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.

Summary
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.


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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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