E911: Know the Laws and Why You Need to Be Compliant
Kevin Kito is the President and CEO of 911 Secure. Kevin has been in the Enhanced 911 (E911) industry for over 15 years.
For businesses, it is crucial to ensure that workers dialing 9-1-1 using their company-wide communication devices can be located in an emergency. However, with the “office” no longer confined to a single physical location, that becomes a challenge. There are more remote workers than ever before. Many organizations are permanently adopting the work-from-anywhere model following restrictions put into place resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With more remote workers than ever, it is important that your organization is compliant with new 911 laws, and more importantly, that your employees – wherever they may be – are kept safe.
To fully understand what 911 compliance means, it is important to understand the definitions and history:
- With Basic 911, when someone dials 9-1-1, the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) matches the call with the address of the landline the call originated from. The emergency and its location are communicated between the caller and the call-taker by voice (or TTY).
- E911 (Enhanced 911) is a service that automatically displays the telephone number and physical location of the 911 caller on the emergency dispatcher’s screen.
In the past twenty years, the way 911 calls are routed has changed and evolved. Having an Enhanced 911 solution is no longer an option, but an absolute imperative. Twenty years ago, a person’s 911 call would, in most cases, route to the correct PSAP and deliver the address of the building the call was coming from. This would be useful because if the 911 caller could tell the PSAP operator that they were on the 15th floor of the building, first responders could reach the caller in a timely manner. The only time the building address was needed was if the caller either did not know where they were in the building or could not communicate their location. Of course, examples of this occurring exist, but the problem was a lot less prevalent than it is today. There were also little to no remote sites without local trunks, and those working from home would simply use their cell phone.
However, now when someone makes a 911 call from either a remote site with no local trunks or from a softphone on a laptop in their home office, the call will most likely route to the wrong PSAP and almost certainly deliver incorrect address information compared to the caller’s actual location. This location discrepancy creates a critical issue for the 911 caller. Instead of stating the purpose of their call to the operator and receiving help as quickly as possible, they instead must try and convince the operator that they are located at a different address than the one automatically populated on the screen at the PSAP. This can create potentially life-threatening delays in getting help to the caller.
This change in technology, combined with tragic accounts of people calling 911 and not receiving aid, has led to the passing of two federal laws. The first is Kari’s law and the second is Ray Baum’s Act. Read on below as we cover further details on each of these laws.
What are the laws?
Kari’s Law, which went into effect on February 16, 2020, has three requirements:
- The first is that the caller must be able to dial 9-1-1 without a prefix or an access code (for example, “dial 9 to get out.”) without any delay.
- The second requirement is that 911 calls must be directed to the Public-Safety Answering Point (PSAP) and not intercepted by on-site personnel (front desk, security, etc. – this is common in hospitals and universities).
- Lastly, someone on-site needs to be notified that 911 has been called.
Another law, called the RAY BAUM’S Act 506 went into effect on January 6, 2021, and requires a dispatchable location to be delivered for fixed (wired) devices. A “dispatchable location” is defined as a building address and additional data (floor level, room number, etc.) that can locate the caller in a reasonable amount of time. On January 6, 2022, non-fixed (wireless) devices will also be required to provide this information.
An accurate “dispatchable location” can make a life-or-death difference. A dispatchable location needs to be accurate, but more importantly, needs to be clearly communicated to someone not familiar with the building layout. For instance, in a hotel, there could be a “Ballroom A” and “Ballroom B.” However, unless a person already knows where those rooms are, the information is not very helpful.
Why YOU Need to be Compliant
Some organizations, like schools, have their own security departments and may not think they need additional capabilities. However, that is an incorrect assumption that can have major consequences.
Kari’s Law and the Ray Baum Act are the minimum that is required in every state. Additionally, some states have their own legislation regarding 911 specifications. Click here to learn about your state’s additional laws.
If your organization is found to be non-compliant of Kari’s Law, you could face a fine from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of up to $10,000 as well as a daily fine up to $500 for each day you are non-compliant. The FCC has the power to enforce the rules, assign judgments, and collect penalties.
A good comparison for having an E911 solution is having sprinklers installed in a building. Most companies never have on-site fires, but in the event of a fire, everyone would be grateful for the sprinklers in place to douse the flames. Similarly, most companies will not need E911 for regular daily activity because, for many, 911 calls are few and far between. However, if someone ever needs to call 911, it is critical to have an E911 solution in place that will automatically provide the caller’s location information to the PSAP.
Another parallel would be if a company experienced a fire, but the sprinklers did not go off because the water was not hooked up. In such circumstances, chances are good that the company’s fire insurance would not cover resulting damages since the company itself was negligent. With federal legislation now in place that requires companies to implement an E911 solution, this same issue may apply regarding liability insurance if a lawsuit was filed against the company. For reference, when Kari Hunt was murdered, her family received $41.55 million dollars from the resulting lawsuit. In the case of our fictional company, instead of liability insurance covering any fire-related damage costs, that money may end up coming out of the company’s pockets. Of course, each organization should check with their own insurance company for verification.
What Changes Do You Need to Make?
When looking at a solution to make you compliant with Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s act, there are many questions you should be asking the provider. The following are just a few:
“Does your solution make our organization compliant with Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act? If so, how?”
“Is your solution a Next Generation 911 solution or only an Enhanced 911 solution?”
“How do you get the correct address of anyone working remote that is using either a softphone on a laptop or a VPN hardphone?”
Understanding the laws and requirements, choosing the best solution, and then implementing without any disruption to your day-to-day business activities is, well, a lot. That is where Waterfield and 911 Secure come in. We will design a custom solution to meet your specific needs, ensuring you are compliant with all federal and state 9-1-1 compliance laws and mandates.
Check out our on-demand webinar to learn how to make sure your organization is E911 compliant.