Category: Safety Services

Category: Safety Services

West Corporation

Posted on November 30, 2012 by West Corporation 

9-1-1 Call Taking and ESInets

Very often, when PSAPs are looking to migrate to a next generation 9-1-1 solution, they request on-premises 9-1-1 call handling systems. Typically, the preference to deploy the equipment on the premises is intended to accommodate a severe network outage, ensuring survivability of the 9-1-1 call-taking operations at the PSAP.

However, the PSAP will not be able to receive 9-1-1 calls during such a scenario if it experiences a severe network outage that knocks out both redundant paths to the IP network. The only possible path into the PSAP may be the plain old telephone system (POTS) lines that deliver 9-1-1 calls via seven or 10-digit lines. In the most severe network outages, POTS lines would also be affected, as they may be served via the same end office or central office that processes 9-1-1 calls and/or provides the last mile connectivity into the PSAP.

On-premises 9-1-1 call-processing equipment (CPE) does not provide any more survivability during this scenario once a PSAP has migrated to an IP-based call-handling infrastructure. As a matter of fact, PSAPs that migrate to an IP-based call routing solution or an emergency services IP network (ESInet), only gain greater survivability when the CPE is located in geographically diverse data centers accessed via a public-safety-grade IP network or cloud. Admin or POTS lines are terminated at the PSAP premises using “Admin Gateways” which terminate seven or 10-digit lines at the PSAP, allowing the PSAP to still process admin calls even if both IP paths are out of service.

With CPE in the cloud, PSAPs can ensure greater survivability as they easily move their operations to an alternate location and quickly connect to their data and configuration to answer 9-1-1 calls.  This model of adding call taking capability to the ESInet via a cloud-based solution provides PSAPs with the greatest level of operational continuity. In the event of a planned or unplanned outage, PSAPs can sustain 9-1-1 services by leveraging additional resources at various levels from neighboring jurisdictions.

By Ashish Patel, Systems Architect, Safety Services – West

West Corporation

Posted on November 21, 2012 by West Corporation 

9-1-1, more than a number

For many of us, the meaning of Thanksgiving usually includes feasts, long weekends, football games, parades, family gatherings, or even a forerunner to upcoming Christmas festivities. The “first Thanksgiving,” however, was neither a feast nor a holiday, but a simple gathering. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the loss of 46 of their original 102 colonists. With the help of 91 Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” observance.

This “thanksgiving” meal would not be celebrated again until June of 1676. On June 29 the community of Charlestown, Massachusetts proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for their good fortune. Ironically, this celebration excluded the Indians, as the colonists’ recognized their recent victory over the “heathen natives.” One hundred years later, in October of 1777, all 13 colonies participated in a one-time “thanksgiving” celebration which commemorated the patriotic victory over the British at Saratoga. It would take a span of over 150 more years to establish Thanksgiving as we celebrate it — George Washington proclaimed it a National holiday in 1789, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November in 1863, and Congress sanctioned it as a legal holiday in 1941.

Our country is rich in history, and we have much to be thankful for. Recognition of one’s blessings may occur quickly or it may take years to acknowledge. Compared to the 150+ years it took to establish a national holiday, it took a mere 11 years to establish 9-1-1. From the conception and recommendation of a single number to report fires in 1957 to the first and infamous 9-1-1 call made in Haleyville Alabama in 1968, Americans have been blessed with an emergency system that helps to save lives. With support from the White House Office of Telecommunications’ national policy statement in 1973, the encouragement for the nation to adopt 9-1-1 has resulted in the saving of countless lives and property. And today 9-1-1 is known as THE number to call in an emergency.

However, 9-1-1 is just a number without dedicated public safety professionals who work ‘round the clock, including holidays such as Thanksgiving. They are the calm voice at the end of the phone for millions of people in their greatest time of need. They are the experts in managing technologies to help responders stay safe. So let us give thanks for these amazing people – not only on our national day of thanksgiving, but every day…. for every heart beat of those they helped and those they will help in the future!

By Tori Dunne, External Affairs Manager, Safety Services  – West

West Corporation

Posted on November 20, 2012 by West Corporation 

911 Enable Announces Record-Breaking Attendance for its 2012 Fall Webinar Series

Webinar Recordings Now Available for Free Download On-Demand

Top 5 E911 Challenges911 Enable is pleased to announce that its recently completed fall webinar series, The Top Five E911 Challenges facing VoIP and UC, drew a record amount of registrants and attendees.

