911 Answer Delays – Ready, Set, NO!

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Nobody likes to wait for anything, especially for a 911 call taker during an emergency, and 911 Center Public Safety Answer Points (PSAP) Average Call Answer Times have been under scrutiny lately in several states. But before you throw the baby out with the bath water and criticize 911 Call Taker efficiency, you need to validate the data.

Before you measure something, you need to define where you start measuring. For example, when you run a foot race, whether it’s 50 yards, or 5 km, there is a distinctive starting point and finishing point to the race. The clock starts when you cross the start line, and stops when you cross the finish. This sounds logical right? Looking at statistics for emergency calls, is no different; as long as you understand where the clock started, and why.

While discussing average answer times with a colleague this past week, a point came out in the conversation that created a significant amount of confusion around this very topic. In an emergency seconds matter and as it turns out, some emergency dispatchers were being penalized by not meeting a state-mandated answer time. Other agencies were accused of “fudging the numbers” in an effort to make their statistics fall within acceptable guidelines. While looking at the data, however, it became very apparent that the REAL problem was potentially no one was paying attention to when the clock started, only when it ended.

MSN: A 911 response in Detroit takes how long?
San Diego County’s 9-1-1 Communications Home Page


Cattarin-Gary_LG.jpgSo imagine yourself running a five-minute mile, only to find out later that your time was actually 10 minutes because the clock started while you are tying your shoes. Not really too fair, right? Well, the same goes with 911. For those that have asked for more ‘tech content’, here you go. For the rest of you, you’re welcome to read on, especially if it’s bedtime and your looking for a natural sleeping aid!


The Anatomy Of a 911 Call
Unless you’ve listened to the trunk side of a 911 call, you might be slightly astonished at the archaic analog nature of getting a call from Point A to Point B. About two years ago, I was fortunate enough to receive an audio clip from a 911 call that I quite often use for training purposes; as it highlights several points that otherwise aren’t very obvious.

911 Call Pre-amble: Getting Ready To Get Ready
911 CAMA trunks that connect the PSAP to the 911 Tandem central office, are specialized analog circuits similar to Centrex lines. When a call is presented to them from the 911 network, this signaling mechanism is not ringing voltage, as found on a normal telephone line. The central office will “wink” towards the PSAP by applying reverse battery on the circuit. The PBX will then “wink” back towards the central office confirming its readiness to accept a call. The central office will then “wink” back at the PBX confirming that the response was received, and digits will be coming down the line.

When you look at audio as a sound wave, these “winks” are clearly noticeable as a sharp spike in the audio file and can even be heard as a loud click on the line.

In this example you can clearly see the three winks at the very beginning of the call, and if you are measuring answer time from the central office side, this would be a likely spot to start counting from zero.

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At this point in time, the audio path is now open between the central office and the 911 PSAP call taking equipment. The central office then signals to the CPE equipment in band information using Multi-Frequency tones for digits and specialize signaling characters to indicate the pANI of the inbound 911 call. Depending on the area, and the carrier, the ANI that is received could be 7 (NNX-XXXX), 8 (I-NNX-XXXX), or 10 digits (NPA-NNX-XXXX)in length. Once again, looking at our example audio, the MF tones are clearly discernible in the audio wave.

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You will also notice that there is another audio spike, which is the PBX signaling a “wink” back to the central office acknowledging receipt and acceptance of the ANI information. It also serves as a go-ahead signal for the central office to open up the audio channel between the original caller and the PSAP.

At this point, based on the audio in this example, the PBX applies ringing to the line, and you can see the abrupt change in audio as the callers audio is now also patched through.

As an interesting side note, what has happened up until this point is fairly critical in processing and delivering the 911 call to the PSAP. I have seen cases in the past where adjunct equipment has been installed on the CAMA trunks to capture the ANI information and send it over to the CPE 911 equipment for processing. But, because they are signaling back to the central office was not in proper sequence, they returned answer supervision to early to the central office and the callers audio actually corrupted the receipt of the MF tones. In fact, as it turns out a woman screaming can often mimic an MF tone, causing the system to process garbage data and potentially make the call fail.

