point: In Europe, the introduction of EU eCall to become an integral element of the European emergency number 112 is solving the GPS precision challenge for new passenger vehicles sold in the EU after 2018. In an emergency, an eCall will relay a vehicle’s exact location, time of the incident, and direction of travel to emergency personnel, as sourced from the device, and very accurate. This is done automatically by the vehicle or can be triggered manually by the driver by pushing a button inside the car. That’s technology in action! While we have about two years to go before it becomes available large scale, we’re heading in the right direction.

In addition to eCall, there’s another remarkable solution called Advanced Mobile Location (AML). When a person in distress calls emergency services with a smartphone where AML is enabled, the phone automatically activates its location service to establish its position and then sends this info to emergency services via an SMS. The current downside to this is that AML is only compatible with Android mobile devices (R3.4 or greater). But still … it’s a huge step forward, and sets an excellent example for others.

The concept of AML was developed in the UK by BT’s John Medland in partnership with mobile service provider EE and handset manufacturer HTC initially. First tests were so promising that the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) began to promote AML, which sparked the interest of Google, ultimately getting AML introduced into Android natively. Talk about a ripple effect!

As the world’s leading software and services company, Avaya understands there are better ways to deliver public safety and emergency services, and we’ve been innovating these same capabilities in many commercial arenas for years. Our efforts there have set off their own ripple effect across the public safety industry, urging government agencies around the globe to harness the power of technology to enhance public safety services for citizens. What’s more, our teams are leveraging the Avaya Breeze™ Platform to intelligently link the location data to the incoming eCall or AML call and make it available to the E911 responder. Recently, in partnership with Engelbart Software and Oecon, we’ve developed a flexible and scalable solution for this type of enhanced emergency calling scenario and the results have been positive.

In fact, eCall is looking more and more like a potential game changer, and here’s why.

Let’s look at the technology side of the overall process:

  • A car is involved in an accident.
  • Sensors in the car trigger a sequence of events performed by the In-Vehicle System (IVS).
  • The SIM card registers to the strongest mobile network to raise the emergency call to the EU E112.
  • A modem kicks in, coding the GPS data and other car-related information as audio tones into the voice channel.
  • Immediately following the data transmission, the IVS switches to the hands-free communications system allowing the people in the car to communicate with the E112 responder.

What does this mean for the emergency responder?

  • The E112 responder picks up a call from a mobile device, immediately receiving precise location information. That’s new!
  • The E112 responder can be sure that it’s a serious situation because the airbags have been deployed, which triggers the emergency call sequence to start. So no one is left to wonder the seriousness of the call.
  • Most likely there’s no one for the E112 responder to speak with in the car. Why? Because this is an automatic call, not a call voluntarily initiated by a real person. And while the modem is beeping its data to the Public Safety Answering Point, the passengers might already have stepped out of the car and can’t hear the E112 responder’s “Are you OK?” Or they simply can’t respond because they’re unable due to the severity of the accident.

So are we still talking about a normal emergency call? From my point of view, this is the Internet of Things (IoT) plunging right into public safety and emergency services: sensors, data, processes and integrations. IoT under the disguise of a voice call … this IS a game changer!

At Avaya, we leverage our Breeze workflow engine to tie together voice calls and the IoT. Even though eCall is an initiative in the European Union, we see the concept of telematic calls being discussed around the globe, in public safety as well as in private businesses like the automotive industry. And, yes, we strongly believe that this approach of integration building on Avaya Breeze can also work to help overcome E911’s same fatal flaw, location.

I’ve delivered a series of Avaya Breeze webinars with my colleague, Andrew Maher, featuring Engelbart Software developers. Together, we demonstrate how to deal with eCall and AML. Have a look to learn more about the capabilities of Breeze and its impact on public safety. The demo starts at 00:19:30.

