Fletch's 2013 Top 10 List of E911 Myths – BUSTED

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When I sit down for a customer meeting, I like to start off each and every session with a quick overview about how E9-1-1 works. Quite often most people in the room, if asked, will say that they understand. Yet after a detailed discussion I find that just about everyone walks away with something new that they didnt understand before.

E9-1-1 is actually a very simple architecture, yet there are so many misconceptions, that myths often become the truth, or at least perceived to be the truth. After all, if it’s on the Internet, it’s got to be true, right? (Bonjour! I’m a French model!)

Since it’s been over 2 ?years since I published my original Top Ten, I thought it would be update that list of misconceptions and see what’s changed . . .

NUMBER 10 – The Myth:
I have to install specialized CAMA trunks in my PBX to carry E9-1-1 calls.

The Reality
E9-1-1 calls can egress the PBX on any trunk type. Since the location reference is embedded in the call signaling, a trunk capable of carrying ANI information is required. In addition to being able to use CAMA trunks, the ANI information can also be conveyed within a PRI information element on any PRI or BRI trunk that has a D channel associated with it.

My Comments
This is quickly falling off the top 10 list, as people are becoming more educated. CAMA trunks are simply not cost-effective, nor are they efficient for enterprise use. Call setup times are lengthy and involved pulsing long digit strings of information using multi-frequency tones. With ISDN services commonly available, as well as SIP, the use of expensive, mileage based CAMA trunks is a thing of the past.

NUMBER 9 – The Myth:
9-1-1 is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, and is mandated by law. Although it is true that 9-1-1 is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, to say that is mandated by law is misleading. In general the FCC does not regulate E9-1-1 for MLTS PBX Systems.

The Reality
This remains to be a myth that is used by people looking to validate their point of view. E911 is regulated at the state level today, there is an action being taken by the Federal Communications Commission that is looking into this particular problem.

My Comments
A public notice of inquiry was made in 2012, in the industry responded that the problem does exist, is easily fixable, and would have further traction if promulgated at the federal level. I can tell you that the MLTS problem is on the radar of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. Personally, I believe that the California MLTS legislative actions will continue to raise awareness at the federal level. I also believe that they indicate a quick and easy solution to the problem, through legislation, is not a difficult task nor is it financially unfeasible.
The proposed legislation in California, as it stands now, will affect only 10% of the businesses within the state. However, these 10% of businesses encompass 80% or more of the workforce. Those are big strides that cannot be ignored.

NUMBER 8 – The Myth:
It is illegal to send ANY number other than your own for caller ID. Therefore using ELINs not owned by the Enterprise for E9-1-1 Location Reporting is actually illegal.

The Reality
This law only applies if you are using the fictitious Caller ID “with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value” according to the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 passed by the Senate on February 23, 2010.

My Comments
This was a rumor that floated around the industry for a short time. Many believe that it was started by those that manage the ANI/ALI databases, in an effort to protect their business. It’s really irrelevant today, as most people realize that a law that prevents you from fixing a 911 problem is probably not real.

NUMBER 7 – The Myth:
Once E9-1-1 is provisioned in my PBX, I never have to worry about it again.

The Reality
Any time there is a topology change in your building, or an individual relocates to another Emergency Response Location, an update of the information may be required.

My Comments
When you mitigate E911 in your enterprise network, make sure that part of the plan includes reassessing user needs, technology deployed, as well as an audit of your solutions and their accuracy. Depending on your organization, and the amount of change, this should be done once or twice a year.

NUMBER 6 – The Myth:
Wireless LAN device location cannot be tracked on the PBX for E9-1-1

The Reality
Many WLAN controllers now support this functionality, or access to API interfaces.

My Comments
A wireless device on your network is just the same as a device on the wired network. With many modern wireless systems, events such as “device association” and “device de-association” can be sent to an application listening for these events. Devices can then be associated with a physical access point on your network, and provide the proper location routing advice to the PBX, as well as notify administrative staff where the device last was, based on access point association. Many wireless LAN controllers, such as the Avaya 8100 series, actually have this functionality built in the core product. If it does not exist in your access point infrastructure, quite often there are API interfaces that will allow third-party vendor products to query the WLAN infrastructure.

NUMBER 5 – The Myth:
Local trunking is required at every branch office to enable calls to reach the local PSAP

The Reality
As long as you have trunking to the same SELECTIVE ROUTER as your remote site, you should be able to reach the local PSAP. If not, a VPC provider may be useful.