Another interesting thing happens at this point, and that is the CPE equipment now is aware of the call, and has the information required to process it, and typically generates a Call Detail Reporting (CDR) start record. Once again another potential starting point for the call. The only problem here, is that this starting point is three seconds out of sync with the central office starting point.

The next step in the sequence would be for the CPE or PBX to process the call, and deliver it to a 911 call taker. After analyzing and listing closely to this sample recording, it appears that the 911 call taker answered the line immediately after the first ring (and remember a ring cycle is to second on followed by four seconds of silence). Since we cannot see or hear the second ring, we can assume that the call was picked up almost immediately after the first ring, and in fact you can see a small blip of audio when the line is connected, which is immediately followed by the dispatcher saying “911 what is the location of your emergency?”

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At this point on the timeline, nine seconds has now passed from when the central office initiated the call, yet depending where the starting point is, can significantly skew the data, and the dispatcher could actually be penalized for a nine second delay
when in fact they answered the call within two seconds of it being presented to them.

Keeping it fair for everyone
let’s face it, we certainly want to make sure that our nation’s public safety operators are doing their job, and are performing within the excepted national specifications. What we have to be careful of though is to make sure that we are not penalizing them by looking at bad data.


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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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.”

Transforming Online Meetings for Team Collaboration

I find it interesting how companies choose to measure team collaboration. Most use surveys, some productivity data, and others standard review processes. Yet team collaboration is about so much more than all of this. If you ask us, it’s about putting people first.

We mean this quite literally. It’s important to provide employees with a suite of face-to-face collaboration capabilities that enable dynamic, real-time team collaboration. Communication staples like voice and chat are surely important, along with the endless other tools teams use to connect and share information. Meeting via video, however, is arguably the best way to collaborate, build relationships, create momentum and build morale. Face-to-face collaboration may not always be needed, but companies will want to make sure they have the best tools in place for when it is.

When done right, online meetings enhance team collaboration in several ways. Consider the most basic of them all: a good part of communication is non-verbal. Being able to observe team members’ body language can help prevent miscommunication and connect across languages and cultures. The technology has also evolved to the point where teams can flexibly share data, documents and other project details via screen sharing or virtual whiteboards. All the while, there’s the opportunity to initiate private chat sessions between team members to discuss simultaneously.

The bottom line: online meetings enable authentic human interaction that delivers real value, time and cost savings, and better business outcomes.

Now, imagine being able to quickly implement an easy-to-use, cost-effective service that skips the capital investment and technical hassle of a traditional video solution. This is exactly what Avaya Equinox Meetings Online offers: a cloud-delivered application that allows users—both employees and outside contacts—to connect with their browsers (no plug-ins required) or mobile apps to effortlessly initiate and/or participate in online meetings. The service places priority back on people, which is where it belongs. Simple as that.

Don’t believe us? Read Nemertes Q4 2017 Enterprise Business Value Matrix for Unified Communications and Collaboration to see what they had to say. If you like what you see, or if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our team for more information via our webchat.

The Easy Button for IoT

I am sure that I don’t have to tell you how the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing our world. Stop by any electronics retailer and you will find smart TVs, smart lights, smart refrigerators, and smart thermostats. Open up the brochure for a new car and you will find more space dedicated to intelligent sensors than horsepower. Tour a modern manufacturing plant and you will quickly discover that nearly every machine used in production has been equipped with an IP address. From the consumer to the enterprise, IoT is the driving force of innovation.

Of course, there is a dark side to this revolutionary technology: It’s not all that easy. As a consumer, it’s not a big deal to have one smart dryer that sends a text message when your clothes are dry. It’s also pretty simple to have your refrigerator email you a photo of its contents. In these cases, it’s just you and your machine.

