West Corporation

Posted on September 7, 2012 by West Corporation 

September 11, 2001: A Day of Contradictions

(Mr. Hinkle was representing NENA in Washington, DC on that day in the Hart Senate Building while attending the “9-1-1 Report Card to America” press conference.)

As another September 11 approaches, we still contemplate the destruction and senseless loss of so many lives. True to the human spirit, we continue to look for glimmers of meaning to help us find something positive in an otherwise horrific day.

There was something almost symbolic in the fact that this act of terrorism occurred on national 9-1-1 Emergency Number Day – a day that symbolizes a nation’s commitment to protecting people. Are there any two more contrasting events? One symbolizes people dedicated to destroying life; the other honors those who have dedicated their hearts to helping to save lives. Perhaps even more prophetic was that September 11, 2001 had been selected for a press conference held in Washington, DC  to celebrate National 9-1-1 Day and the publication of the first comprehensive report on the health of America’s
9-1-1 system.

I am struck by the contrasting symbolism of that day. That day was meant to be a testament to how we as a nation exemplify our commitment to human values through our on-going efforts to improve the availability and reliability of the 9-1-1 system – a system specifically designed for the sole purpose of helping people and saving lives. We felt a heavy blanket of sadness spread across the country that day as we realized this was not an accident. What is so truly American is that almost immediately we began hearing about the heroic actions of our first responders. We heard of the compassionate voices of our 9-1-1 call-takers receiving and processing thousands of emergency calls.

Like most Americans, I knew in an instant that our way of life would be forever altered. As a 9-1-1 center manager, I also felt the comfort and security of knowing that all across the country our 9-1-1 centers were standing by to answer our calls for help. Reflecting on that day, I also remember how proud I was of being part of this noble profession. I still think about the dedicated men and women, who at this very moment, are staffing our 9-1-1 centers all across America, poised and ready to serve our nation.

It is with this heightened sense of pride that I remember September 11, 2001 as a “Day of Contradictions”, celebrating how the American spirit triumphed over those that would seek to destroy our way of life.

West Corporation

Posted on August 31, 2012 by West Corporation 

Ready, set…no

Hurricane Isaac is a powerful validation of the public safety community’s focus on preparing viable plans for back-up operations in the event of natural disasters and broad national threats.What drives us to prepare for the worst? Quite simply, it is grounded in watching and helping agencies bring 9-1-1 services back up in the aftermath of September 11, Katrina and other catastrophic events. It became clear that there was a better way to ensure 9-1-1 emergency services were protected and continued to be provided, even in the midst of a devastating, unplanned event. A closer look showed that many of our public safety agencies in this country either don’t have a disaster recovery plan, or need to update their plan and re-think how they ensure operational continuity for 9-1-1.

Natural disasters are what generally come to mind when plotting a large-scale emergency response strategy. Most municipalities have developed emergency management plans to deal with riots, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes and viral epidemics. In the midst of a crisis, no matter what form it takes, the citizens of our country expect their calls to be answered when they dial 9-1-1. Comprehensive operational-continuity planning must be a top priority for 9-1-1 decision makers today and all options need to be on the table. When lives are at stake, we cannot wait until after a crisis to say, “I hadn’t considered that.”

A Good Plan Gone Bad
In recent years, there is growing evidence of the need for more comprehensive operational-continuity planning and alternative means of delivering 9-1-1 services during a crisis. Many lessons have been learned from events such as September 11, Hurricane Katrina and the Joplin, Missouri tornado, all of which severely crippled the local emergency communications networks. In addition, agencies must plan for large public gatherings, including national sporting or political events, as well as the possibility of unforeseen operational issues caused by gas leaks, lightening strikes or flood damage. Even training exercises or the need for facility upgrades can impact PSAP operations.

For these scenarios, many PSAPs have developed back-up plans that would keep their emergency communications running in most situations, but these plans may have gaps that could render a good plan ineffective. Choosing the best form of back-up for 9-1-1 operations is a critical decision. It can be difficult to predict if an agency requires a full brick-and-mortar facility or a more robust and future-proof solution.

