VoIP and E911 Emergency Services – What You Need to Know
August 1, 2017
E911 Compliance is the Law
What is your response to an emergency, whether there’s been an accident, a fire, or a health emergency at your place of business? Chances are you automatically call 9-1-1. Even children are taught to dial 9-1-1 if something happens. It’s something we all take for granted today; however, as new technologies such as mobile and VoIP communications have emerged, the old system has been met with challenges and requirements have changed over time.
Planning for emergencies in any enterprise environment is serious business. Attention must be paid to ensuring that employees, customers, and visitors have easy and accurate access to appropriate services should an emergency arise. This is not only to ensure a safe working environment (as demanded by OSHA) but also to ensure that the business is not guilty of negligence should an unacceptable E911 solution be in place. Natural disasters such as hurricanes and active shooter situations have put this issue in the spotlight resulting in new legislation to be passed. As an example, in the state of Michigan any building that has over 7,000 square feet must have its own E911 designated zones within the building: (https://www.michigan.gov/documents/msp/FINAL_MLTS_Guidelines_503991_7.pdf).
Other states are following suit in various degrees.
The 4-1-1 on 9-1-1
It’s likely you don’t know the history of 9-1-1, so it’s worth a short review. In 1968, legislation was passed that established a single universal number (9-1-1) that people could dial (for emergency only) from any phone without charge. A Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) answers 9-1-1 calls and dispatches appropriate emergency services within their geographic area of responsibility. There are over 6,000 PSAPs in the United States.
In the early days of the deployment of 9-1-1 service, the solution demanded that the caller and the PSAP call taker/dispatcher physically communicate (via voice or TTY) the location information. The system was later updated to Enhanced 911 (E911) such that caller ID and mapping information were delivered to the proper PSAP automatically with the call so that if the calling party could not communicate, emergency services would still be able to be dispatched to their location.
How new technology changed the landscape
Dispatching emergency services worked well when everyone used landlines which always remained in the same physical location. However, mobile phones and VoIP phones presented some unique challenges as those devices aren’t tied to a specific location. Mobile phones move with the user and VoIP phones can be moved from one address and plugged in at another as long as there is a usable internet connection.
Other issues complicating the proper handling of 911 calls have to do with the ability to locate the caller down to a small enough area so that the caller can actually be found and helped. The requirements for geographically pinpointing the caller continue to shrink to smaller and smaller areas and in fact can actually differ by state from a regulations standpoint.
It is not good enough to dispatch emergency services to the front of a large office building if you don’t know what floor the caller is on or to send an ambulance to a large factory complex and not know what portion of a building the call originated from. Schools are another good example of the need to pinpoint with more accuracy, particularly if an emergency is called in from a specific classroom on a campus.
Do you know how your SIP provider handles E911? Are you selling service in a state with stringent requirements and can your SIP provider meet those requirements?
nexVortex has you covered
We understood the serious nature of providing an accurate, flexible and easy-to-administer E911 solution. That is why we took an holistic approach to ensure that it was adaptable to multiple scenarios so that businesses using our service as well as their employees and visitors would be protected.
SIP Trunking from nexVortex has multiple methods which can be used for handling E911. They include using proxy credentials, caller ID, and IP screening.
nexVortex chose to implement ALL THREE which, when used individually or in combination, are flexible enough to handle nearly any implementation scenario. As part of our process we require all accounts which are created to have proxy credentials tied to E911 automatically turned on to ensure that no customer is brought into service without an E911 solution. It is part of our turn-up checklist. In addition, we have an easy to use portal to assign E911 location via the three methods mentioned above and to update location information via easy-to-use drop down menus.
Once in service, users of our SIP Trunking can verify their location information by picking up the handset on any phone and dialing “311.” Our system will read the address assigned to the phone so it is easy to verify for correctness.
At nexVortex we understand the serious nature of providing accurate information in the case of an emergency. Contact us or a nexVortex business partner to find out more about what makes our handling of E911 better than other SIP providers and protect your business and customers.