Avaya TechTalk 010: Next Generation 9-1-1 Now!

By Guy Clinch

Now Playing: Avaya TechTalk 010: Next Generation 9-1-1 Now!

How organizations and Government can obtain many of the values of NG9-1-1 today

In this episode of Avaya Tech Talk APNPodcast host Guy Clinch, engages in conversation with Tim Kenyon, President of Conveyant Systems, Inc. and Matt Serra, Sr. Director, Product Management at Rave Mobile Safety about how the government communication enterprise and commercial organizations can implement the promise of Next Generation 9-1-1 today. Guy, Tim and Matt talk about how much of the promise of NG9-1-1 is possible for government agencies today. Access to these capabilities can be achieved by leveraging existing investments to create an information rich public safety environment. The group talks about the implications for the Public Safety Answering Point and across the public safety chain of care. The group talks in depth about how unlocking access to exiting sources of information using tools from Conveyant and Avaya combined with new sources of information including Rave Mobile Safety’s Smart 9-1-1 applications are dramatically enhancing the processes of delivering emergency in communities across the globe.

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Tim Kenyon
Matt Serra


Tim, Matt and Guy talk about the current state of the 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), the call center that governments use to answer 9-1-1 calls from civilians. They describe the technologies and networks in place today and the many limitation these legacy technologies place upon public safety. The conversation then flows into Next Generation 9-1-1(NG9-1-1) and Matt, Tim and Guy discuss the dramatic changes that are envisioned by organizations including the National Emergency Number Association, the member driven group comprised of the people who answer 9-1-1 calls. Described is how NG91-1-1 will be different, what types of new sources of information will be available and how that may be used by public safety officials is touched upon.

The group then continues the discussion talking about how the promise of Next Generation 9-1-1 can begin to become a reality today. They talk about how the combination of Rave Mobile Safety’s Smart 9-1-1, Conveyant Systems abilty to derive information from multiple sources and the 9-1-1 capabilities of the systems provided by Avaya can combine to deliver information rich communications to the Public Safety Answering Point today.

Matt and Tim talk about the 9-1-1 Over-the-Top method of delivering this information to the PSAP and how this technique overcomes the shortfalls of the legacy networks supporting the 9-1-1 system. The technique makes access to resources including:
· personal information granted to public safety by the individual caller;
· 9-1-1 information previously trapped in the databases of onsite communications system;
· Material Safety Data Sheets;
· Computer Aided Design diagrams;
· isometric building plans;
· links to real-time sources of information such as live video feeds from webcams;
· environmental sensors capable of indicating heat and the presence of hazardous substances; and
· other sources of information.

They talk about how this information is being made available to a large and growing number of PSAPs and how the information is extended even into the hands of responding public safety personnel. As Matt says, “We swing the doors of the PSAP open,” by combining the data transport capacities of the Smart911Connect technology from Rave Mobile Safety with the rich information sources of information including data from the Sentry E9-1-1 Emergency Location Management Solutions from Conveyant that unleashed the comprehensive data found in the systems provided by Avaya.

Tim talks about his background coming from a family of Emergency Responders and the very lively discussions about having this level of information available. Tim talks about the power of having information in the hands of responders allowing them to do their incidence response, “As they are in route instead of waiting until they get there and trying to figure out what they are dealing with once they get there.”

Matt follows up by describing how the data, once captured by the Smart 9-1-1 applications, can be pushed out to mobile data terminals in use by incident commanders and responders. Matt talks about the opportunities available from richer and more verbose information becoming available in the PSAP. He describes the possibilities of a call into a PSAP about a missing child not only being a verbal description but now including other data such as a photo of the child made instantly available. Matt talks about the enormous benefit of being able to transmit that photo into the hands of first responders in an instant.

Matt then talks about the challenge ahead to make Next generation 9-1-1 a reality. He compares it to the time and effort it took to establish the system for mobile 9-1-1 location accuracy, a process that took more than ten years. Matt points out that in relation to those challenges, the complexities of making NG9-1-1 a reality are significantly more significant. The good news is that organizations and government don’t need to wait to begin to realize the promise of NG9-1-1. The combination of Rave Mobile Safety, Conveyant Systems and Avaya are making this realty today. Mat says we say to our customers, “Here are the things you’ve been thinking about, here are the things you’ve been hearing about, here’s how we can get that to you today.” Matt goes on to say, “In a very quick simple fashion, we can turn a PSAP up in a matter of days.”