The series focused on the five key challenges that organizations using Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya and ShoreTel UC systems face when it comes to E911:

  1. Meeting state and local E911 regulations
  2. Supporting centralized voice systems with multiple locations and remote workers
  3. Tracking the locations of IP phones as they move on the network
  4. Notifying on-site security personnel during emergencies
  5. Keeping the costs of E911 projects down

The webinars are now available for free download on demand – watch them today!

The Top Five E911 Challenges facing Cisco Deployments
Download Now!

The Top Five E911 Challenges facing Microsoft Lync Deployments
Download Now!

The Top Five E911 Challenges facing Avaya Deployments
Download Now!

The Top Five E911 Challenges facing ShoreTel Deployments
Download Now!

West Corporation

Posted on November 16, 2012 by West Corporation 

Martha Stewart moments in the PSAP

I hate blogging. To me, the word “blogosphere” conjures an image that would upset Al Gore. Potential psychological rehab aside, I can’t resist – yes, I have something to say.We are standing at the precipice of wholesale change in the way earthlings communicate. The world is witnessing incredible and exciting technological and operational convergence in the commercial communications world. As 9-1-1 professionals, we must remind ourselves that emergency communications is not exempt from the good or the bad of this tectonic shift. For many years, the 9-1-1 community has enjoyed incredible autonomy. But those days appear to be numbered.

The latest convergence technologies suggest that we now play a more integrated role in the lifecycle of incident reporting and response. Developments in computing would suggest that desktops in the PSAP should support fewer processors and monitors, not more. Backroom equipment is seeing less “dedicated” rack space and more integration – even consolidation – of 9-1-1 and related consumer apps. We may be the rocket scientists of our little world, but getting today’s payload delivered requires more cooperation than it used to. And by the way, defining and creating specs for that payload and its various piece parts will require a great deal of talent.

Don’t take this as a minimization of 9-1-1 expertise – au contraire! Even the neurosurgeon must work closely with anesthesiology, cardiology, radiology, internal medicine and the entire nursing team.  Just as the lion shall lay down with the lamb, the CAD guys, the radio geeks, the call routing gang and the ANI/ALI nerds should recognize that sharing Happy Hour every once in a while could turn into some real Martha Stewart moments: “it’s a good thing”. More than ever, we need to be thinking in global terms with emphasis on how our roles and responsibilities contribute to the success of the larger mission. My money is on the collective intellect.

IP technology, harnessed intelligently, should offer us more opportunities than it brings in challenges. But don’t take it from me – I hate blogging. God forbid you ever find me doing it. I just think that perhaps we should spend a bit more time researching creative partnerships and developing new friendships. After all, it’s all part of our mutual stewardship.

By John Melcher, President and CEO – The Melcher Group

West Corporation

Posted on November 5, 2012 by West Corporation 

In Sync with Lync: E911 Emergency Support Now Available for Microsoft Lync 2013!

Lync 2013911 Enable today announced that its award-winning E911 solutions are capable of supporting Microsoft Lync 2013.

With Lync 2013 achieving release to manufacturing (RTM) status, and general availability expected in early 2013, organizations will need to implement a suitable E911 solution that can support Lync’s unique features. 911 Enable complements the inherent E911 functionality of Microsoft Lync – including the new E911 features unveiled in Lync 2013 – to help customers meet E911 regulations and keep employees safe in times of crisis.

To learn more about 911 Enable’s support for Lync 2013, read the press release here.

West Corporation

Posted on November 2, 2012 by West Corporation 

To Text or Not To Text?

It is tragic, really.  The majority of cell phone users believe they can text 9-1-1.  The majority of cell phone users believe their location can be pinpointed on a map when they call 9-1-1.  The majority of cell phone users aren’t sure how their local 911 agencies are funded.  If you don’t know what you can do, who is responding, or what resources they have, it is hard to feel safe.In the U.S., 9-1-1 education starts with the very young.  Pre-school and grade school children are regularly taught to call 9-1-1 for help.  As those children grow up, they soon move to mobile phones where texting is the norm and voice calls are an anomaly.  There is very little 9-1-1 education in middle and high school, and few national campaigns to help people understand that texting 9-1-1 is not generally available.  How are people to learn what will and won’t work if the information is not prevalent?  While progress has been made among carriers and PSAPs, a national approach to Texting 9-1-1 is still over the horizon.