My Comments
911 centers in a geographic region are all interconnected through a facility at the carrier called a SELECTIVE ROUTER. 911 centers in remote regions that are not connected to the same SELECTIVE ROUTER are not reachable through the PSTN. There are two ways of solving this problem.
1.) Remote FX or CAMA trunks – usually not a cost-effective solution
2.) VPC carrier offering “umbrella service”, which typically includes North America and Canada.

NUMBER 4 – The Myth:
I can provide better service if I answer 9-1-1 calls using my internal security staff.

The Reality
Local Termination or operating a Private Emergency Answer Point (PEAP) must be carefully considered by your Risk Management department and Public Safety agency.

My Comments
It’s surprising, but this actually seems to be a good idea by many people. If you operate a staffed position internally, and those people are trained to the same standards that an Emergency Medical Dispatcher has at a public 911 center, then you may have the basis for doing this. If you don’t, then you may be asking for more trouble than it’s worth. In addition to employee training, you need to think about extra battery backup, and redundant facilities in the event that that localized solution is down. The last thing that you want to do is block valid 911 calls from reaching public safety because of a failure in your equipment.

NUMBER 3 – The Myth:
Since my cell phone works for E9-1-1 everywhere, I’ll just use that for my 9-1-1 calls since the PSAP always can locate that phone.

The Reality
Cellular phones are capable of providing your location using two different mechanisms. Neither of these function well indoors. Public Safety officials recommend land lines for the best accuracy.

My Comments
As mobile devices become more prevalent and the ‘saturation level’ of cellular devices surpass the population, there is no surprise this rumor has stayed the same at #3. Public safety officials still say that fixed landlines are the best technology to use for 911 calls. This also will change with NG9-1-1 networks and more intelligence in the endpoints, but for now, reach out for the phone on the desk.

NUMBER 2 – The Myth:
9-1-1 in my PBX requires extensive programming and costly recurring charges.

The Reality
In many cases, a 9-1-1 deployment within an enterprise can be accomplished by using only the feature set built into the PBX. E9-1-1 is never a box that you can plug into your network and walk away from.

My Comments
Defining what you want to have happen when users dial 9-1-1 is the first step in planning. Next is to define each type of user, taking into consideration their specific needs. Finally, deploy the technology that will address these requirements and document your solution.

NUMBER 1 – The Myth:
Your PBX sends location information to the PSAP when you dial 9-1-1

The Reality
Your PBX sends one piece of information on a 9-1-1 call. Caller ID nothing more.

My Comments
Once again this remains as the number one myth for PBX and MLTS systems. I believe this is due to the way that E9-1-1 is presented is quite often misleading. Instead of educating the user community, some try to take advantage of an administrator’s lack of knowledge, and misguide administrators in a way which may not be a best practice, but ‘sounds good’. Hyped up sales pitches warning of liability, and “risk analysis reports” that signify a moderate risk regardless of how you answer the questions, don’t really solve any problems. It reminds me of the door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesperson that drops dirt on the rug, only to show that his vacuum cleaner picks up all of the dirt.
Another tactic is to make E9-1-1 sound complex, and then offer an appliance solution that is seemingly “plug-and-play”, only to end up being a single point of failure in the call path.

Customers are intelligent, and given factual information will make the right decisions. Today’s administrators generally understand the problem behind E9-1-1 is location discovery, and the fact that yesterday’s technology where a telephone number equals a location no longer holds true in a modern enterprise network. So although this myth is still untrue, new technologies are emerging that will allow this myth to become reality as we develop and deploy Over the Top solutions, and prepare for Next Generation 9-1-1 services available to the enterprise.

The number one piece of advice I can give on this is:

Make sure that any vendor provides a full
Next Generation 9-1-1 roadmap for their product.

And remember 3 important things:

There is no transition to NG9-1-1
Legacy E9-1-1 uses ANI and ALI
NG9-1-1 uses PIDF-LO

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but those are the facts. Don’t get caught up in the hype.

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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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.


When Is Enough Actually Enough? Exploring the Lagging Face of Public Safety (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, Avaya Vice President and Chief Technologist for software-defined architecture Jean Turgeon opened up a much-needed conversation about the current state of public safety and E911 (which, for the record, doesn’t look good). Just consider that a 2014 study of 1,000 public safety answering points (PSAPs) found that only 18.7% are confident in the location data they receive from wireless callers.

It’s no surprise that technology is vital for improving public safety. The way I see it, this is like a three-legged stool. We need:

  1. Originating devices to support location accuracy

  2. 911 call center networks capable of receiving the information

  3. A Public Safety Emergency Services IP Network to connect them

PSAPs must ensure all three legs are sturdy and of equal length, otherwise fundamental capabilities will be severely limited or missing altogether.