It is also important to be the good stewards, he continues. We do this by thinking ahead to Next Generation 9-1-1 so that the investments of today are the building block to the future. “We’re going to be there for our customers not just now, but when they flip the switch to Next Generation 9-1-1, we’ll be there for them then,” said Matt.

Tim said the same is true at Conveyant Systems. “We stay abreast of the trends and where things that are going in 9-1-1.”

The conversation ends with a short discussion about efforts that Rave Mobile Safety is taking in support of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Matt describes that if listeners visit the Smart 9-1-1â?¢ website and register by completing a safety profile his company will donate one dollar for each new registrant to One Fund Boston supporting the support of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Registration is free and the information you provide could result in improving the ability for public safety organizations to help you or a loved one who someday needs to dial 9-1-1 during an emergency.

Dear Listeners,

I’ll be honored if you chose to follow me on Twitter @gclinch check out my professional profile on LinkedIn and subscribe to my podcasts: http://AvayaTechTalk.com.

Warmest regards,
Guy W. Clinch


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Kari’s Law: An Emotional Journey Leads to a Bittersweet Ending

Our long journey leading up to the presidential signing of Kari’s Law began well before the precious life of Kari Hunt tragically ended on Dec. 1, 2013. (Learn about Kari’s story.)

For me, it actually began in the spring of 2013 when I noticed a sign on my hotel door, which read: “In case of an emergency, dial 0 for the operator.” I remember thinking, “The operator isn’t trained to handle an emergency. I should be able to dial 9-1-1 from my room phone.”

Sadly, this occurrence wasn’t an anomaly. I found it to be a common bad practice adopted by too many hotels across the United States.

There’s no doubt their intentions were good. Hotels were looking to be proactive, and they wanted to expedite not delay emergency response times. To make matters worse, direct access to 9-1-1 from Multi Line Telephone System (MLTS) was flawed because guests couldn’t dial 9-1-1 directly. They needed to dial an extra 9 just to get an outside line. That proved to be a fatal flaw in Kari’s case because her 9-year-old daughter couldn’t get through to 9-1-1. MLTS legislation also didn’t exist or, if it did, it was limited to a handful of states, and much of that dealt with the reporting location. It didn’t address the issue of access and notification.

Throughout the year, I used social media to increase awareness and drive meaningful change. I spoke at conferences and even began a podcast series dedicated to this very topic.

Then one day in December 2013, everything changed. My Google Alerts for 9-1-1 came up with a Change.org petition that was raised by Hank Hunt after his daughter Kari was brutally murdered in her hotel room.

I reached out to Hank on Facebook and offered to help him in his cause. Having an innovative tech leader like Avaya backing me increased Hank’s confidence in my ability to help him bring about the changes he sought.

My previous experience immediately proved useful, and we were able to go straight to the top at the FCC. (I had served on the Emergency Access Advisory Committee under Chairman Julius Genechowski, who had just turned the agency over to Chairman Tom Wheeler. Talk about timing!)

Following a number of tweets and letters, including an Open Letter to the FCC Chairman Wheeler, we received a call from Commissioner Ajit Pai’s office and a meeting was scheduled for Jan. 10, 2014. That meeting turned into a 45-minute discussion on the issues, the fix, and the challenges we faced.

Over the next several months, Hank and I garnered the interest of legislators in cities and states across the country: Suffolk County in Long Island, the state of Illinois, Maryland, et al.

In Texas, Avaya participated in hearings, and offered our unique expertise. We introduced the idea of a “Waiver Clause,” which stated that a business could obtain an exemption if they showed financial hardship. With the exemption was the requirement to register the make and model number of the system. This uncovered many systems that were actually capable of being compliant, and eased the adoption of the new law.

More states followed embraced the legislation—it was a full-on domino effect—except at the federal level where every attempt to bring a bill to life stalled. But then in 2018, that changed too.

After an all-night session ending on Feb. 9 on what would have been Kari’s 36th birthday, the House of Representatives passed the Senate amendment of H.R. 582, and it was officially on the way to the president of the U.S. for signature.

We quietly celebrated, knowing Kari’s murder would not be in vain.

The cherry on the cake was being invited by Hank, Kari’s father, to witness the president sign the bill into law on Feb. 16, 2018. I was both humbled and honored, and invited my former colleague Avaya Sales Engineer Dan Wilson to enjoy the moment with us. Dan had worked tirelessly on this legislation, clocking 12 miles of walking in the Maryland House and Senate.