The Right Plan
Creating a foolproof 9-1-1 operational continuity plan would be much easier if a single strategy could be developed, tested and implemented for every crisis faced by emergency services jurisdictions throughout the country. The fact is that every PSAP is unique and no two disasters are the same. There are many options for maintaining 9-1-1 operational continuity, ranging from a detailed call-transfer plan to a brick-and-mortar back-up facility to a mobile emergency response program. Our goal is to help every agency in the country design a robust and foolproof 9-1-1 operational continuity plan so that they can all say,  “Ready, set …go!”

West Corporation

Posted on August 24, 2012 by West Corporation 

Text to 9-1-1: We can’t afford to wait!

We joke about “the old days” when people used tin cans and smoke signals to communicate. We tout how far we have come with technology. We’ve advanced through great technological challenges such as the move from rotary phones to digital, and from hard-wired handsets to wireless. With each challenge met, we pat ourselves on the back for keeping up with the times.  But have we?The reality is that there’s a group of people who haven’t been able to move forward with the rest of us when it comes to calling 9-1-1 in an emergency. Many have rid themselves of old TTYs (also known as TDDs – Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf) in favor of new wireless devices. Yet they are being held hostage to technology that first debuted in 1874 and equipment modified from a teletype machine in 1964 in order to communicate in text.

From 1968 when the first 9-1-1 call was made, and for over 30 years, most agencies did not even have a TTY to provide access for these citizens. It was not until 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law and the Department of Justice mandated all “telephone emergency communications, including 9-1-1, shall provide direct access to people who use TDDs” that we saw equal access with equipment added in the Comm center. Ironically, it seems we have taken one step forward and two steps back.

Deaf friends have told me stories. Richard thought he was having a heart attack and couldn’t text to 9-1-1 for help. He had to get his Deaf friend to drive him to the hospital! My girlfriend’s son injured his head and there was no way to summon help. As a mother I can only imagine the fear and frustration that she went through during those moments. I’ve heard of other situations, such as when Marlee Matlin had to rely on her 4-year-old daughter to interpret because she could not use her cell phone to text to 9-1-1.

With over 32 million individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing and over 7.5 million individuals with speech disabilities who rely on TEXT for communications, one can only imagine how many more stories are out there. How many have not ended well because of current barriers?

The sad thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way. We DO have the technology and capability to do something NOW! The technology and solutions exist!  We can move forward in a safe, reliable, and expeditious manner.

Implementing text to 9-1-1 should not be an option. Let’s not allow our friends and family, who happen to be Deaf, be left in the lurch again! We can’t afford to wait! This is a matter of life and death.

After all… we’re here to help!

West Corporation

Posted on August 21, 2012 by West Corporation 

Accurate, Reliable E911 for Telematics At the Click of a Button

TelematicsWith the increasing prevalence of both vehicle and personal telematics devices,  Telematics Service Providers (TSPs) need an E911 solution for their subscribers now more than ever before. However, implementing E911 for telematics can be challenging given the centralized location of TSPs and the high mobility of their subscribers – but without a proper E911 solution in place, TSPs may not be able to provide their subscribers with the emergency assistance they need.

911 Enable helps TSPs meet the challenge of E911 with PSAP Link. PSAP Link is an easy-to-use service that allows Telematics agents to automatically transfer subscriber emergency calls and real-time location information to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). By focusing on E911, it allows TSPs to leverage their existing call centers without requiring them to purchase unnecessary additional services. PSAP Link:

  • Delivers emergency calls to the correct PSAP anywhere across the US at the click of a button
  • Complies with NENA-recommended telematics E911 standards
  • Ensures calls are delivered to the PSAP, rather than non-emergency lines that are not equipped to handle 911 situations
  • Saves response time and money by reducing human error

To learn more about E911 for Telematics Providers, visit our Telematics Page or read the Solution Brief.

West Corporation

Posted on August 17, 2012 by West Corporation 

Don’t Let Next Gen Overwhelm You!

