Brian AndersonSeptember 24, 2021

Don’t Skimp on NG911. Lives are at stake.

Do you want to skimp on Next-Generation 911 capabilities when lives are at stake?

Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act require Multi-Line Telephone Systems – like those in businesses, hotels, government agencies, and schools – to enable direct dialing to 9-1-1 call centers, and that those calls include a detailed “dispatchable location” to decrease response time.

At the state level, there appears to be some momentum building for Alyssa’s Law, which would mandate that public schools install silent alarms that would be directly connected to local law enforcement in a state of emergency.

Yet, it appears that many businesses, education institutions, and public sector agencies are still not complying with federal laws. Why? Is it because Next-Generation 911 (NG911) capabilities are perceived as too expensive?  

People often ask, “What is the bare minimum I have to do to be compliant with the law?” My thinking is, “Do you want to get a D- on a test around 9-1-1 when it is probably the most important phone call you will make?”

Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act were signed into law in 2018 and 2019. Still, some information technology and communications professionals have never heard of the laws.

Why Kari’s Law and Ray Baum Act Are Important

Kari’s Law arose out of a tragic incident in East Texas in 2013.  Kari Hunt Dunn, a young mother, was murdered by her estranged husband in a motel room while her nine-year-old daughter tried to call 9-1-1. But her daughter did not realize she needed to dial an extra ‘9’ before placing a call. Kari’s Law relates directly to removing those prefix numbers before dialing.  The phone system should also provide on-site notification that 9-1-1 has been called to ensure that the fire department or police are not arriving at the office building, and no one knows of their arrival. If it is a badge-accessible office, security needs to escort first responders through the badge access location as quickly as possible.

Ray Baum’s Act. Raymond Baum was a lawyer, lobbyist, and politician from Le Grande, Oregon, who worked extensively with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on telecommunications and wireless issues. The law named after him aims to ensure that a dispatchable location is conveyed with 9-1-1 calls to dispatch centers, regardless of the technological platform used, including 9-1-1 calls from Multi-Line Telephone Systems.  Dispatchable locations consist of the validated street address of the calling party, plus additional information such as the floor, suite, apartment, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party.

Several challenges are complying with this mandate. No unified communication (UC) platform today is designed with this capability. UC platforms are designed to bundle communications and collaboration functions onto a unified platform.  Additionally, many corporations and agencies use virtual private networks (VPNs) or session border controllers for people working from home to securely access corporate networks, which masks the location of callers. Additionally, a user’s office extension now aligns with multiple devices at the same time, making it difficult for a call center to determine which specific device and location made the 9-1-1 call.

Alyssa’s Law came out of the aftermath of the 2018 shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school in which 17 people were killed and 17 injured. The law is named after Alyssa Alhadeff, a victim of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Primary and secondary schools within the states of Florida and New Jersey will install a panic alarm device that can silently and directly notify law enforcement of an emergency requiring their response. Higher education institutions should also have similar devices. Other states seem to be jumping on the bandwagon with legislation that has Alyssa-like language. Legislative efforts were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, but momentum should pick up as students return to in-person learning.

NG911 Capabilities

Traditional 911 infrastructure cannot adequately meet the demands of the digital era. Avaya offers NG911 technology that helps organizations comply with federal 911 requirements for phone systems and at the same time provides contextual information to call centers and first responders.

Avaya provides more than the location of a person dialing 911 but also floor plans with markers where the person is located. Additionally, Avaya provides camera feeds so first responders can see what is happening at a location before they arrive. NG911 might even provide health information about the person needing assistance. For instance, the person might diabetic. There is so much more contextual information that was not available before. Plus, Avaya NG911 solutions sit on top of Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, and many other communications platforms. Solving the location problem, providing more contextual information during emergencies, and interoperability with other vendors’ UC systems make Avaya’s solutions more cost-effective.

The Real Cost of Non-Compliance

Moving forward managers need to emphasize that compliance with Kari’s Law and the Ray Baum Act or Alyssa’s Law is not an IT issue.  It is a human resources issue. Therefore, technology decision-makers should alert their global compliance officers that there are federal laws that organizations must comply with and IT needs help in funding to make sure their company is compliant. 

Also, purchasing NG911 will save lives. If you dial 9-1-1 at home, you do not ask the paramedic, “what is the bare minimum needed to save my loved one?” At the office, if someone you have worked with for years needs help, you want to make sure 9-1-1 is accurate and providing the contextual information to save a life.

The cost of non-compliance could also result in brand name damage to a company, especially if family members of someone died because the 9-1-1 center did not have accurate information files a wrongful death lawsuit. According to some reports, wrongful death law suites can cost a company up to $400 million.

So, where is your organization in terms of the compliance journey? The cost of non-compliance is not about money. Lives are at stake.