Enterprises, 911 and Multi-Line Telephone Systems: Three Reasons Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore 911

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve stumbled down the 911 rabbit hole. For most enterprises, 911 used to be a clearcut exercise — a PBX configuration and a few local trunks that route 911 calls placed from your premises to the local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). And while that solution may have worked for 911 in the past, it just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Whether you’re looking into 911 for the first time, or re-evaluating the 911 solution you already have in place, there are three main considerations that make 911 more important than ever before.

Reason 1: The Changing Regulatory Landscape

Perhaps the biggest catalyst in the 911 ecosystem has been a series of new laws and associated FCC regulations — and compliance deadlines — that have emerged in the past couple of years pertaining to 911 for multi-line telephone systems (MLTS). Most enterprises have an MLTS of some sort in place, where phone numbers and extensions are managed from a single, corporate-wide interface. These types of systems often face significant challenges when it comes to 911: because emergency calls egress the network from the central corporate data center, it can be challenging to get the call to the right PSAP, and to know the location of the emergency caller.

Prior to 2018, a patchwork of laws formed the 911 regulatory landscape. The requirement that 911 calls placed from an MLTS be sent to the correct PSAP with adequate location information varied by state — some states had stringent regulations, while others were mum on the subject. In 2018, all that changed: both Kari’s Law and Section 506 of RAY BAUM’S Act were passed. Respectively, these require that:

  • MLTS must route 911 calls direct to the PSAP without requiring a dialing prefix (e.g., you shouldn’t need to dial 9 to access an outside line when you are trying to reach 911); as well, Kari’s Law included specific provisions regarding on-site notification when a 911 call is placed from an MLTS.
  • A dispatchable location for the 911 caller must be delivered to the PSAP call taker along with the call — and this location must be detailed enough to ensure that the public safety first responders can quickly locate the caller when they arrive on-scene. This means that the location sent with a 911 call should include not just the caller’s street address, but also any floor details or unit identifiers necessary to easily navigate to the caller.

In 2019, the FCC passed regulations that specified how these laws were to be implemented, set deadlines for compliance, identified the situations where these regulations are applicable and outlined exemptions. Now, many enterprises are scrambling to figure out what applies for their networks and what doesn’t. 

Reason 2: The Need to Minimize Risk

In addition to meeting new 911 regulations, enterprises also need to be concerned with the potential liability they could face if something goes wrong and they have inadequate 911 calling capabilities in place — regardless of whether the call is placed on- or off-premises. As an employer, OSHA mandates that you are responsible to provide a safe workplace for your employees — and if your employees can’t access 911 in a crisis, you’re not providing a safe workplace.

The cost of a lawsuit alleging negligence can be astronomical. Setting aside settlement costs, the legal fees can add up quickly. So having a proactive approach to 911 can help you to prevent a lawsuit in the first place, and minimize risk and liability if something does go wrong.

Reason 3: Your Ethical Obligations

Aside from regulatory and risk mitigation requirements, enterprises have an ethical obligation to make sure their systems can accommodate 911 calling. 

Your users probably just assume that 911 works. People are so accustomed to 911, that they don’t think about how it works — and when it might not work. If they’re in crisis, you want to make sure that they can connect to help right away. But unfortunately, most organizations often don’t realize that there is a problem with their 911 configuration/solution until they are in the midst of an emergency and things don’t go as planned.

What’s an Enterprise To Do?

Right now, there’s a lot of information floating around about regulatory compliance. Different vendors and solution providers offer different approaches, and the best solution for your unique deployment can vary based on your MLTS system vendor (or vendors), network architecture, locations and configurations. 

Compliance dates are fast approaching — indeed, some have already passed — so your enterprise needs to know what applies, and what the best plan is for your unique architecture. As well, you need to understand what your non-regulatory risk looks like, and make sure that your enterprise isn’t negligent when it comes to 911.

Plan for Action

Most IT departments are resource constrained, and your teams are probably operating at full capacity right now to accommodate the seismic network infrastructure shifts brought about by COVID-19 and the need to enable remote work and connectivity across the nation. Additionally, most of your IT staff are probably unfamiliar with the nuances of 911 and how the specific configurations implemented across your network impact its performance and reliability. Sifting through the vendor-specific information can leave you with more questions than answers — but we can help. Contact us today for a no-obligation, vendor-neutral conversation about your requirements, and how you can harness decades of experience to define a 911 strategy that works for your business.

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