West Corporation

Posted on December 12, 2012 by West Corporation 

History repeats, experience matters and doing the right thing

Hark! Do you hear what I hear – collective sounds in the 9-1-1 universe, from sighs of relief and cheers of happiness to groans of frustration and despair? I’m not talking about 9-1-1 callers. These sounds are coming from people in our industry.The FCC has responded to an agreement between APCO/NENA and the Big 4 wireless carriers with its Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the subject of text-to-9-1-1 (see For those of us who have been watching and waiting to learn what will be done about SMS, and for those of us involved in moving toward equal access for all, this is a monumental decision!

After talking with regulatory gurus, colleagues in PSAPs, and several Deaf friends, I am reminded that our industry already has tremendous experience in rolling out new 9-1-1 technology. They say that history repeats, and it appears that text deployment challenges may be very similar to the challenges faced by PSAPs with wireless 9-1-1 implementation. Processes had to be put in place, equipment and networks had to be upgraded, and the PSAPs and carriers worked together toward the delivery of that call for help.

Today the challenge is delivering and receiving text. Similar to those earlier days with a consensus agreement, PSAPs and carriers have an opportunity to once again do the right thing! This time, however, we should be able to better manage the change and do so in a much faster timeframe.

We are fortunate to have had these experiences, as well as real-world experiences with text! From the delivery of the first text to 9-1-1 in Black Hawk County Iowa to other trials happening across the country, we understand what is required when we talk about PSAP readiness. For Black Hawk, there were 3 components: (1) an IP-based network connection to the PSAP;  (2) a method of delivery and display for text messages at the PSAP; and (3) training for call takers.

There is an inevitable passage of time required to implement text to 9-1-1 nationwide. However, with this agreement from the Big 4 and the FCC’s involvement, real progress continues to be made.

And as carriers move forward, it becomes critical for PSAPs to begin taking the necessary steps NOW. Time is of the essence.  Our citizens, family and friends are depending on us!  If we fail to do so expeditiously, the collective sounds in the universe are going to become much louder!

By Toni Dunne, ENP, External Affairs Manager, Safety Services – West

West Corporation

Posted on December 7, 2012 by West Corporation 

Better E911: Lync and the Emergency Gateway

EGWWhen Microsoft was first working on their follow-up to Office Communicator, their team reached out to us at 911 Enable to collaborate on how to provide E911 support for their new Lync platform. Out of this collaboration, Microsoft Lync included revolutionary E911 capabilities not found in other UC platforms. The Microsoft Lync clients were made to be location-aware. This meant that an E911 solution did not need to “find” the device when a call was made, because the device would send its location during a 911 call.

This location awareness is enabled by a proprietary location request made by the client to the Lync Location Information Service (LIS) at client sign-in. Since the client itself is making the request, they can be located at the device level regardless of the line appearance of the Lync client logged into that device. Locating clients at the device level is critical in the enterprise due to the use of shared lines, multiple concurrent logins, and the mobility of soft clients. This location request process enables administrators to pre-configure enterprise location data in the Lync LIS database. 911 Enable is one of the only certified Microsoft partner to interoperate with these features to provide real-time MSAG Address validation and SIP emergency call routing support for Microsoft Lync.

The native E911 support built in to Lync, combined with 911 Enable’s call routing solution, enables organizations to meet basic E911 regulatory requirements. Unfortunately, simply complying with basic E911 regulations may not be adequate to meet all the corporate E911 requirements in the Enterprise UC space. To enhance the native E911 support provided by Lync, many enterprises are choosing to install 911 Enable’s Emergency Gateway (EGW) appliance to meet all their requirements. There are many benefits to installing the Emergency Gateway appliance into the Lync environment and I have included some of the highlights below:

  • One pair of Emergency Gateway appliances can manage multiple UC vendor deployments at a time. Since Lync is still a new platform, it is very common to have a multi-vendor environment as users migrate to Lync. The EGW acts as a central E911 administration point for all your UC deployments, which greatly simplifies management and integration. It is not uncommon to have enterprise deployments that have been trying to replace their old legacy PBX for years, with many factors keeping the old beast in production much longer than expected or desired. Using the same pair of EGW appliance, both the Lync users and the old legacy users can be supported.
  • With the Emergency Gateway, administrators can easily manage E911 configuration using a simple web administration GUI instead of PowerShell applets.
  • The Emergency Gateway appliances can be automated to integrate into third-party systems using a variety of interfaces. This allows for further automation of E911 management.
  • The Emergency Gateway appliance has advanced security personnel notification capabilities. This includes enhancing the existing Lync capabilities with the ability to have security conferenced in during 911 calls, using the 911 Enable Desk Alert screen pop application, and integration into existing security CAD systems. A single pair of EGW appliances can provide the same notification capabilities across multiple UC vendor platforms, so onsite security personnel receive the same notifications regardless of which UC platform the call originated from.
  • The Emergency Gateway has advanced overlaid discovery methodologies compared to Lync, allowing administrators to customize location determination preferences to adjust to the uniqueness of their environment. This means administrators can control which network element is used to determine a location for a user. The administrator can choose any order of either MAC (switch/port), wireless BSSID, subnet, or other factors to locate the user. The Emergency Gateway also allows administrators to build “Safety Net” supernets to minimize errors in data entry, instead of Lync’s native E911 capabilities which require all device subnets to be entered one-by-one. For example, say you have one building with 10 floors and each floor has its own 10.45.xx.0/24 subnet. Each floor can be provisioned as 10.45.x.0/24 or you can provision the entire building as Additionally, the Emergency Gateway does not need to rely on third party network discovery systems to obtain MAC/switch/port data.
  • The Emergency Gateway can use any combination of E911 destination routes. The native Lync E911 support routes all the emergency calls to a certified E911 routing service such as the 911 Enable Emergency Routing Service. This may not be appropriate if you have a large number of client devices all on the same campus, served by the same Public Safety Answering Point. In these cases, the Emergency Gateway can route the calls out local gateways to be used with legacy PS-ALI solutions while routing mobile or work at home users to the Emergency Routing Service. The Emergency Gateway has been designed to route to either a local gateway or through the Emergency Routing Service.

This is just a small subset of highlights of what the Emergency Gateway brings to the Lync environment. Due to the location awareness of the clients, the Emergency Gateway can locate Lync users at a device level and not just using line-appearance. The Emergency Gateway appliance is qualified in the Microsoft Unified Communications Open Interoperability Program (UCOIP) for Microsoft Lync, as is the Emergency Routing Service. 911 Enable continues to be an active partner with Microsoft to ensure that Lync continues to provide progressive E911 support. Microsoft has done an excellent job implementing innovative E911 support capabilities and the Emergency Gateway appliance extends this functionality to provide a robust, feature-rich E911 solution.

To learn more, visit or call 1-877-862-2835.

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