“I’m going to retire before this next gen stuff comes along!”I overheard these words while preparing to present on Next Generation 9-1-1 at a recent public safety conference.

I quickly responded (screeched), “Oh, no, you’re not!”

This was a woman with decades of experience – why would she say this?! After so rudely interjecting myself into her consciousness, I learned that she really was overwhelmed by new technology just like several other veteran 9-1-1 folks who quickly joined our conversation.

Change can be difficult. Our industry has endured one transition after another brought on by new technologies and new regulations. Some of us think we’re getting too old to endure another upgrade.

But we don’t need to be overwhelmed by the technology!  Think about the deployment of Next Generation 9-1-1 from a historical perspective of the last 40 years.

  • When we started the original enhanced 911 deployments, we didn’t know enough to feel overwhelmed! Networks had to be deployed; multiple necessary upgrades followed.
  • There were streets to be mapped and addresses established. We needed good location information (ALI). Talk about overwhelming! But we did it!
  • We needed to purchase PSAP equipment. New electronic equipment replaced old keysets.  I vividly recall how call takers begged to keep the old stuff.  No, no! Advancements were in the works and that old stuff was going to the Smithsonian!

Some upgrades to 9-1-1 have been more visible than others. These changes were made with careful planning, coordination and by establishing implementation schedules that were manageable for the PSAPs.  Upgrading our legacy 9-1-1 systems will take the same path.

Personally, I’m not about to retire until we move forward with the advanced technology that provides my son, the Paramedic and Firefighter, with vital data that can help him save more lives. And his own!

West Corporation

Posted on August 14, 2012 by West Corporation 

Dispelling the Myths of Texting to 9-1-1…

In today’s modern communications, texting is quickly becoming king. Millions of people in the U.S. send trillions of text messages to chat with a friend, order a pizza, vote for a reality TV contestant, donate money or even activate their home security system. Yet, despite the fact that texting has become a primary means of communication for much of the population, it is still unavailable across the majority of the country as a way to contact 9-1-1. How can that be?

It appears that many wireless service providers and public safety answering points (PSAPs) have been hesitant to use text for emergency communications due to concerns about reliability, connectivity, delivery problems, timely issues, overloading call takers, abuse of service, difficulty deciphering text language, etc. The proof is in the pudding. Waterloo, Iowa, Durham, N.C and the entire state of Vermont have adopted this new technology and it is working. These PSAPs’ experiences with text-to-9-1-1 technology prove that in actual deployments the original concerns have not been an issue and the systems work very well. Also, in large scale testing that we have done (SMS Reliability Study) text messaging, if implemented properly, can be made extremely reliable without significant delays and is a very valuable means for people to communicate with 9-1-1 in addition to voice calling. In fact, not only is the service working, these PSAPs have witnessed multiple scenarios where the ability to text in an emergency situation has saved lives.

In one situation, a 9-1-1 call taker received a text message indicating that the caller was witnessing the distribution of drugs at the time of the call. The call taker expertly queried the caller to ascertain the exact location of the drug deal, the type of drugs involved, whether weapons were present and the number of people at the scene.

In a separate event, a woman had locked herself in her bedroom because her ex-boyfriend broke into her home. Scared, she texted 9-1-1. Law enforcement responded to the call and officers were able to make an arrest. Had the woman called instead of texting, the ex-boyfriend would have heard her calling for help.

In both situations, text capabilities allowed the caller to safely disclose valuable information they would not have been able to provide via voice call because it would have put them in danger. In both instances, police were able to arrive on the scene with accurate information that allowed them to intervene and make arrests without harm to the caller.

There have also been many texts to 9-1-1 from children in abusive situations. Texting is the preferred mode of everyday communications for kids. It appears that these children are much more willing to ask for help over text and to share information than they would over a voice call to 9-1-1.

While voice calls are still the best way to contact 9-1-1, there is no doubt that text as a primary means of communication is here to stay. As the emergency communications community strives to catch up with modern communications, it is essential that text-to-9-1-1 capabilities be implemented as soon as possible. Today, a large portion of the public erroneously believes they can contact 9-1-1 via text and that is simply unacceptable.