 

Kari’s Law Progress: Texas to implement new 911 Law

983 days. 983 days since a little girl lost her mother after a brutal stabbing, because the motel she was staying in required her to dial a “9” before 9-1-1. Because of one single digit, Kari Hunt perished.

At Avaya, my colleagues and I have fought hard alongside Hank Hunt, Kari’s father, for 983 days in the name of Kari’s Law. The bill would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require phone vendors and individual buildings to make sure people could connect directly with emergency services without having to press 1 or 9 first. The bill would also add two additional requirements—outgoing 911 calls would connect directly to emergency services without local interference, while also notifying onsite personnel that a 911 call was made. With the help of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, we’ve made progress in several states and at the Federal level, promoting Kari’s Law. The state of Texas, Kari’s home state, did an exceptionally good job in fighting for this legislation. It was signed in May 2015.

On Sept. 1, 2016 the law goes into full effect in Texas, which means that businesses in Texas must make necessary provisions NOW. The best place for information is the Texas 911 page. And the Texas CSEC has produced a helpful PSA video featured on YouTube.

Did you know all Avaya systems can be programmed to be Kari’s Law compliant without upgrades? You read that correctly. In fact, many dealers will perform this service free of charge. Customers certainly do not have to purchase anything, as this law concerns access and notification. Expensive ALI management tools are not needed. We made sure this was the case, and even fought hard for a waiver process to protect a customer from having to buy a new system.

For more complex environments and VPN users, remote locations with no trunks, etc., some specific assistance will likely be needed, but customers are advised to talk with us first, as we can apply routing logic to minimize third party costs.

If a solution is required, our Avaya DevConnect SELECT PRODUCT PARTNER solutions are:

Not in Texas? We’re still working hard to make sure Kari’s Law is passed in every state, so that no child will ever face the awful outcome that Kari’s daughter lives with every day. But a change in the law isn’t necessary to do the right thing. Set the example in your state and make sure your 911 system is fully functional without the need for extra digits. Need help? We’re here to assist.

 

Avaya Chief Public Safety Architect Talks Kari’s Law, Life-Saving Policies

When Hank Hunt’s nine-year-old granddaughter saw her mother being stabbed in a Texas hotel room, she did exactly what she learned to do in the case of an emergency: she dialed 9-1-1. When her call didn’t go through, she dialed again … and again … and again. Four times, she dialed 9-1-1, and four times, her call went nowhere.

Hunt’s granddaughter didn’t know – and why should she? – that the phone system in the hotel was an MLTS/PBX, a multiline system that often requires users to first dial a number to reach an outside line.

Since the murder of Hank Hunt’s daughter, named Kari, Avaya Chief Public Safety Architect Mark Fletcher, ENP has made 9-1-1 public safety awareness and progress his mission.

“We know from the coroner’s report that it was the last stab wound that killed Kari,” Fletcher said solemnly. “If Kari’s daughter had been able to directly dial and reach 9-1-1, Kari may be alive today. The gravity of that led me to an epiphany. This needs to change.”

Fletcher is an advocate for Kari’s Law, U.S. legislation that requires direct 9-1-1 dialing from multiline telephone systems, which are commonly found in schools, office buildings and, like in Kari’s case, hotels. At this year’s annual Public Safety conference, National Emergency Number Association President Christy Williams honored Fletcher with the President’s Award for his continuing advocacy.

Until last week, specific language regarding Kari’s Law was only seen at the state level – recently, it was approved by the likes of Illinois, Maryland, Texas and Pennsylvania. It was just introduced at the federal level on Dec. 3 by Representative Louie Gohmert, who filed a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives called The Kari’s Law Act of 2015, which requires anyone who dials 9-1-1 to be able to directly reach emergency personnel and requires the enablement of onsite notification.

On the heels of this milestone, Fletcher sat down with Avaya Connected for an exclusive Q&A about this life-saving legislation.

How have you and Avaya been involved with Kari’s Law?