The West Wing is everything you’d imagine: intimidating, wonderful and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was a pleasure to not only stand beside Hank and witness the signing, but to also be in the company of people who supported our endeavor since day one: Ajit Pai, my good friend and now Chairman of the FCC, Congressman Louie Gohmert who introduced the bill, as well as other Congressional reps with interest in public safety. After reading a prepared statement, President Trump uncapped the ceremonial pen and placed it on the paper. As it started to move, we were overcome with emotion. To think, 50 years to the day, and quite nearly the minute, following the first ever 9-1-1 call, Kari’s Law had become the “Law of the Land.”

A Kari’s Law Update: FCC Launches Inquiry on 9-1-1 Capabilities

At Avaya, we continue to shine a light on the progress of making Kari’s Law a global reality. Just this week, the U.S. FCC (Federal Communications Commission) considered a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that seeks comment on the provision of 9-1-1 by enterprise communications systems that serve businesses, hotels, educational institutions, and government entities.

This NOI was heard under Public Safety and Homeland Security Docket 17-239 and addresses issues raised by Avaya on behalf of Hank Hunt. Hunt created the petition after the tragic death of his 31-year-old daughter Kari Hunt, on December 1, 2013, in Marshall, Texas. Kari’s 9-year old daughter knew to dial 9-1-1 from the hotel room phone but was unable to connect because a 9 was needed first to reach an outside line. Versions of the Bill have passed the House and U.S. Senate and are ready to be joined and sent to the White House. Around the world, there are over 600,000 supporters of Kari’s Law on Change.org.

In addition to the important aspects defined by Kari’s Law, Direct Access, On Site Notification, and Routing without Interception, this new FCC NOI covers affordable implementation, and management and testing of solutions.

Summaries of the Report & Order (R&O) are published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register summary will tell you when a rule change will become effective. It is not quite as entertaining as the general legislative process—there’s no fun “I’m just a Bill” song—but the process is efficient, and most importantly gets public and commercial input, as well as the contribution of specific experts to the legislation at the very start. During the September Open Meeting, Chairman Ajit Pai said, “Of course, we are not laboring alone in these fields. Each House of Congress has unanimously passed a version of the Kari’s Law Act of 2017. This legislation would help ensure direct access to 911. I hope Congress can quickly resolve these bills and send final text to the President.”

To keep up on the FCC proceeding, you can watch a replay of the Open Meeting. To learn more about Kari’s Law, visit the Kari Hunt Foundation to read her story, and learn what can be done to ensure a child is never again unable to dial public safety.

Understanding the Process (and the Government’s Alphabet Soup)

I manage Avaya’s public safety solutions portfolio and give guidance about public safety answer points. I also dedicate time to furthering public safety standards across America and the world—I participate on Federal Advisory Committees assisting the FCC and several recognized standards development organizations.

But, most important are the global standards that assist in advancing the vast telecommunications infrastructure used to deliver connectivity to the masses. These guidelines and best practices establish a baseline and set the stage for legislative guidance within the industry.

In the United States, the FCC regulates interstate and international communications that take place by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories. The Commission, overseen by Congress, is the designated federal agency that is responsible for implementing and enforcing America’s communications law and regulations.

To make that a bit clearer, each time that Congress wishes to pass a piece of legislation affecting telecommunications, the FCC is tasked with developing rules to implement any specific law needed to codify the legislation. To carry out its work, the FCC takes specific regulatory steps to formulate and enforce these rules. Fortunately, none of this takes place in a vacuum, and consumers are afforded an opportunity to submit comments for consideration by the FCC during deliberations of a docket item. The entire decision-making process is well defined, although it can reveal a whole new ingredient in the alphabet soup served as a daily special at Chez’ Telecom.

A Quick Guide to FCC Rulemaking

  • NOI (Notice of Inquiry): The Commission releases an NOI to gather information about a broad subject or as a means of generating ideas on a particular issue. NOIs are initiated either by the Commission or an outside request.
  • NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking): After reviewing comments from the public, the FCC may issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. An NPRM contains proposed changes to the Commission’s rules and seeks public comment on these proposals.
  • FNPRM (Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking): After reviewing your comments and the comments of others to the NPRM, the FCC may also choose to issue an FNPRM regarding specific issues raised in comments. The FNPRM provides an opportunity for you to comment further on a related or specific proposal.
  • R&O (Report and Order): After considering comments to a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (or Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making), the FCC will issue a Report and Order. The R&O may develop new regulations, amend existing rules or make a decision not to do so.

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.