Hear No 911, Speak No 911, See No 911

Hear No 911, Speak No 911, See No 911

AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG IS HERE ON SOUNDCLOUD

Clearly the digits 911 are a brand that is recognized worldwide. For anyone living in the United States, we are taught at a very early age that these numbers can, and will, provide you with assistance in a dire emergency.

They are so ingrained in our culture, that for many, the very first instinct is to dial 911. With the massive explosion of subscribers of cellular devices exceeding 100% in the US, most calls today originate from these devices; this also holds true for calls to emergency services. This leads to a recipe for disaster, as the present day 911 network has unfortunately stagnated in its evolution of technology, or at least severely lagged behind the common communications modalities that we have become accustomed to, and use on a daily basis.

When cellular phones first came on the market, they were typically installed in vehicles and not portable in nature. At best, your “bag phone” that could be carried with you, but impossible to fit in a pocket. While your location was still an issue with 911 calls from these devices, most calls to 911 were related to motorists reporting incidents on highways. Based on this statistical reality, it was common to route cellular 911 calls to the state Highway Patrol where they could be triaged and re-routed accordingly. The state of California was no different, and at first, all cellular 911 calls were directed to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) station close to the caller.

With cellular phones starting to become portable, easily slipping into pockets, their use is no longer limited to motorists in vehicles, everyone carries them. Therefore, routing cellular 911 calls to CHP may create a problem where there is a high residential population, as residents who need the Sheriff’s Department, will now first reach CHP. While CHP gathers the information about the caller, and determines the agency that needs to handle the situation, precious minutes are lost. To combat this situation in El Dorado County California, the Sheriff’s Department  TwitterLogo@ElDoradoSheriff is recommending that residents avoid calling 911 on cell phones, and instead call 530-626-4911, a number that goes straight to the 911 call center.

Has 911 location discovery from cell phones finally reached a point where it is now so epidemic that we have actually instructed citizens “NOT TO DIAL 911?” Have we really decided to go down this path of potential disaster? I believe this problem can be improved, but unfortunately, it will take a little bit of work from the cellular carriers, and of course work is not free, and carriers rarely do anything that costs them money without attaching an invoice to it.

Let’s look how basic “Phase 1” cellular call routing works. Each cellular tower has three antenna faces servicing 120° of the compass, creating three sectors as shown below. Plotting the coverage area of each sector on a map will yield a rough estimate of the appropriate community covered by this sector.

CellMap

Each community will have a designated 911 center assigned to receive emergency calls. Any calls received from that cellular sector are routed to this designated 911 center, based on the location of the caller and the antennae face they hit. While admittedly this is not 100% accurate, and areas of overlap can and will still exist, the idea is to groom the routing so that the majority of 911 calls for that particular area are routed correctly the first time, minimizing any calls from being misrouted but easily transferred if needed.

Unfortunately, this is more work for the wireless carriers. Not only do they have to make the changes, they have to research the data to determine what the changes should be. And all of that as a cost associated with it. It is also possible that another “sleeping giant” could be awakened by this exercise. A few years ago it was suggested by a company that was tracking and matching cellular 911 data and call dispositions, that many of the cellular tower listings in the database, were actually incorrect, as seen by many calls being rerouted after being answered.

While admittedly, nothing can be perfect 100% of the time, as a public safety industry, we must strive for excellence in everything that we do. Lives are on the line, and even the slightest misinterpretation can lead to tragic results that cannot be undone.

At the Federal Communications Commission headquarters this past Friday, Chairman Tom Wheeler himself stated, “we’re just not cutting it as a nation”, referring to the technology we have deployed in our emergency services network, and our overall transition into next generation 911 services. While the reason for protecting our critical infrastructure surrounding emergency calls is clear and evident, we cannot bury our heads in the ground, and ignore commercial best practices that have been established over the years as our nation’s banking and financial institutions, as well as global retailers, have built large-scale resilient and secure networks, that it expanded our modern economy.

If we’re going to move public safety into the next paradigm of technological existence, we need to take a good long look in the mirror and leave our Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil attitudes at the door. Our safety and well-being globally is in the hands of a small group of dedicated, well-trained, and passionate emergency call takers. Let’s do our part, and give them the tools that they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

 

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he directs the strategic roadmap for Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, in 2014 – 2015 he served as co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the European Union, providing valuable insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

 

Let’s Eat Grandma! or Let’s Eat, Grandma!