However, what if you had a thousand dryers and ten thousand refrigerators. Let’s take it further. What if you were American Airlines and your fleet of airplanes had five hundred thousand different sensors reporting information every second. Now, imagine that some devices reported data using Bluetooth while others used Zigbee, WiMAX, LTE, WiFi, and NFC. Want to make it even more challenging? These different sensors report data reading using SOAP, REST, WebSockets, and a myriad of proprietary protocols. It quickly becomes an engineering nightmare to collect, store, and take the appropriate actions on this constant stream of data.

One Bite at a Time

Question. How do you eat an elephant? Answer. One bite at a time.

As with an elephant, the best way to conquer the IoT problem is to break it down into bite-sized pieces. Instead of trying to directly deal with all those different sensors and their unique forms of communication, have those sensors talk to gateways that understand multiple IoT dialects. Those gateways could then normalize the data before sending it off to a central cloud repository. Next, wrap the IoT cloud with web services that allow for a consistent and uniform way to access IoT data. Finally, use those web services to create a suite of applications for data visualization, event processing, analytics, etc.

Now, instead of being inundated with terabytes of data that may or may not be important, you only see what you need to see and only when you need to see it. You also have a scalable platform that allows you to add new sensors without having to constantly redesign and redeploy your business applications.

At Arrow Systems Integration (ASI), an Avaya A.I.Connect partner, we call this distributed architecture of sensors, gateways, and cloud services Arrow Connect™.

Arrow Connect

Arrow Connect is a software architecture that connects any device over any protocol to any cloud. Designed and developed by Arrow with security, scale, flexibility, device management, multi-tenancy, hierarchy, open APIs, and extensibility as its core principles, Arrow Connect is helping customers across multiple industries bring their products to market faster.

The Arrow Connect software development kit (SDK) helps enterprises leverage the full capabilities of any device while an extensible software gateway allows developers to add support for protocols and sensors not currently supported by Arrow Connect.

The Arrow Connect cloud platform enables secure provisioning and management of all its devices. It runs on multiple public cloud platforms and seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Azure, IBM Watson Bluemix/Softlayer, Amazon Web Services, and private data center solutions.

Breeze and Zang Workflows

While support for RESTful web services is essential to being an open and secure cloud solution, this comes with a price and that price is complexity. Despite being an open standard understood by most software developers, the fact that you must be a developer to use web services confines them to a very select group of people.

In our quest to find every possible way to simplify IoT, ASI has partnered with Avaya to add support for Arrow Connect IoT devices, sensors, and gateways into Avaya Breeze and the Zang Workflow Designer. With both of these platforms, access to IoT data and Arrow Connect services becomes as simple as drag and drop and non-developers can create powerful IoT solutions in a matter of minutes. Better still, this simplification does not come at the cost of accuracy, reliability, speed, security, or scalability. The visual tasks embedded in these workflow tools employ the same Arrow Connect web services a skilled software developer would use. The difference is that there is no need to learn Java, .Net, Python, or any other programming language.

 

The Easy Button for IoT

With integrated workflow technology, you can quickly turn an idea on a whiteboard into a fully functional and easily deployable solution.

Next Steps

McKinsey recently said that “Any business that fails to invest heavily in the IoT in the next 10 years is unlikely to be able to remain competitive.” While these may seem like strong words, industry after industry has taken them to heart and the IoT revolution is everywhere. As I stated at the beginning of this article, IoT is becoming pervasive for both consumers and businesses.

The simplification, scalability, and security of IoT offered by Avaya and Arrow Systems Integration helps an enterprise to create the solutions it needs to enhance its business, grow its customer base, and stay competitive.

Andrew Prokop is the Director of Emerging Technologies at Arrow Systems Integration. Andrew is an active blogger and his widely-read blog, SIP Adventures, discusses every imaginable topic in the world of unified communications. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ajprokop, and read his blog, SIP Adventures.