With a select number of pilots underway across the country, it has clearly been demonstrated that text is easy-to-use, secure and effective as a means to communicate with citizens in need of emergency help. Further testing has proven that the technology is reliable, secure and in line with i3. The addition of text capabilities has to happen at some point…why not now? We owe it to our citizens to offer them this potentially life-saving service.

West Corporation

Posted on August 9, 2012 by West Corporation 

911 Enable Announces its E911 Solutions Now Available for UCaaS Providers!

E911 Solutions for UCaaS911 Enable is pleased to announce it now offers complete, end-to-end E911 solutions for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).

As more organizations make the strategic decision to move their UC capabilities to the cloud, UCaaS providers must be able to offer the robust E911 solutions customers expect, while meeting E911 legislation. This can be further complicated if the provider needs to deliver and manage E911 support for multiple UCaaS platforms.

Our solutions for UCaaS help providers meet their key E911 challenges in an elegant and cost-effective manner. They ensure emergency calls and detailed caller-location information are delivered to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) across the US and Canada, automatically discover IP endpoints, and include a complete suite of advanced security desk notification features. Together, these features help UCaaS providers meet E911 legislation, and give their customers the E911 experience they expect. They also integrate with today’s leading UCaaS platforms — including Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution, Avaya Collaborative Cloud, Microsoft Lync, BroadSoft and more — simplifying E911 for UCaaS providers who support multiple voice platforms.

To learn more about 911 Enable’s solutions for UCaaS:

West Corporation

Posted on August 3, 2012 by West Corporation 


I had to have it.  I was going to die without it.  That car with a chrome horse on the grill and a turbocharger under the hood.  It was 1979, Ford had just re-released the Mustang and I had to have one.  It finally arrived from the factory and it was great, except for one little thing: if the ground was icy (or even wet) that car couldn’t get out of my apartment parking lot.  This wasn’t really a surprise, just a harsh reality.  Not a good situation for an on-call Radio Tech.I had succumbed to overwhelming temptation (some would say seduced) and suffered the consequences that, in retrospect, may not have been worth it.  In most cases seduction requires the victim to limit their view to focus entirely on the object of desire and consciously reject balanced thought or due consideration.  Most times it’s not a simple oversight or case of unintended consequences – rather it’s a case of not listening to that little nagging voice…

Most of the discussion surrounding NextGen 9-1-1 is all about new features, capabilities and flexibility that come to 9-1-1 as we move to NextGen and why it’s so great.  Not unlike the chrome horse or the turbocharger.  This is what we all talk about when we are positioning the project for approval and funding to move forward. I would suggest that those are in fact the right things to talk about in those venues but it’s easy (and fun) to be seduced by these new and advanced things.  Like most seductions there is danger in focusing too narrowly on the exciting new features and not keeping a broad view of what real, long term 9-1-1 success looks like – including all the details that require attention to get there.  This discussion is about making sure we don’t forget to keep our eyes and minds open as we move forward implementing NextGen.

Over that last 40 years or so our 9-1-1 infrastructure in the US has successfully processed billions of calls from people seeking assistance.  Granted many of those calls never should have happened in the first place, but that’s a subject for another day.  The overwhelming majority of those calls worked just as intended and helped produce positive outcomes to often tragic situations.  Unfortunately, it also turns out that there are of plenty of calls that didn’t work out all that well for a wide variety of reasons.  Some of these resulted in our industry learning hard lessons, sometimes at the cost of someone’s life.  Over the years, some were the result of inadequacies in the design, implementation, operation or maintenance of the actual 9-1-1 system itself.

Just like public safety agencies that change their practices when an after-action review suggests it’s warranted, so too has the 9-1-1 industry continually evolved and adopted new ways of doing things to address shortcomings when appropriate.  As a result, we have formed a large body of “best practices” that help maintain high efficacy 9-1-1 service.  We can’t take for granted that the new technology that underpins NextGen automatically addresses these best practices.  I have observed this assumption playing out around the country – and it’s dangerous.  People are so focused on implementing the new technology in pursuit of the new features that they aren’t paying attention to the reality of what it takes to assure that the system operates at the level of robustness that we have all come to expect.