Let’s Eat Grandma! or Let’s Eat, Grandma!

Punctuation is critical. Without a comma, an innocent child saying, “Let’s eat, Grandma!” is twisted into a questionable “Let’s Eat Grandma!”

AN AUDIO VERSION OF THIS BLOG IS AVAILABLE HERE:

While this internet meme has been going around for quite some time, just this last week I witnessed this identical lack of punctuation steering some of our valued customers in a direction of 9-1-1 remediation that was far more complex, and expensive, than what they were required to do; or what even made sense for their facility and specific situation.

Just after the NENA Model MLTS Legislation was published in 2008/2009, several states started their legislative process to implement legislation.

The legislative requirements that spelled out in Massachusetts 560 CMR 4.00 state:

The purpose of 560 CMR 4.00 is to establish regulations to carry out the provisions of Massachusetts General Legislature – Chapter 6A, §18J to require that, beginning July 1, 2009, any new or substantially renovated multi-line telephone system shall provide the same level of enhanced 911 service that is provided to others in the commonwealth.

There are a considerable number of definitions, which are often overlooked, but in reality define the embodiment of applicability, and this is where our customers were led astray. They were advised that section 4.04 of the law states:

4.04. Beginning July 1, 2009, each operator of a new or substantially renovated multi-line telephone system shall provide (1) a call back number; and (2) PSALI to the station level.

But they failed to advise the customer of two other important items; First the requirement of Callback to the ‘station level’ would seem to require a record for each and every station; however in the definitions section, Callback is clearly defined as being the station that called, OR: “[T]he number of a switchboard operator, attendant, or other designated onsite individual with the ability to direct emergency responders to the 911 caller’s location 24 hours a day, 7 days a weeks, 365 days a year.

The second issue is punctuation and the ‘period’ at the end of that sentence. It is actually a ‘semi-colon’ followed by the words, “; OR an ERL identifier.”, indicating that an Emergency Response Location zone is completely acceptable.

Zone Response to MLTS 9-1-1 was a concept introduced in October 2008 in the NENA 06-502 v1 Technical Information Document “Industry Common Mechanisms for MLTS E9-1-1 Caller Location Discovery and Reporting”.

It provides an appropriate level of granularity for Emergency Response when coupled with the Crisis Alert functionality or the enhanced On Site Notification functionality provided by DevConnect applications like SENTRY from Conveyant Systems. These solutions take all of the relevant additional data that exists about an emergency call event and correlates that information in an intelligent dashboard that internal first responders can utilize to formulate an appropriate response and coordinate with Police, Fire and Medical personnel that are also responding. Or the information can be put up on a display in the event the building is not manned.

By using an Over The Top delivery model on today’s network, or directly in-band on tomorrow’s NENA i3 compliant Next Generation 9-1-1 Emergency Services IP Network (ESINet), public safety will have all of the Big Data and the relevant information about an environment at their finger-tips facilitating faster emergency response, with the best possible resources. This isn’t the future, this is NOW, and we will be globally demonstrating it live as part of our Public Safety Solutions display at the 2016 Avaya Technology Forums in:

Bangkok, Thailand on February 25-26
Dubai, UAE on March 15 -17
Orlando, Florida on April 5 -7
Dublin, Ireland on May 10-13

ATF – A Smart Journey for your Digital Enterprise
We hope to see you at one of these great events!

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911
Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

 

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he directs the strategic roadmap for Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, in 2014 – 2015 he served as co-chair of the EENA NG112 Committee in the European Union, providing valuable insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

A Slice of Pai -My Interview with an FCC Commissioner

A Slice of Pai -My Interview with an FCC Commissioner

Cover Photo By: Daniel Wilson, ENP – @NewYorkWilson
LISTEN to the Podcast version of this interview on SoundCloud

Without argument, communications is at the core of all social interaction today. The agency tasked with regulating interstate and international communication that occurs by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and US territories is the Federal Communications Commission. It’s this US government agency that is overseen by Congress that maintains itself as the primary authority for communications law, regulation, and technological innovation.

The agency tasked with regulating interstate and international communication that occurs by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and US territories is the Federal Communications Commission. It’s this US government agency that is overseen by Congress that maintains itself as the primary authority for communications law, regulation and technological innovation.

