Dynamic E911 and Why it’s important
For many years phone users would place emergency calls by simply dialing 911 from their land-based telephones to reach the police, fire and other emergency services. The number 911 was used because it was easy to remember, the last two digits were quickly “dialed”, (on a rotary phone), and required a user to deliberately dial a 9 on a rotary phone.
Today we ‘enter’ the numbers ‘911’ on a phone keypad, (e.g., mobile phone). The call is then sent to a call center known as a Public Safety Answering Point, (PSAP). Calls to a PSAP are answered by on staff personnel who will ask the nature of the emergency, and then dispatch the appropriate resources, (e.g., police, fire, ambulance, etc.) to the location of the emergency caller.
Several years ago there was an unfortunate incident where a young women was unable to complete a 911 emergency call because unknown to her, the phone system she was using required a 9 before dialing/entering 911. This situation resulted in an unnecessary death. In response to this incident, (and others), a law known as Kari’s Law, (named after the person who perished), was passed in 2018 by the United States Congress. This law requires that any phone system must allow the placing an emergency 911 call without any other digits other than ‘911’. Kari’s Law also mandates that a designated contact (or contacts) within an enterprise be notified when a 911 call has been made.
Another important law that took effect on January 6, 2022 is the RAY BAUM’s Act. This law is having an even greater positive impact than Kari’s Law on emergency outcomes, even though it presents a number of significant challenges for implementors in an organization’s information technology and telecommunications departments.
RAY BAUM’s Act requires that a 911 caller’s “dispatchable location” be provided to public safety officers for each emergency call that is made. The dispatchable location includes both a street address and any additional information, such as a floor, suite, quadrant, or room number that is needed to locate the caller within a building. The RAY BAUM’s Act applies as of January 6, 2022 to “fixed” telephone devices, such as, desktop phones, hard phones for contact center agents, conference room phones, or equipment in use by the deaf and hard-of-hearing. This law also applies to “non-fixed” telephone devices, (e.g., mobile phones, soft phones such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom). Non-fixed devices are usually connected to wireless networks, (public and private).
Kari’s Law applies to “Multi Line Phone Systems that are manufactured, imported, offered for first sale or lease, first sold or leased, or installed after Feb. 16, 2020.” Some enterprises may assume this means they don’t have to comply, but the law goes on to say the enterprise should comply “if the system is able to be configured to provide the notification without an improvement to the hardware or software of the system.” The view here is that if your equipment can be enabled — and most can at this point — then it should be enabled.
One Common Area of Misunderstanding
A common area of misunderstanding applies to contact centers. Many enterprises with call centers mistakenly assume that they aren’t responsible for enabling 911 on the user’s device. However, RAY BAUM’s Act does apply to all interconnected VoIP services, including contact centers, that allow for users to make outbound calls (as well as receive calls from customers).
Until recently, phone systems utilized what is known as “Static 911”. One of the most significant problems with Static 911 is that a phone system lacks the ability to identify where a 911 caller is located. This results in the same address being provided to a PSAP no matter where the caller is located. In order to comply with Kari’s Law and the RAY BAUM’s Act, new technologies for 911 calling have been developed and made available for organizations to deploy.
Automation has recently been introduced to a few Unified Communications phone systems that enables a PSAP to automatically identify where a 911 call has been placed from, and where that person is located. A 911 caller location could be as specific as a person’s home address. Locations could also be at a business address that could include the callers building number, floor number, where they are physically located on a company network, and even the location of the wireless phone being used to place the 911 call on an internal company network. Once a 911 caller’s location is correctly identified then the police, fire and/or other emergency services can be quickly dispatched without the need of PSAP agents having to question the 911 caller regarding their current location.
Microsoft Teams includes a feature called “Dynamic 911”. Dynamic 911 allows for the automated providing of a caller’s location to a PSAP from a Teams client. Microsoft Teams Dynamic 911 can be deployed with “fixed” and “non-fixed” devices which makes Microsoft Teams Dynamic 911 fully compliant with Kari’s Law and the RAU BAUAM’s Act. Microsoft Dynamic 911 also supports remote or home-office users.
In Part 2 we will discuss in depth the Microsoft Teams Enhanced 911 features, and what you need to successfully configure and implement Microsoft Teams Enhanced 911 for your organization.