Certainly, the legacy 9-1-1 system suffers insults differently than a NextGen system does, and some of the specific best practices we use today are not the same best practices that we need in the new context moving forward. Nor does the simple adoption of new technology automatically address everything we have learned and implemented over the years. That said, when contemplating a NextGen system, during system design, proposal review and system implementation each of the underlying situations that lead to the formation of a legacy best practice in the first place must be played against the envisioned new system and appropriate new NextGen best practices be confirmed or established.

Listen to that little voice.  Pay attention to all of the details.

West Corporation

Posted on July 20, 2012 by West Corporation 

Bigger Than A Breadbox

Trite, certainly – but never more appropriate for where we find ourselves today in the world of 9-1-1.  How people communicate with each other has changed dramatically over the last 40 years and it turns out that our 9-1-1 environment hasn’t kept up.That is in the process of changing.  By now you have heard, and maybe are even sick of hearing about, NextGen or Next Generation 9-1-1 coming down the path.

NextGen seems to suggest the future but in reality it’s happening in an evolutionary sense in many places RIGHT NOW.  As someone who started his 35+ year career in public safety as a Dispatcher I have to say that I find it exciting and way, way overdue!

Depending on whom you ask you may get different technical definitions of what NextGen 9-1-1 is but I would suggest that when we take a big picture view we see simply that it is all about doing a better job of helping those in need, and providing a more efficient and safer environment for everyone providing the help.  The big picture is what I want to chat about today.

For the past four decades a 9-1-1 call has been about a caller talking to a call-taker.  Virtually all information related to the situation at hand, save a bit of automated location, is conveyed in the dialog of the conversation.  The NextGen 9-1-1 world envisions a dramatically expanded “9-1-1 Continuum” where the 9-1-1 system enables a flow of information (notice I didn’t say the 9-1-1 voice call itself, but it’s certainly possible) between a much broader range of appropriately involved players.  The idea here being that certain information is important at different times to different people as the event and response unfolds and that ideally everyone should have access to the information they need to do their job efficiently and safely and not be distracted by information that is useful to others but not them.  So this means that not all of the information that finds its way to the field has to go via the ears and fingers of a call-taker to the eyes and mouth or fingers of a dispatcher to the eyes or ears of a first responder.

Now this is where it really gets interesting.  Since traditionally the technology, process and business of 9-1-1 has focused somewhat narrowly on the caller and the call-taker, the circle of participants in the operation and vision of the 9-1-1 system has been small, generally stopping with the PSAP or the oversight body of 9-1-1 in a given area.  Not much to be gained by involvement by the first responders.  This is one of the biggest areas of change with NextGen 9-1-1.  There is HUGE opportunity for NextGen 9-1-1 to positively impact the first responders and I strongly urge that as you contemplate your NextGen 9-1-1 evolution that the Police, Fire, EMS and oft-used secondary responders be invited (compelled?) to actively join in the planning and implementation process. Much of the functionality of NextGen 9-1-1 is to benefit them directly, in some cases even more so than the PSAP.  Also remember that these folks are in the continuous process of upgrading their systems and processes just like we do in 9-1-1, and the big win for the public and the responders is for public safety operations, and the underlying systems used to support these operations, all to work together over time.

It’s going to be an exciting and challenging journey.  I look forward to it and hope you do as well.

West Corporation

Posted on July 10, 2012 by West Corporation 

911 Enable’s Customer Satisfaction Survey Results Are In!

Back in May/June, we conducted a customer satisfaction survey to get a better understanding of why our customers chose us, and their impressions of our customer service, staff and suite of solutions. We were overwhelmed by the positive results and were thrilled to learn that over 90% of our customers would reward us with the best compliment possible – they would recommend our solutions to their colleagues. A big thank-you goes out to each one of our customers who took the time to complete the survey. To learn more about the survey and responses, see the press release here.