As cell phone users in the know, we own getting the word out.  Please tell your children that, across most of the US, they can’t yet text 9-1-1.  Encourage them to tell their friends.  Please help your parents understand that, should they call from a mobile phone, 9-1-1 needs to know their location.  Please speak out to educate others and save lives.  If we own getting the word out, we can make a difference.

Monica Marics, Senior Vice President, Safety Services – West

West Corporation

Posted on October 26, 2012 by West Corporation 

Public Safety, Step into your Exoskeleton!

Applications, computer and storage cloud services, mobile phones, tablet computers and big data are reshaping the entire consumer economy. Quickly following are business and enterprises around the world. But how will these technologies transform public safety?

Over 50% of all Americans have smart mobile phones. So in any emergency situation, every citizen is armed with eyes, ears and location information to deliver a more complete data picture of what is happening on the ground. Rather than thinking of how we don’t want 24 people to report the same traffic accident, why don’t we see it as 24 more sources of data providing even more timely information from a variety of perspectives? Rather than a 9-1-1 operator with a queue of calls building, can’t all of the location, video and audio information be routed to a public safety computer and storage cloud service?

There is not only more mobile information available, but an increasing amount of fixed data – weather data, building data, and traffic data. Today, WeatherTap provides up to 2MB of radar data every 15 minutes as well as 4MB of satellite information, 2MB of infrared and water vapor data, 1MB of lightning information and 2MB of modeling data for a 10-100 square mile area. That’s  ~10MB every 15 minutes!  In a modern metro area there is also information coming from every traffic intersection. According to Amine Haoui, CEO of Sensys Networks, a city the size of Tucson produces 4GB of intersection information in an hour. Consider also the information coming from modern smart buildings. Again, a city the size of Tucson might have 250 smart buildings. In an emergency you’d be looking at close to 2Gbytes of data per hour.

Now think about a 24-hour crisis and you’re looking at over 100TB of data. Imagine that data stream being fed to a next generation computer and storage cloud service, which ramps up to 10,000 servers to run applications. That stream could predict what direction the fire is moving for the individual firefighter on the ground. It could also inform occupants which side of the building to use for evacuation, and even indicate which side on which floor.  Huge amounts of data could be personalized for city police, state police, EMT, fire, and HAZMAT personnel. This is all technically feasible today.

Some of you may remember the first Aliens movie. At the end of the movie, Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) straps herself into a mechanical exoskeleton, which makes her powerful enough to defeat the mother alien. Well, the next generation public safety systems will provide an information exoskeleton for professional fire, police, emergency medical workers and citizen. This will all ultimately transform the E9-1-1 operator from a call center operator who is doing speech to text translation and hoping they have enough time to get to the next call, to an air traffic controller, or battlefield commander, armed with an information exoskeleton coordinating both professionals, citizens and equipment to guarantee the public’s safety quickly, efficiently and effectively.

Ripley would be impressed.

By Timothy C.K. Chou, Author of “Cloud: Seven Clear Business Models” & Lecturer – Stanford University

West Corporation

Posted on October 19, 2012 by West Corporation 

Information Sharing at the heart of NextGen 9-1-1

From the inception of E9-1-1, information sharing was foundational. Providing telephone company subscriber location information was a first step in using the 9-1-1 system to help responders work more efficiently. We very quickly found ways to share ALI information through other systems such as CAD, Mapping, RMS and for some, Mobile Data in responder vehicles. As we move forward in a data rich society, we need to leverage the capabilities of Next Generation systems to receive and disseminate information to make the Public Safety systems more efficient, effective while keeping responders safe.

9-1-1 as an information source

Conferences and press releases are buzzing with new types of data that will be received as 9-1-1 calls. Even the term “call” is under debate as our industry works to define how we receive data from “any device, anytime, anywhere”. Text to 9-1-1 has had the most scrutiny due to critical needs in the hearing impaired community and high profile incidents where voice calls were not possible. Indeed, a few PSAPs have already elected to receive text messages sent to 9-1-1 within their regions.

