Enhanced 911, or E911, is a technology that allows for the automatic delivery of a 911 caller’s location in addition to their phone number with their 911 call. When a call taker at a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) receives a 911 call, they know where the caller is and where to send help because that caller’s location is displayed right on their screen. This is particularly critical in those emergencies where a caller can’t speak: medical emergencies, emergencies in progress, etc. The question is, do businesses need to pay special attention to how E911 functions in the enterprise?
911 is so entrenched in our daily life that it often gets forgotten in the discussion around Unified Communications (UC). As enterprises embark on the project of selecting a new UC platform, implementing softphones, or migrating to a hybrid or cloud-based UC solution, they may only realize that they’ve critically impacted their ability to deliver 911 calls when it’s too late.
How does UC impact 911?
When enterprises move to UC, they are consolidating their trunks into a central data center. Before IP communications, calls would go out through the local trunks and gateways that were set up for each office. Part of the attraction to moving to UC is that enterprises can eliminate these trunks and gateways in favour of centralized SIP trunks. And because call signalling is IP-based, users can now access the corporate voice network from softphones at home or on the road – so they don’t even need to be on the enterprises premises to stay connected.
A consequence of this flexibility, however, is that when someone from a branch office or an off-site location calls 911, their call gets delivered to the PSAP serving the data center location and not their actual location. First responders have no idea where the caller actually is, and if the caller isn’t in a position to advise the 911 call taker of their true location, help may arrive at the wrong location entirely.
Who calls 911 from an office?
With the proliferation of smart phones, enterprises often assume that even if their UC system’s 911 functionality doesn’t work as well as it should, their users aren’t dialling 911 from their IP phones anyway; they assume that people just pick up their cell phones to dial 911. But the statistics show that this is a dangerous supposition: As Mary Boyd noted in her 911 Policy and the Enterprise webinar, almost 675,000 calls were made from Multi-Line Telephone Systems (MLTS) in the state of California in 2016 alone – more calls than there were people living in Wyoming that same year!
Why does 911 matter to the enterprise?
There are numerous reasons why fixing the 911 functionality gap is of paramount importance for enterprises. First and foremost, many states have legislation in place that requires enterprises with MLTS to deliver 911 to a specific standard. Secondly, many enterprises need to close this gap for liability reasons; simply put, if something goes wrong on your premises and you didn’t take adequate measures to allow for an efficient response, your enterprise might be on the hook. Finally, providing 911 service for your users is the right thing to do – if someone on your premises or network is in distress, you owe them the ethical duty to do your utmost to get them the assistance they need, as quickly as possible.
So now what?
Fortunately, solving for 911 can be simple – vendor-agnostic solutions that integrate with on-premises, cloud-based and hybrid UC deployments are available. Contact one of our E911 experts today to learn how our solutions can unify 911 across your deployment, however your UC is deployed.