Long Island Legislator Rob Trotta Vows to Push for 911 Reform around Kari's Law

For large pockets of the U.S., you still have to dial ‘9’ to get out of internal phone tree systems. While that’s a minor annoyance for office workers making routine calls, it’s a potentially deadly (and entirely preventable) problem when you have to dial 911. Or, in that case, 9-911.

I’ve been actively advocating for 911 reform, following the tragic death of Kari Rene Hunt in December. That campaign is getting results.

Today, I sat down with Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta, to talk 911 on New York’s Long Island.

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta

Fletch: Hey, it’s Fletch with the Avaya Podcast Network. Welcome to this edition of E911 Talk Episode 192, recorded on Sunday, March 16, 2014. We’re sitting down talking with Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta, who’s the legislator for the 13 District of the North Shore, Long Island. Legislator Trotta, welcome to the podcast.

Robert Trotta: Thanks for having me.

Fletch: I’ve also got Dan Wilson who’s a subject matter expert for 911 and a Systems Engineer for Avaya in New York City. Welcome Dan.

Dan Wilson: Thank you, Fletch.

Fletch: We’re talking today about legislation around E911 and as I understand it, Legislator Trotta, you were talking to Dan about 911 and that’s when the issue of dialing 9 out of a PBX came to light, correct?

Robert Trotta: Yes. It’s actually quite embarrassing because I’ve been a detective prior to my legislative duties for 25 years, and it never really came to light. Dan pointed out the situation with Kari’s Law and what happened to Kari down in Texas and I said, “You know, that’s just something we should look into here.”

Fletch: What are you planning to do about this? I mean, you’ve obviously got some legislative duties on the island to make things happen, what’s on your agenda to take care of this problem?

Robert Trotta: What I’m going to do is I’m going to introduce a bill requiring all hotels, office buildings, county facilities, government facilities in Suffolk County to have the ability when you pick up the phone and dial 911, it should go to an official dispatch center for the police department.

It shouldn’t go to the front desk. It shouldn’t go somewhere else, and it shouldn’t go nowhere–which is what happened when I tested here in my own office.

Fletch: You’re kidding me. Your own office is not even 911 compliant?

Robert Trotta: No, it’s not. I picked up the phone and dialed 911, and it didn’t go through.

Fletch: Wow. You know what, in some ways it’s kind of surprising, in some ways it’s not. This is where we’ve gone out and we’ve talked to the Avaya distributor network that’s out there. TelServ is a company up in Connecticut, a local distributor, they’re going to be doing some “>free 911 checks for their customers, letting them know if they’re compliant or not. Dan, I understand that you talked to a couple of distributors on the island as well.

Related article: What Really Happens When You Dial 911?

Dan Wilson: Yes, I talked to two of Avaya’s value distributors in Suffolk County, DJJ Technologies and CSDNET, and they both are committed to the safety of their customers and have both committed to do free 911 help checks for their existing customers to make sure, as Representative Trotta said, when someone dials 911, the call goes through.

They don’t require an access code like 9-911 and it goes through to the emergency dispatch center, not some other number somewhere in the facility. They’ve committed to giving their existing customer this help check. They’re pretty confident that their customers are set up that way, but they’re committed to verifying that with any customer that request that service.

Fletch: Yeah. You know what, when you look at this, it’s not really difficult to set up most telephone systems. Certainly all the Avaya PBXs have the ability of handling 911 and 911 directly. The PBXs have the ability to notify people onsite that a 911 call event is taken care of and obviously, we got the ability to route the call directly to 911.

We’re really talking about built-in features that always been a little bit of trepidation, I think, on customers. They’re thinking that they’ve got to buy this hundred thousand dollar application or excessively expensive application to turn this functionality on. In reality, it’s built-in to the PBX most of the time, certainly with Avaya products and even with our competitor’s products.

Robert Trotta: Yeah. I’m hoping that’s the case because most adults might know to dial 9-991, but quite honestly, a lot of times, this situation with children who were just taught 911, they pick up the phone and it goes nowhere. That’s a big concern right now.