However, texting to 9-1-1 is just the forerunner of things to come. While there is discussion on the merits of if and when to accept these types of calls, everyone agrees that data calls are part of the future of 9-1-1. Some data types on the horizon are pictures, video, telematics (car and personal), sensors/devices, subscriber entered data, additional data for address/phone number/person, and smart phone applications. There will be even more as technology progresses.

The reality is that many PSAPs are already accepting some of these data types – just not through 9-1-1 at this point. PSAPs monitor traffic and security cameras; telematics calls are relayed through provider call centers; and subscriber entered data has numerous recent deployments.

We are not creating new emergencies!

One of the concerns often voiced is that these new data types will overload our call takers, making their job even more difficult. If that happens, we’re doing something wrong!  We need to implement solutions that make their jobs more efficient, using new data types to provide usable information to assist with the emergency rather than causing a burden. One thing to remember is that we are not creating new emergencies. We are simply receiving more types of data about existing emergencies. Our goal should be to share this information in a way that makes their work more effective with safer responses.

There is certain to be additional data volume, just as we experienced when multiple cellular users began reporting a single emergency. Next Generation 9-1-1 enables much better tools to manage the volume in a data world than we had for voice calls alone.

Sharing the data with those who need it

PSAPs can set policies for how data can move through their systems automatically. If  additional data arrives with a voice call (such as a picture) we should be able to flag the call taker that the information is available, using appropriate indicators that give type and PSAP-designated urgency. The data should not just pop up! It should be accessed as needed.

Similarly, data that initiates a call can arrive with indicators showing the type of data so a call taker can be prepared to “answer” the call. Each PSAP can determine what data can be automatically shared, which is to be flagged to the call taker first, and how it will move from 9-1-1 to other consumers.

Of course, data security, integrity for court requests and how it is archived for long term storage are also of primary concern. The good news is that, for data, there are already highly secure encryption/compression algorithms and vendors working to provide solutions that have the reliability required for Public Safety.

The future should be better!

Our goal for the future should be to implement solutions that manage the increased amount of information that will come with NG9-1-1 in a manner that meets each PSAP’s unique needs. At the same time, these solutions must also provide sharing tools for telecommunicators, allowing them to effectively utilize data in directing responders to a safer and more efficient response.

By Paul McLaren, Director of Support Engineering, Safety Services – West

West Corporation

Posted on October 17, 2012 by West Corporation 

Security has been notified… But do they know what the emergency is?

Security Desk Notification and MonitoringEnterprise-class E911 solutions ensure that when 911 is dialed, both the call and the caller’s location information are delivered to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Many of these same solutions can also notify internal security that a 911 call is in progress, with screen pops, emails, or pre-recorded messages.  The alerts usually provide the caller’s extension, location, and name, which can be extremely useful and help to improve response times.

However, even with these alerts, enterprise security teams are still left in the dark as to the nature of the emergency. E911 call monitoring allows enterprise security to listen in on emergency calls originating from their network, providing the context needed to fully assess the situation and implement the appropriate response.

Scenario 1: Emergency where caller can speak

Most calls in an enterprise environment are medical incidents, where fast security response times can save lives.

For example, in the case of a caller experiencing cardiac arrest, waiting for an ambulance to arrive can simply take too long. According to the National Center for Early Defibrillation, “if defibrillation is delayed for more than 10 minutes, survival rates drop to less than 5 percent.” However, organizations have designated staff that are trained in first aid and have access to life-saving defibrillation equipment on-site. If the security person monitoring the call hears that the caller is suffering from cardiac arrest, they can immediately dispatch the nearest first aid person to the caller’s location and have them administer the necessary defibrillation. This rapid response can mean the difference between life and death.

Scenario 2: Emergency where caller is incapacitated

When a 911 caller is incapacitated and silent, providing security staff with monitoring capabilities can be beneficial. Silent calls that come into the PSAP are often assigned a low priority; while the operator may occasionally send the police to investigate, they rarely dispatch an ambulance to a silent call.