Doing this provides the commission the opportunity to manage the industry by promoting competition, innovation and investment in various communication technologies that include broadband services and facilities. Through their guidance on policy and regulations the commission is responsible for things such as:

Supporting the nation’s economy by ensuring an appropriate competitive framework for the unfolding of the communications revolution

Encouraging the highest and best use of spectrum domestically and internationally

Revising media regulations so that new technologies flourish alongside diversity and localism and

Providing leadership and strengthening the defense of the nation’s communication infrastructure.

While many citizens know the FCC only as the governmental agency that fined WKRP’s Dr. Johnny Fever for saying bugger, kicked Howard Stern off FM Radio and over onto satellite, and the government ‘geek squad’ that runs around in black vans covered with antenna, monitoring for people swearing on CB radios. Something that I was afraid of when I was growing up as a teenager in the 70’s.

If they are not cracking down on foul mouthed 14 year olds, what are they doing? Well to answer that question we went to the top or as close to the top as the national police would let me get and that’s with Commissioner Ajit Pai.

Commissioner Pai is one of four Commissioners; two Republican and two Democrat, appointed by the President. They report to Congress under the direction of Chairman Tom Wheeler, also chosen by the President.

[Fletch]
Commissioner Pai, welcome and thank you for taking the time to educate the public on their FCC.

[Ajit Pai]
It’s always great to collaborate with you, I’m just glad to have a chance to see you and in person.

[Fletch]
You were one of the first Commissioners on Twitter, which really was a pretty big step for the agency. How is that going?

[Ajit Pai]
It’s been fantastic and it’s one of the things that I never anticipated taking off as it has. I first announced I was joining Twitter at our very first public meeting in May of 2012 when I became a Commissioner and some of my colleagues quietly said to me afterward, ‘You’re nuts!’.

Rule number one on the internet: “Don’t feed the trolls”, and there’s never a better way to feed them than by getting on Twitter and posting your thoughts about telecom issues.

What I found in the year since, is that people enjoy having access to public servants directly through that medium and I personally find it really rewarding to get all kinds of feedback on my work and to have people like you who’ve brought issues to my attention; Issues that might have languished in the analog age, but now thanks to this platform I can become educated and so I have found it an unadulterated good.

I’m happy to say that all four of my colleagues are now on Twitter, a number of FCC staff are now on there and it’s kind of a given now that everyone expects that people will be on Twitter so that they can learn and send messages out.

[Fletch]
A couple of people said to me, “We follow you on Twitter, Fletch, and we see Commissioner Pai tweeting, that’s not really him tweeting. That’s got to be one of his staff members.” I can tell you, knowing you, those tweets are all in your voice and that’s you behind the Twitter.

[Ajit Pai]
Much to my wife’s chagrin, it’s me constantly looking at my Twitter feeds, I try to learn things, constantly posting throughout the day. There are so many issues that the FCC has jurisdiction over, and it’s just really a great platform for me to be able to engage the American public, so it really is me. Theirs is no bot behind it, there’s no staffer. That’s the great thing about the internet age, it’s that’s really reduced the figurative distance between the government and the governed and I take the notion of being a public servant very seriously and part of that is being as responsive as I possibly can be and Twitter is the ultimate example of doing that.

[Fletch]
That’s one of the things that impresses me most with you, is that you take your job as a public servant so seriously. You’re asked to make a lot of tough decisions and, sometimes, you’ve made decisions that aren’t a popular decision, but they are the right decision. And when I listen to you defend those, the best explanation was, “I know this isn’t optimal, but this is the law right now and we have to respect the law.”

[Ajit Pai]
That’s one of the most difficult things that I’ve had to confront in this job is doing the right thing even when the political winds are against you. At the end of the day I’ve got to be able to live with my own conscience and with the hope that I live up to my oath, which is to defend the laws and the constitution of the United States. The public, as I see it, might not be the way that other people see it, but at the end of the day, that’s the way I’ve got to approach the job and do my best within the confines of the law.

[Fletch]
I think a lot of people don’t know who the FCC is really is. They are a Federal Commission, but who are they? Who do you work for?

[Ajit Pai]
In a way we all work for ourselves, so there are five commissioners at the FCC, each one of us is appointed by the President, and confirmed by the Senate.

Our terms are staggered, each of us get’s a five year term. When you get here, for better or worse, each Commissioner is like an island unto himself or herself; who are led by a Chairman who sets the agenda and who decides at our monthly meetings what we’re going to vote on. In terms of the other Commissioners you can pick what issues you want to talk about, what speeches you want to give, what statements you want to make. There’s a tremendous amount of freedom.