Fletch: Yeah. I think that’s what really brought the light of the Marshall, Texas tragedy around Kari’s Law and that’s what kind of really got the nation behind that was a 9-year-old girl who watched her mother get stabbed multiple times. She tried to dial 911 four times, but she tried to dial 911, not 9-911, and that’s where the problem is.

Placarding telephones in the hotels that are there, the type is so small that you don’t even notice it and at the end of the day, we teach our kids to dial 911, and that’s what it should be at all times.

Robert Trotta: Yeah. If this is something that’s not going to cost companies thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars, this is definitely something that we should do. It certainly going forward, any new system should have the ability to dial 911 or that should be built in right from the beginning.

Fletch: Absolutely. We got some federal legislation that’s being modeled in the works right now. The FCC is going to start looking at this again.

9-1-1 Goes To Washington is the National Emergency Number Association annual event that’s happening a couple of weeks. Down there, I think it’s going to be a great example just to show–even if your bill is not even in place at that point–it’s a great example just to show legislators around the country that people are standing up and saying, “Look, this is a problem. We’re not going to wait for this to get fixed. This needs to happen right now.”

If it can start happening at the local level, that just gives it that much more credence when it starts to happen at a national level. If everything is in alignment, it’s not a big problem to have all of these kind of come together and normalize once it does go federal. You have my total gratitude for pushing this forward at a local level. If we have more legislators stand up and just do the right thing, this wouldn’t be a problem. You have my gratitude for taking that measure.

Robert Trotta: Thank you very much.

Fletch: Dan, anything else that you want to add to this?

Dan Wilson: I noticed that the change.org Kari’s Law petition is still active and I know that Hank Hunt certainly looks at those numbers and I would encourage people that haven’t signed that petition, and by the way, Legislator Trotta personally signed that petition last week, and I would encourage people to get on the website and sign that petition. I think we’re at 400,000 and why can’t we have a million signatures?

Fletch: Yeah, exactly. That’s change.org/karislaw. You can pledge your support on there. The last I looked, it was 434,000 signatures and I’m sure it’s up a little bit from that.

When Hank initiated that petition after he realized what had happened and he had lost his daughter to this tragedy, he was hoping to get a hundred signatures on that petition and be able to take it somewhere, and like I said, he’s now 434, 435 thousand people from around the country.

Robert Trotta: I don’t see why everyone in the whole country doesn’t sign this. This is something that’s very, very simple. I mean, who would be against this? Nobody.

Fletch: I look at this kind of like the jaywalking law. Why do we need a law against jaywalking? I mean, it’s kind of common sense, yet we do. I tell you, we do need a law, because when I do talk to companies, just out in Wisconsin, speaking to a user’s group meeting out there and I had four or five people come up to me and say, “What’s the law? Because I don’t want to do anything without a law in place.” I think some people are just afraid of making that decision on their own.

Related article: Hotel E911 Check-Up for Owners and Guests

Robert Trotta: Yeah, this shouldn’t be a problem. I mean, this is something that’s just very, very simple to make. I mean, the only downside I see is that, let’s say a hotel has something like this and the economy is not doing so well and they don’t want to buy a new phone system. There’s got to be something in that law that say, “Okay, we’re going to make them sign something knowing they have to say dial 9-911 or something that just to get,” if there is a few hotels or motels or some business that don’t have the ability to do it, we’ve got to be able to teach the employees and teach the guest how to do this.

Fletch: I think that’s the key right there. There are going to be some systems out there somewhere that are just not capable of being compliant and because of that, we don’t want this to be a financial burden on anybody, but in those very specific, unique cases, if they can show that their equipment cannot be compliant, then that’s when a placarding law makes sense. I’m not talking about a little tinnie label on a phone at 8 point, we’re talking about a decent sized label.

Even if the model legislation NENA is looking at, they’re talking about text on a placard that in like 14 point that says, you can’t 911 from this telephone, you need to dial 9-911, and the 9-911 has to be in like 36 point, red, bold font.