To better deal with this type of scenario, E911 call monitoring allows security personnel to barge in on the call when needed. When the security staff person monitoring the call hears the silent line, they can dispatch someone to verify the incident and simultaneously implement the barge-in feature to notify the PSAP that someone on-site is going to investigate. This allows the on-site security staff and PSAP operator to quickly learn about the nature of the incident rather than waiting for a report from dispatched police (if police are even sent). Once armed with this information, the security desk and PSAP operator can better determine and coordinate the appropriate response, ensuring that the necessary help arrives as quickly as possible.

E911 call monitoring is a lifesaving feature that has proven to be invaluable to customers again and again. When monitoring an E911 call, security personnel are automatically placed on one-way mute so the call quality between the caller and the PSAP is maintained and the PSAP does not have to filter out any additional background noise. It provides the security desk staff with valuable contextual information so they can immediately implement an appropriate response, and helps facilitate improved coordination with the PSAP. In fact, over 96% of 911 Enable’s enterprise customers use this feature as one of their security notification tools.

E911 call monitoring is included as a standard feature in all of 911 Enable’s solutions, including the Emergency Routing Service (ERS), Emergency Gateway (EGW), Virtual Emergency Gateway (V-EGW), and Service Provider Emergency Gateway (SP-EGW).

Don’t settle for an E911 solution that doesn’t offer the E911 notification capabilities you need – contact 911 Enable today at 1-877-862-2835 or email to learn how our security notification solutions can provide your organization with better outcomes in emergency situations.

West Corporation

Posted on October 12, 2012 by West Corporation 

9-1-1 GIS Data – Accurate, Complete and Designed for a Specific Purpose

With the transition to Next Generation 9-1-1, the role of geographic information systems (GIS) data transforms to a new level of importance. In our industry, GIS data is primarily used for PSAP mapping and computer-aided dispatch applications that are useful. In most cases, however, they are supplemental tools to help a call taker during an incident. Next Generation 9-1-1 systems and networks utilize GIS data to make 9-1-1 call routing decisions. The GIS data needs to be extremely accurate and always up to date for this specific purpose. To achieve this level of accuracy and completeness, agencies and service providers need to adopt workflow processes that are specific to the 9-1-1 industry without losing sight of fundamental GIS practices.Represent the Real World

Many times GIS data is created and maintained to make a software application perform a certain way. These cases present the risk of tweaking the data to control software rather than actually creating a geographic representation of what really exists in the world. GIS editing and data accuracy standards need to be created specifically for 9-1-1 systems without compromising spatial accuracy.

Utilize Existing GIS Data and Resources, but…

There is an abundance of GIS data available for public use from local, regional, state government resources and commercial entities. These resources might be a good starting place for building a 9-1-1 GIS database. But it is very important to understand that data was created for a specific purpose and that it will require validation and customization to be usable for 9-1-1 purposes. For example, a property appraisal entity might have very accurate and complete address point and property boundary data. That data might be great for use as a visual tool in a 9-1-1 mapping system. However, the database or attribute information might not be the best for making 9-1-1 call routing decisions or for locating a 9-1-1 caller. The attribute data associated with the layers will most likely be fit for finding the correct address to mail a property tax invoice.

Make a Plan and Stick to it

If you took an unverified third party source of GIS data and tried to use it in your PSAP mapping or CAD system, would it work well?  Not at first, but it might be a good place to start because you can refine the data as time goes on. If you took an unverified third party source of GIS data and tried to use it for routing 9-1-1 calls, would it work well?  No, and there might be greater immediate consequences. You need a plan, a workflow, and a recurring process for managing GIS data for the future, before implementing a GIS based routing solution. Many 9-1-1 entities around the United States have created detailed workflow processes. Why reinvent the wheel when you can connect with and learn from leading entities and industry experts?

The Future is Endless

Today, the primary data utilized for 9-1-1 GIS systems such as address points, street centerlines, and jurisdictional polygon boundary layers require dedicated resources and an extensive amount of time to create and maintain. What is next?  Are we going to eventually collect data representing buildings, places, rooms, furniture in every room, 3D models of furniture in every room, real time GIS data showing where people are located?  How will we keep up with maintaining this more specific data?  Do we need to start thinking about this?  Will there ever be a determined limit where 9-1-1 GIS data is accurate and complete enough?

This is an exciting time to be part of the 9-1-1 industry, especially if you focus on GIS data and solutions. Start now, keep going and plan for the future.

By Anthony Haddad, Technical Sales Engineer, Safety Services – West

West Corporation