Ultimately not to be cheesy about it, I see my client as the American people and that’s part of the reason why I’ve chosen issues like multi-line telephone systems. Those are issues that impact real people where I can effect a change and where it doesn’t matter if I have the gavel or not. I can use my pulpit to try and improve the public safety of the American people and that’s such a rewarding thing for a small town kid from Kansas to be able to say.

[Fletch]
In a
way you work for me?

[Ajit Pai]
That’s exactly right! I hope you don’t fire me anytime soon.

[Fletch]
Speaking of that,
 your term is coming up.

[Ajit Pai]
Yeah.

[Fletch]
Obviously you don’t know [if you’re re-nominated] yet, but what’s the process to extend that?

[Ajit Pai]
My term is up in June of 2016, I could be re-nominated for another term and that’s a decision that people with a far higher pay grade than mine are going to have to make. Until they make it, I’m going to be focused on giving this term and this job my all. It’s been a privilege of a lifetime to have been here for almost four years now. I’m just grateful to the President and just to the senate for letting me have this chance.

[Fletch]
Where does that nomination come from?

[Ajit Pai]
It has to be made by the White House and traditionally [since] I’m a member of the minority here at the FCC, the Senate leader of the party at power will make a recommendation to the White House. So, in this case it would be Senator McConnell consulting with his colleagues who would have to make a recommendation to President Obama.

[Fletch]
Well, personally I think for me you’ve done a great job.

[Ajit Pai]
Well thanks.

[Fletch]
You’ve certainly carried our MLTS issue with Kari’s Law forward. That would not have happened without your pulpit, without your guidance, without the speeches. I’m going to tell you; very few people know this, but I just got an email this morning that the state of Tennessee has just entered a new bill for Kari’s Law.

[Ajit Pai]
Fantastic, but see this is a classic example where I’m not the match. I mean, I might have been the one who helped to strike it a little bit, but people like you are the ones who are banging the drum. Making sure that people are aware of this issue and my part in this was very small, as you know. It’s just as you said using the pulpit to try to broaden awareness. It’s people like, people like the [American Hotel and Lodging] industry and the others in the public safety community. Legislators like Congressman Gohmert and people in Tennessee. Those are the people who are affecting change. I’m glad to be just one part of the mosaic that’s helping to make people safer.

[Fletch]
Well if anything you’ve been the catalyst driving it forward, you given it a certain level of stature saying that this is important and it needs to be done. It was two years ago that I first met you face to face in this very office on the same chairs and the same map on the wall.

[Ajit Pai]
Yes.

[Fletch]
Here we are, we have five or six states with new legislation, several states with updated legislation. I look back on that and I say, “Wow! I’ve been able to accomplish something!”, and that’s very satisfying for me.

[Ajit Pai]
Well it’s incredible and I don’t know about you, but now whenever I check into a hotel I always look … I know you’ve done this recently, I always look at that phone and then I look at the people walking around and how many of them will never know that they are safer because of the efforts that we’ve made on MLTS. That’s the great thing about it, I mean they don’t have to know our names, but and when that emergency strikes they are not going to face that same horrific situation that Kari’s daughter did.

[Fletch]
I was out in a Staybridge in California and I checked in and there’s a big huge 911 on the door, and there was a big huge 911 on the phone and I went to the front desk and said, “Where does 911 go?” To the 911 PSAP. Where would you think it should go? Thinking a year ago that would not have been the response. I then took a picture of the phone and I tweeted it out. You liked it and re-tweeted it. The hotels have to understand, look this is not against them this is promoting them. I’m staying at someplace where I think they do the right thing.

[Ajit Pai]
Absolutely right and that issue has been such a labor of love, for me and I know for you as well. It’s the progress hasn’t been as fast as we’d like but boy once that boulder start going down the hill, I mean we’ve really got the moment and it’s just been so rewarding to work with you and with Hank and so many other in this.

Well I appreciate that, I really appreciate that, it was the right thing to do and it was the right cause.

[Fletch]
Government is changing, with all these social media. What do you see the FCC’s role in social media?