I saw the initial news of Kari’s murder in Dec. 2013, and when I read the story, my heart sank as I realized what had happened and why. It was clearly an avoidable programming issue, and when I saw Hank’s Change.org petition, I thought I’d help Hank collect more signatures. I recorded a podcast for the Avaya Podcast Network (APN), telling the tragic tale. I also went a step further and got the idea to write an open letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler. I copied all four Commissioners and tweeted to Commissioners @AjitPaiFCC and @JRosenworcel. That evening, I was shocked to see Commissioner Pai favorite the tweet.

A few days later, I received a phone call from Commissioner Pai’s secretary. “He’d like to meet with you to talk about it.” I went to Washington, D.C. expecting to get 5 minutes. That day, we spoke for nearly an hour, and I knew I had his interest and concern.

From there, it’s taken off. We just hit more than half a million signatures on the Change.org petition, and, as you know, we have several statewide legislation initiatives passed and now an active bill filed in Congress. Avaya has given me the pulpit to go out there and educate our customers.  We can change the conversation about 9-1-1 and easily correct the problem, and, for that, I’m very grateful.

What do you mean when you say that Kari’s Law is “changing the conversation?”

There are 240 to 300 million 9-1-1 calls annually, and, based on personal experience, I’d say there’s a lack of direct 9-1-1 dialing access in at least 60 percent of those originating from MLTS/PBX systems. Improving these systems to have direct access and onsite notification isn’t difficult, and it isn’t expensive. Most systems have this ability already built in, and it just needs to be turned on. Kari’s Law is giving us a platform to say: this is something that can − and needs to − be fixed.

Then why would there be resistance?

It’s not resistance so much as a lack of awareness. When Commissioner Pai reached out to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, which represents nine of the top ten hotel chains, they were shocked. They convened an internal task force to address access to 9-1-1 and, now, they have committed to nearly 100 percent implementation of 9-1-1 direct dial access for the owned and managed properties of 10 of the association’s largest member chains, just because they were made aware of the problem. There was no huge financial impact to address this.

There’s a tragic misconception that this is costly – in time or in money. In my experience, it takes 3 minutes to fix the access problem, and 1 minute to configure on-site notification. In nearly all cases, it’s just the flip of a switch or a keyboard click, and can often be done remotely.

In terms of cost, I’ve spoken with four major PBX vendors/distributors/installers that said they’d be happy to check their maintenance customers free of charge to make sure direct 9-1-1 is turned on and, if it’s not, turn it on for free. Three of the four, CSDNet, CSG and DJJ Technologies, all said yes, of course, they’d check and enable their customers. The fourth one, TelServe in Connecticut, said, “I don’t care if it’s a customer or not. We’ll check their systems regardless.” That is a powerful statement and carries a lot of weight.

The Kari’s Law Act of 2015 would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to have phones configured to directly initiate a call to 9-1-1 without dialing any additional digit, code, prefix or post-fix and to require onsite notification for facilities with multi-line phone systems. What does The Kari’s Law Act of 2015 mean for the future of 9-1-1 legislation?

It justifies and promulgates it, but we still have work to do. This is just the Congressional bill. We need to get a Senate bill sponsored, and it needs to go through both houses and to the President’s desk before it is a law. While we will continue to push toward that federal law, in the meantime, we’ll be knocking on state doors to create safer and smarter 9-1-1 legislation for schools, businesses and anyone who uses an MLTS/PBX system.

What can a blog reader do to advocate for safer 9-1-1 technology?

Awareness and action. Don’t assume your office’s 9-1-1 system just works. Take proper precautions and have your maintenance vendor check.

Hank Hunt told us, “Mark Fletcher has been very instrumental in making Kari’s Law a reality. His knowledge of the telecommunications industries is without match and, without his and Avaya’s support, Kari’s Law wouldn’t have been nearly as well received.” If passed, the law would be, quite literally, a life-saver. Congratulations on the progress!

Thank you!

For continued public safety information, be sure to follow Fletcher on Avaya Connected.