Let’s take a look at the networking side of public safety for a moment. Today in the U.S., there are life-threatening complexities associated with dialing 911 for no other reason than the restrictive legacy networks that transport these calls.

That’s a terrifying thought.

Many times the system programming in hotels and office buildings has similar restrictions. This is why I fight tirelessly in support of Kari’s Law, a U.S. Senate bill introduced earlier this year designed to improve 911 services for multiline phone systems. The law is named in honor of Kari Hunt, who was killed by her estranged husband in late 2013 at a motel in Northeast Texas. One of Hunt’s children tried repeatedly to dial 911 from the motel room’s phone, but wasn’t able to get through because the motel required people to dial 9 to get an outside line. This is a fact I continue to repeat, as I still find people who have not heard of this tragedy, or gave it a second thought.

At the same time, the majority of the emergency call centers today have a serious problem with grade of service. It’s something that’s often in the news, constantly talked about, but rarely acted upon. Our public safety networks are something rarely thought about. Consider the fact that there are somewhere close to 6,000 911 call centers across the U.S. today. Given this, what do you think is the average number of positions staffed in those centers? You likely think dozens, and maybe even hundreds. In actuality, that number is a sparse four people.

So, what happens when all four employees at the average 911 center are tied up because 20 people are calling about the same car accident? Those calls will likely overflow to a neighboring town or city, which then also immediately becomes tied up. This cascading effect starts to immediately make sense how quickly several local governments can be taken out of service. This becomes a serious issue when a person is having a heart attack and dials 911 only to get a busy signal or to be put through to a city 10-20 miles away. A more nefarious problem is how easily it would be to disrupt the U.S. 911 network via Telephony Denial of Service (TDoS) attacks, something the FBI and Public Safety worry about daily.

Overcoming Today’s Greatest 911 Challenges

In Part 1 of this series, JT mentioned a few reasons why PSAPs may overlook infrastructure upgrades. In my opinion, there’s only one primary reason: it’s cost-prohibitive. Why? Because at one point, a handful of businesses in the industry decided they wanted to capitalize on the market by creating very specialized and expensive equipment. Because so few people understand 911, these cost-prohibitive solutions (which run on old technology with massive limitations) are widely believed to be the only options available in the market today.

It has never been more evident that almost every 911 center is currently grappling with technological, financial and operational challenges that seem difficult to overcome. As FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said July 12 in a congressional testimony: “Unless we find a way to help the nation’s [911 centers] overcome the funding, planning and operational challenges they face as commercial communications networks evolve, NG911 will remain beyond reach for much of the nation. Let me be clear on this point: 911 service quality will not stay where it is today, it will degrade if we don’t invest in NG911.”

But remember the three-legged stool, and the originating network, or the enterprise customer. For example, we recently worked with a large customer based in New England that boasted more than 25,000 network endpoints across 700 locations. This included everything from small two-person offices to regional medical centers all the way to large teaching hospitals and universities. The 911 solution this customer was originally going to deploy was estimated at $650,000 in CAPEX, in addition to a monthly recurring operational cost of about $25,000.

Thankfully, this organization came to Avaya before signing the contract and asked if we could assess the situation. After consulting with them, and examining their workflows, we engineered a new operational model that only cost $130,000 in CAPEX, and would be less than $1,500 a month in recurring operational costs. With Avaya functionalities along with technologies delivered by our trusted Select DevConnect Partner Conveyant Systems, Inc., we were able to hand this customer a half a million dollars back in CAPEX, and decreased their OPEX by $282,000 annually. The result of building an efficient 911 solution was the organization now being able to allocate hard-earned dollars towards other top-priority initiatives that had previously gone unfunded. That’s the beauty of it all.

The lesson learned and the key to easily and cost-effectively upgrading your 911 infrastructure is to not accept the status quo, and partner with the right provider for your needs. At Avaya, we know there’s a better way to deliver 911. We take pride in our commitment to driving awareness around this need. It gives us great honor to be advocates for those whose voices must be heard or whose voices have been silenced, like Kari Hunt. We’re dedicated to teaching organizations and our customers that there is in fact a way to seamlessly overcome today’s greatest 911 challenges. We hope that you’ll join us in this very important mission.