None of these little stickers that you wouldn’t even see unless you’re looking for it, because that’s what I find in a lot of places. It’s there, but if you’re not looking for it, you’ll never see it. The other problem is, I see people answering their own 911 calls and that’s probably just as big of a travesty. I know they’re not trained in CPR and emergency medical care like the Emergency Medical Dispatches are at your 911 centers.

Robert Trotta: Yeah, hotels are particular concern because you have children in hotels, you have people not familiar with the area, and a lot of hotels sometimes they have different things besides 911, dial 0, something like that. That’s my greatest concern is if you’re working in a business and you’ve been dialing 9 to get an outside line all the time, the odds are, when an adult will dial 9 and then 911. I’m more concerned with the hotels and with places where there’s children involved.

Fletch: You know Legislator Trotta, I think that’s excellent point here. This is really maybe that’s why the focus of this has gone so well because incidents like this have happened over the past few years and they’ve been a story for a couple of months and they kind of then died off.

This one is really kind of held on and it’s retained a lot of attention in the press, I think partly because it’s a travesty of a 9-year old girl who got caught up in this. I think that you’ve just hit on the head right there of one of the most important points.

It’s a hotel environment, it’s a child, we can’t expect them to start reading placards or knowing what to do. We drill into their head in schools and everywhere that you dial 911 in an emergency, yet when they’re in that hotel room and the only phone available is the hotel phone and it doesn’t work that way, yeah, that’s a problem.

Robert Trotta: You often wonder or heard about this, how many people has this happened to and people might have died of a heart attacks or medical situation, that we never know about?

Fletch: I think you bring up a great point because whenever I’m talking to the public safety community, everybody always says, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, PBX is … what a big problem that is.”

Everybody’s got one or two stories and they’ll always be stories that I’ve never heard before. The famous stories are the woman in Chicago, two tall buildings next to each other and phone system was in one, she was in the other, terrible fire up in the high floor, firefighters went in the wrong building. Everything was quiet for a long time.

There was an issue down in Gaithersburg, Maryland. A company had addresses and buildings on both sides of the street, worker comes in, dials 911, has a heart attack, EMS is there in 6 minutes, but they go into the main building. Nobody knew that 911 was dialed. He’s 50 feet away from everybody and dies under his desk. Ten hours later, cleaning lady finds him.

There were chemical plant explosions down in West Virginia, not one 911 call from the entire facility. You can’t tell me they weren’t answering their own 911 calls. You had residents from 20 miles away calling the 911 center going, “Something just exploded.” Again, it’s all these circumstantial evidence that this has been a problem, and then we finally have this incident that happened down in Marshall, Texas and this thing went nearly three weeks before it was even a story in the news that went nationwide.

When I saw it and I realized that it was, “Wait a second, she tried to dial 911 and couldn’t?” That’s when I saw it was the story and it started bringing the attention. That’s when I started writing letters to the FCC and getting their attention.

Thank goodness for Commissioner Ajit Pai picked this up and started jumping right on top of this, and really starting to carry this home. They’ve got the American Hotel and Lodging Association forming a task force over this. We’ve got our distributors going out doing the free checkups and now, we’ve got a Suffolk County Legislator who’s going to just say, “You know what? I’m not waiting. I’m drafting a law and I’m going to use the model legislation as a basis to get something going right now.” Unbelievable, unbelievable is all I can say.

Robert Trotta: All right, let’s get this going.

Fletch: Okay.

Robert Trotta: I’m planning on doing it Monday morning. I’m going to submit the bill.

Fletch: Fantastic. I really appreciate you. We’ve got breaking news here. We’re actually breaking the story. Good find, Dan. Great job.

Dan Wilson: That’s what I do.

Fletch: That’s why we keep you around. We’re talking with Legislator Rob Trotta with the 13th District in North Shore, District of Long Island who is going to be introducing a bill for 911 within Suffolk County so that people can dial 911 from schools, businesses, hotels, and multi-line telephone system. We’ve also got Dan Wilson on the line who has gotten a couple of distributors out in the Long Island area and really kind of brought this whole matter to Legislator Trotta to raise awareness.

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 E911. 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 at @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.