[Ajit Pai]
I think part of it is that we have to use it. I mean a lot of cases, a lot of people in government just aren’t familiar with all these new platforms that people are using and I think its incumbent upon people like me to be as familiar with every aspect of technology that people are using, because if we’re going to pretend to regulate this it would be helpful to know something about it first. I think also it’s important for us to be as open and transparent, as responsive as we can be. Part of that involves modernizing our own processes. For example it used to be the case when I came to the FCC in 2007 that your only option for filing something was in paper and you had to direct it to a certain person and there was very little online and website wasn’t as accessible as it could be.

I think with people using all these great social media platforms, we should take that as an inspiration. Modernize our own processes so that people can file complains online very easily. People can figure out how the FCC is doing very easily. They can get the information they want quickly and rapidly. That’s something I’ve tried to evangelize around the building to varied success I might say.

[Fletch]
The [FCC has] rebooted the webpage a couple of times over the past few years and it’s gotten markedly better each time around. I use the electronic comment filing system for the things that I do. But, if I have something important, I’ll email it, I’ll tweet it those work too.

[Ajit Pai]
Yeah exactly right.

[Fletch]
How does Joe Citizen reach out to the FCC? I’m not going tweet to a commissioner and say I want this fixed right away, but there’s a process to do that. How do they carry those complaints forward?

[Ajit Pai]
A part of it is you can navigate our website I mean as you said we’ve made some improvements and it’s still not optimal despite having spent several million dollars on it. Bearing that if you can’t find what you want on the website, you can always get in touch with us.

Just last week as a matter of fact a foreigner manufacturer who had a question “I want to sell my product to the United States but I don’t know exactly what authorization to get and who to talk to.” I got an email myself from this gentleman.

I put him in touch with our office of industry and technology to figure out what the answer was and so that we could finally get an answer to this person who otherwise would just be left in the dark. Same thing with consumers, I get complaints from consumers all the time and I refer them on to our Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.

Get in touch with us, email me at ajit.pai@fcc.gov. Email the other Commissioners, Tweet at us, and that’s something as you pointed earlier I do monitor that myself and so I do take it seriously.

If American people have a concern, or a complaint or gripe or a tomato I want to be able to receive it. Maybe not the tomato so much, but the rest of that I really do mean it when I say that they should get in touch with us any way that they can and I’ll try my best to give them an answer.

[Fletch]
I don’t think people realize the FCC is as public as it is. [The Public] can attend any meeting downstairs they are open to the public. People do come in and protest once in a while.

[Ajit Pai]
Right.

[Fletch]
The look on your face was priceless. You know the incident I’m talking about.

[Ajit Pai]
Yeah.

[Fletch]
Fortunately they were harmless and were escorted out, but the Commission is incredibly open and transparent and I think people just don’t realize that.

[Ajit Pai]
That’s one of the sticking things to me is that given how important the industry we regulate is, I’m kind of shocked to be honest with you that the American people don’t know about a lot of the things that we do. A lot of people think of us as the agency that goes after broadcasters for the wardrobe malfunction issue or something like that. Well given the wide set of technology is in internet and cable and satellite and all the rest of it. It’s so critical to virtually everything we do, and how we raise our kids that I’d like think that our issues are front page of the news paper kind of issues, but hopefully overtime people to come to appreciate us more.

[Fletch]
I think the commission has done a great job and I think, you personally, you bring an essence to the commission that in tune with today’s people, with today’s technologies. You understand the technology, you embrace the technology. To
me we need more people like you here.

[Ajit Pai]
If you can just tell my wife that, that’d be great. It’s always nice to get support …

[Fletch]
I’ll write you a note if you write me a note, how’s that?

[Ajit Pai]
Sounds good, it will get me out of the dog house, but I really do appreciate it. It’s one of the things that whenever this job is done I want to be able to say that I helped to make the FCC a little more accessible, a little more responsive and hopefully more forward thinking. If I can be able to say that then I’ll count my time here as a success.

[Fletch]
Now of course, you don’t do it by yourself, you’ve got an incredible staff behind you.

[Ajit Pai]
My God, yeah.

[Fletch]
How many are in the Pai organization?

[Ajit Pai]
Although I’d wish there were some vast conspiracy that I could call upon to do all my bidding in actuality it is a few really hardworking brilliant dedicated people who are in my office. I have three advisors Chief of Staff, Mathew Berry and two other advisors Nick Degani and Brendan Carr. I also have two administrative assistance Lori Alexiou and Deanne Erwin. At any given point of time we have a number of interns as well who help us on research and writing. They are honestly the brains and the bran of the operation.

