Getting E911 Implemented

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As a regular part of my job, I speak to a lot of customers about an E911 implementation in their enterprise environment. Often, they have tried to implement some type of E911 plan, but have failed miserably in the execution, while others have thought about the problem, but never implemented anything. These are two very specific problems, that can easily be addressed with a little planning and project management.

If you have implemented E911, you may want to take a step back and look at your implementation, now that things have been running for some time. For example, I ran across a customer just this past month that had a system in place for several years. They had been paying maintenance, staying with the upgrade paths to maintain current release levels, and everything was running smoothly; or was it?

One day, a user placed a 911 call, and the paramedics showed up at the wrong company location. How could this happen? The answer, unfortunately, is a simple one. The 911 solution they deployed would track user movement throughout the network, and then submit a database change each evening to the local exchange carrier. What the customer failed to do, because of lack of training, was to check the error files in their 911 application. As it turns out, only the initial database loads were successfully transmitted. And for nearly 2 years transactions had been failing a regular basis, and users were not protected when they dialed 911.

Where is the blame? At this point, it’s hard to say. The system administrators that were in charge during the installation of the 911 system, have long moved on. The 911 solution provider did not have records indicating whether the training had occurred or not. It was a classic case of “he said, she said”, with neither side having any concrete evidence. One thing was evident though, a 911 call happened, and the level of protection that was expected, clearly did not occur. Fortunately, the employee was back to work in a few days, and a horrible situation was averted.

  • Did the PBX programming fail? NO
  • Did the E911 application fail? NO
  • Was the user put in extreme danger? YES

It wasn’t a failure in the plan, because before a plan can fail, a plan has to exist. The problem was this customer, and the 911 application provider, both considered the E911 solution to be a box that was plugged in and forgotten about.

I had another customer meeting, where they audited their E911 program after a year or so of operation, and found that entire groups of users were associated with the wrong address, and the wrong building. Upon further investigation, this customer was using the zone based routing approach for E911, but instead of using a virtual number as the ELE or ELIN, they use a user extension number in that zone. The problem here was when that user was moved, the ELE or ELIN was modified in the carrier database, “virtually” dragging along the 100 users associated with it.

The root cause, not understanding how 911 works, and the implications of the “E911 plan” for that enterprise. This begs the question, “How do I protect my network implementation from these very same problems?”. Fortunately, the answer is an easy one. If you don’t understand E911, as well as PBX programming, as well as project management, you run the risk of getting a poorly implemented solution. Why not just have the E911 solution provider handle all of that? Despite what you might think, the 911 solution provider also may be missing the exact same talent sets. Why do I say that? In the two examples I’ve given you, which are both very real, the E911 solution provider was left to deploy their product, unguided and unchecked by the business.

The message here, is to get references from whoever is managing your E911 implementation project. Call those references, and make certain those references check out. I like to throw the vendors for a bit of a loop. I ask them to provide a bad reference. Let’s face it, not every single installation is perfect 100% of the time. I can always provide you a list of happy customers, that’s easy. But the reference I really want to talk to, is the one that had problems with her implementation, and then assess how well those problems were remediated.

One more thing not to forget, make sure you have in your plan someplace, a regulatory and liability review checkpoint. Don’t pretend you’re a lawyer, most likely you are not, and you don’t even play one on TV. The folks that should be involved with that, are the companies risk management team, as well as an external third-party. In fact there’s a great white paper by attorney Martha Buyer, who is also legal counsel for the Society of Telecommunications Consultants. You can download a copy of that free white paper from Avaya select product partner 911 ETC, Inc.

Don’t forget that the APN (The Avaya Podcast Network) is taking it on the road this Spring with our brand-new mobile podcast studio. February 26 through the 28th we will be podcasting live from the Avaya Technology Forum at the Renaissance Hotel in Orlando Florida. You can follow #APNpodcast on Twitter as well as #AvayaATF for details on guests and links to the audio content.

We will also be in New York City at Avaya Evolutions on April 9 with keynote speaker Steve Wozniak, Apple, Inc., cofounder and chief scientist for Fusion-I/O, as well as at IAUG CONVERGE2013 in Orlando Florida June 3-7.

If you’re at the events feel free to stop by and say “Hi!”, Or just get a behind the scenes look at how we produce the APN podcasts. Thanks for listening, you can follow me on Twitter @Fletch911, and don’t forget to check out my colleague Guy Clinch (@gclinch) in the Avaya Tech Talk Podcast at

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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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