When is Enough Actually Enough? A Hard Look at the Lagging Face of Public Safety (Part 1)

When we talk about the state of public safety today, we unfortunately have to recognize the devastating tragedies that have forever affected our communities, schools and businesses worldwide. Research shows that we’re currently experiencing four times as many terrorist attacks globally than in 1990. This month alone, there have been 120 confirmed or suspected attacks—an increase from around 95 in January.

People are being targeted based on their religious beliefs, ideologies and even identities. In France, for instance, we’re seeing new laws that ban certain cultural garbs for fear of terrorist-related threats. Meanwhile, in the U.S., we’re seeing a divide between law enforcement and the very citizens that officers have sworn to serve and protect. In the Middle East, we continue to see unthinkable devastation as violence escalates daily. I understand these aren’t things we want to talk or hear about, but it’s important that we do in order to improve communication infrastructure and transform the global state of public safety and emergency response.

To this end, we’re seeing technology rapidly evolving to a point where there are next-generation solutions available that can help get us to where we need to be. For example, consider the all-new, reopened Sandy Hook Elementary School. On Dec. 14, 2012, the Newtown, CT-based grade school suffered the deadliest mass school shooting in U.S. history. Last month, however, the school reopened its doors equipped with extraordinary technology that ensures next-generation protection for children and staff this school year.

The new design boasts advanced security features that are hidden in plain sight, improving natural surveillance of the grounds. The technology also offers increased situational awareness through a series of impact-resistant windows. Overall, the hope is that the rebuilt school will be the first within the state of Connecticut to be compliant with a new state school safety code, the School Safety Infrastructure Council guidelines.

The redesigned Sandy Hook Elementary School proves that technology can reimagine the possibilities of public safety, if only we allow it to. Examples like this make it really difficult for me to accept that our current state of public safety lags so much. At Avaya, we’re doing all we can to actively bridge this gap. One massive inadequacy we’re especially passionate about improving is the accuracy of E911, or Enhanced 911.

E911 was designed to allow emergency responders to determine the location of a caller based on the caller ID. Today, however, devices have become nomadic and the phone number to location correlation is no longer a valid assumption. Fortunately, there are alternative solutions available that can detect the exact location of a device, an IoT object, or an individual by leveraging smart devices, wearable technologies, and more.

This combination of advanced technology (i.e., Wi-Fi triangulations, GPS, wearables with NFC capabilities) is a key to overcoming 911’s greatest flaw: lack of location data. These advances in technology make it possible, for example, to detect a child that has left a secure area and then immediately send an alert to emergency response teams. These different mechanisms make it possible to save lives. Imagine if someone was suffering a heart attack in an office complex. In this case, standard 911 will enable first responders to locate the building the person is in, but how do they know if the person is on the fifth floor, the 40th floor or in the basement? This same scenario applies to any suspected or proven terrorist.

All of this sounds great, but there’s one problem: for many, deploying these technologies isn’t top of mind. Just consider findings from a 2015 national investigation conducted by USA Today. After sorting through hundreds of pages of local, state and federal documents, it was discovered that:

  • The average chance of 911 getting a quick fix on location ranges from as low as 10% to as high as 95%.
  • In California, 63% of cell phone calls to 911 didn’t share location in 2014.
  • In Texas, two-thirds of cell phone calls reached 911 without an instant fix on location during 2010 to 2013.

No two ways about it: the reason why so many emergency calls today reach 911 without an accurate location is because there’s a severe technology issue at play. Public safety access points (PSAPs) still rely on technology that was designed to locate landlines, despite the fact that the number of 911 calls that come from cell phone networks is 70% to 80% and growing.

Users are evolving from land lines to wireless technologies, but PSAPs continue to remain behind, locked into technology designed in the 1960s. Despite technology being readily available, it isn’t being implemented. Why does this travesty exist? The reason for this is simple: because providers choose not to. Because it’s too costly. Because it’s too much of a hassle or inconvenience. Meanwhile, the reason for implementation is and always will be more important: because lives hang in the balance when archaic infrastructure remains in place.

The bottom line is this: there needs to be a greater movement towards next-generation methodologies of tracking one’s location. PSAPs need to effectively keep up with today’s pace of innovation in order to better serve the general public. It’s great to have a caller’s general location, but responders need richer and more relevant caller information to elevate public safety to where it needs to be today. We need to create proactive urgency around this issue—otherwise, we’re going to keep suffering preventable tragedies until someone finally decides that enough is enough.

Coming up: In Part II of this series, Avaya’s Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions Mark Fletcher will dig into specific technology deficiencies and how to overcome them by easily and cost-effectively upgrading your 911 infrastructure.