[Fletch]
It always seems to be that way, doesn’t it?

[Ajit Pai]
I feel incredibly blessed to have been here at the exact same time that they were willing to step into this roles because there’s literally no way that I could do any of this without them. It’s a really demanding job anyway and if I didn’t have the benefit of their expertise and their dedication I’d be up the proverbial creek as we say back home.

[Fletch]
Well, best of luck, I hope you are re-nominated and if you’re not I hope you’re onto bigger and better things!

[Ajit Pai]
The Power Ball didn’t work out! I really do appreciate you, Mark and one of the other great things about this job has been getting a chance to meet you, to work with you, to appreciate all the things you do to make the American people safe. Whenever I get a chance I try to give you as much credit as I can because it’s people like you who really are helping us live up to the public interest.

IN CLOSING:

I greatly appreciate the Commissioner affording me this time out of his precious schedule. Over the past few years, I am proud to be able to call him not only a colleague, but a friend. Despite his position on the 8th Floor of the Commission Headquarters building on the South West side of DC,  he has stayed grounded and retained his ‘small town boy from Kansas’ roots, as well as his love for AM radio.

I am very thankful that my work has afforded me the opportunity to interact with the Commissioner, and help carve out my little mark on the industry.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward both innovation and compliance.

The BEST thing I stole this Christmas

While I take great pride in writing my own blog posts, I do read quite a bit, and I often run across great content that I am inclined to share a little further than the ‘SHARE’ button. When I see those certain nuggets, I invite them to reiterate their thoughts on my little island in the vast interwebs and share them with my, dare I say, friends. With that, I give you the BEST thing I STOLE this Christmas, and that is the RAVE Mobile Safety Top 5 List of Public Safety Events for 2015.

Originally published on Rave Mobile Safety’s Blog Site

2015-16-300x143

It’s that time of year when we look back at the past year and forward to the next. To understand where we are going, it’s helpful to look at the road we’ve already traveled. In that spirit, here is a look back at the Top 5 Trends that had the biggest impact on Emergency communications in 2015.

Costly Failures

9-1-1 needs to work. This message was heard loud and clear by service providers when earlier this year, the FCC doled out fines totaling more than $20 million to Verizon Communications Inc., CenturyLink Inc. and Intrado Inc.. No technology is perfect, and occasionally issues happen, but the FCC’s aggressive response clearly showed that our public safety communication infrastructure needs not only redundancy at all steps but rigorous process and timely notification and visibility into corrective actions. As the industry moves to enhance networks, software and processes we can’t lose site of the difference between the cost of a consumer application not working and a public safety service not working. If an app “locks up”, a data connection drops, or a 10-digit call fails, we simply try again. We don’t really know or care why it didn’t work. It is simply a minor annoyance. It’s more than a minor annoyance when lives are at stake. 9-1-1 is different. It needs to work and we need to continue the process of continual improvement to build resiliency into the entire emergency call handling chain.  It’s why we tell people to call 9-1-1 and not some other number.

Kari’s Law

While the tragic death of Kari Hunt Dunn was in 2013, 2015 was the year her impact on public safety was most felt. Starting with legislation in Suffolk County, Long Island, it spurred changes in the existing Illinois law, and new legislation in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Texas where it came to the attention of Congressman Louie Gohmert who filed a Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would expand on the Texas law requiring direct dialing of 9-1-1 and on-site notification for multi-line telephone systems.  The tireless work of the Hunt family and supporters like FCC Commissioner Pai and Avaya Public Safety Architect Mark Fletcher, ENP resulted in rapid action across the country. While the changes to the MLTS configurations are clearly needed, this event makes my Top 5 list because of the example set in turning a tragic event into trend to solve a “hidden” issue, resulting in untold lives saved in the future.

Location, Location, Location

I grew up with a mom who sold real estate. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard about how it is all about location. Well, that is true in 9-1-1 as well, and 2015 was the year the FCC took aggressive action to improve both visibility into the location information being provided to PSAPs as well as the quality of that data (especially indoors). In February 2015, The FCC issued enhanced locations standards. Following on the indoor location roadmap endorsed by NENA, APCO, and the 4 leading wireless carriers in late 2014, the rules drive improved location accuracy for indoor callers over the next 7 years. The carriers, the CTIA and ATIS took quick action in developing standards and moving aggressively towards improving location. While meeting the standards will take a mix of different technologies, an RFP has already been issued for the NEAD (National Emergency Address Database) which will provide location information on WiFi access points – a key part of the indoor location mix. While those of us in public safety always want things to move faster, the reality is that a national roll-out, of a public safety grade solution, done correctly, on the timeline required is an aggressive undertaking and I applaud the FCC for creating consensus and driving the process. Within a short time frame, we will begin to see vast improvements in indoor location accuracy delivered by the carriers to PSAPs.

