Are You Ready for the New 911 Regulations?

By: Lydia Runnels

Implementing and managing 911 technology—a critical component for overall employee safety—has never been more complicated. The FCC estimates that for every minute reduced on emergency response times, 10,000 lives could be saved each year. Trends in the workplace increasingly complicate the process of protecting employees with support for emergency calling. 

Workers are more mobile and more distributed than ever before, relying on a variety of devices for communication and, potentially, 911. Companies are juggling a mixture of cloud, on-premise, or hybrid telephony solutions along with a variety of unified communications (UC) platforms. And amid all this complexity, the FCC recently adopted new rules in response to comprehensive E911 legislation at a federal level that will affect nearly every organization in the United States at some point in the near future.

Many companies across the United States have grappled with these challenges firsthand. As an example, Bandwidth’s headquarters occupies three separate buildings on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh. There are regional offices in Denver and Rochester plus dozens of remote, work-at-home employees scattered around the country. Transparent communication and in-person interaction are encouraged at the company, which means employees are moving frequently between buildings, floors and rooms to meet and collaborate. All of this mobility makes for a stimulating and fun place to work but creates problems when it comes to locating callers in an emergency. Adding to this, many (but not all) employees have transitioned away from desk phones to laptop and mobile-based softphone applications. Employees may be, quite literally, anywhere during an emergency. A critical question is how to determine their location if they need help and subsequently call 911?

Moving telephony to the cloud requires careful planning and preparation to retain the integrity of 911 access, so let’s start with an understanding of how enterprise 911 works in a little more detail.

911 Location Management

The performance of 911 technology begins and ends with the integrity-of-location information for the user endpoint (phone). Managing all 911 endpoints locations within an enterprise today requires an IT administrator to accurately provision location information for all the 911 endpoints in the organization into an Automatic Location Information (ALI) database, which is maintained by the local phone company in that jurisdiction. This provisioning process is straightforward enough but is also labor-intensive. Every time a new user is added, moves or leaves the organization, that endpoint information must be added or updated—ideally, as quickly as possible. In addition, the administrator has to keep location information up to date in all the local ALI databases anywhere the company has offices with employees. Any organization—even one that has an adequately staffed IT department—will find this process challenging and a potential distraction from other mission-critical responsibilities.


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