FirstNet Drives Public Safety Investment

In December 2015, FirstNet’s board approved the Request for Proposal (RFP) to deploy the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) and directed management to take all necessary actions to release the RFP in early January. While this is clearly a huge step towards a first responder network, the work towards defining the NPSBN and the level of momentum sustained by FirstNet is why this made my list for 2015. A by-product of this effort is an increased level of interest and investment in public safety by both the venture capital community and established companies that have traditionally been active in tangential markets (e.g. federal, defense, health care). The level of innovation and resources brought by these companies can only serve to help improve the options we have available to us in providing better service and response to citizens.

Technology Adoption Marches On… and Into Public Safety

According to the CTIA, more than 47 percent of American homes use only cellphones, and 71 percent of people in their late 20s live in households with only cellphone. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Study, “nearly three-quarters of teens have or have access to a smartphone and 30% have a basic phone, while just 12% of teens 13 to 17 say they have no cell phone of any type”. To improve service and offload the rapidly growing network traffic, the carriers have begun enabling WiFi calling on mobile devices (see this blog post for our WiFi calling to 9-1-1 testing results and implications). Well known to any parent, Pew also reports that Facebook remains the most used social media site among American teens ages 13 to 17 with 71% of all teens using the site, even as half of teens use Instagram and four-in-ten use Snapchat. So what does this mean for PSAPs?

Already nearly 10% of the country gets additional data on calls from Smart911, regions are rapidly rolling out NG9-1-1 to facilitate new call types, and despite the worries of many about getting swamped with text messages, texting-to-911 is becoming common place across PSAPs. Social media is also creeping its way into public safety with an increasing number of fusion centers and crime centers actively monitoring social media. As communication trends evolve, so too will our emergency communications capabilities.

 

CLOSING FROM FLETCH:

Thanks so much to the folks at RAVE. A very innovative company with an eye on the future providing support and fresh new ideas to PSAPs across the country as we all strive to push forward to the Next Generation of 9-1-1 services becomes a reality.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and is an active participant in EENA where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward best practices in both innovation and compliance.

Solution? Or Knee-Jerk Reaction?

Solution? Or Knee-Jerk Reaction?

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Emergency services in India have evolved over the years. But instead of consolidating access numbers, the decision was made to implement different numbers for everything. At the 9-1-1 Goes to Washington event in March of 2014, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai  referred to this problem during his address to the Public Safety community.

“We in the United States often take our 911 system for granted. But my recent trip to India reminded me how fortunate we are. In India, there isn’t a single number that people can call for help. There’s one number to reach the police, another for the fire department, and yet another if you need an ambulance. There are even different numbers for senior citizens, women, and children to use. I learned that many Indian households have a long list of numbers stuck on their walls and refrigerator doors to remind them which number to call for which emergency. All of this leads to needless confusion and delayed response times.”

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai

In an effort to solve this problem of confusion, a recent initiative has been initiated by India’s Women & Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi. After much discussion about how to solve the issues, the idea of ‘pressing and holding the 9 button’ on cell phones was given the go ahead in a recent meeting of representatives from the various service providers as well as mobile phone manufacturers. Apps were discussed, but dismissed, based on the same reasons they have not been effective elsewhere in the world.

[I]t does raise a few concerns . . .

For an App to be useful, it has to be used, the device must have it installed, and it has to be current and active. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of  this level of planning, before we have an emergency. Additionally, pressing ‘9’ on an older analog cellular phone could effectively be implemented at the carrier level, and not exclude these devices, which are prominent in many parts of the India suburban areas.

While I have to commend the essential simplicity of this action, it does raise a few concerns that may not have been completely vetted, and may actually have some unintended negative impact. Unfortunately, the source article did not contain enough information detailing how long the ‘long press’ needed to be to activate the function.  This leads to several questions, including:

  • How exactly long is a long press?
  • Can it be canceled?
  • What will multiple rapid presses do?
  • Pocket Dialing is a huge problem. How many misdial events will this potentially generate having a negative impact on public safety resources that are already running paper thin on staff and budget?

Without a study being done on the misdial call load on PSAPs alone (something that can be tracked measured) it appears this solution may be a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to a problem, and has the possibility of making the situation worse by impacting public safety.

“Any Device, Any Time, Any Where . . .

Another point to consider is the potential confusion that this may cause to citizens. Clearly, 911, 112, and 999 are well-known emergency access numbers globally. They all have been promoting the concept of  “Anywhere, Anytime, and on Any device” for more than a decade.

While this addresses mobile phones, it is likely the ‘long press’ of 9 on telephone devices that are NOT cell phones could be difficult, if not impossible to reproduce or replicate. This would then eliminate the universality of access to emergency services we currently enjoy today.

The IETF states that the numbers for emergency services globally should be 911, and 112.

After 2 years of fighting the policy battle in the US, we are just beginning to win the “No 9 Needed” battle with MLTS PBX systems. This initiative, know best under the name ‘Kari’s Law’,  requires MLTS Systems to recognize just the digits 911, 112 and 999 as emergency numbers; effectively eliminating the “9” normally needed to get an outside line. The popular tagline for Kari’s law is “No 9 Needed”, but now we need to modify this message to be “Except in India where you just press 9”? Hank Hunt may have a comment or 2 on that.

The IETF states that the numbers for emergency services globally should be 911, and 112. In the UK, 999 has been locally engrained, and although attempts and suggestions have been made over the years to change it, history will live on, and the best that we will see is support for 911 and 112 in the local PSTN, and 999 will continue to live on in perpetuity.

Clearly the problem will continue, but it is good that people are looking to solve the issues. I would highly recommend to the Ministers of India take into consideration the expertise contained in organizations like NENA, EENA, and APCO International are consulted before potentially life-changing decisions like this are made under a great emotional influence, and without completely vetting the technical and social impact of the decision.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Read my other AVAYA CONNECTED Blogs

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. As a seasoned professional with nearly 30 years of service, he provides the strategic roadmap and direction of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the Enterprise and Government portfolios at Avaya. In 2014, Fletcher was made a member of the NENA Institute Board in the US, and is an active participant in EENA where he provides insight to State and Federal legislators globally driving forward best practices in both innovation and compliance.

Social Media Managment for Government and Public Safety

Group Of Business People Working And Global Networking Themed Im

How do you know which social media conversations are most relevant? And how can you turn them into a positive citizen experience creating new outreach opportunities?

The entire World is now Online

Many tools are available for monitoring social media conversations. However, you still need to sift through the thousands of posts provided by these listening engines to discern the really important conversations — ones that are actionable in a measurable way. Without such a capability today, you have a significant blind spot in your social media intelligence. Or, if you’re having your department manually review thousands of posts, you’re wasting valuable resources time. Avaya Social Media Manager addresses this challenge head-on. With it, you can connect seamlessly to social media channels detecting those social media conversations that directly relate to your agency, municipality, citizens and even local events.

You can filter, distill and analyze social media posts, identifying those that are most important to your agency, and most importantly, actionable.

  • These messages are automatically distributed to the appropriate personnel or Public Information Officer (PIO) specialists located anywhere in your agency who are best qualified to respond.
  • And, best of all, those mentions and responses can easily be tracked and reported on through your Avaya Contact Center reporting tools.

With these capabilities, you reduce the risk of missing vital public posts and tweets. You maintain a more consistent omni-channel citizen experience through all public touch points — voice, e-mail, Web or video chat, and social media channels. You can identify new community relationship opportunities while measuring the impact of social media on your agency. Social Media Manager effectively becomes a focal point for all your social citizen interactions, helping you elevate the constituent experience, while automating the immediate identification of public relations opportunities.

Intelligent filtering and classifying

Social Media Manager applies customizable filters to social media mentions to eliminate spam, analyze mention relevancy and classify by language and other attributes such as sentiment. It also classifies social media mentions using social (external) or internal context, thereby providing a more complete picture of the public and a clearer understanding of how the social media contact is taking place:

  • Social context might include a constituent’s activity level on Facebook or Twitter, influence or social following or even post history or location.
  • Internal context could involve accessing your agency’s Records Management Systems (RMS) or databases for things such as previous incident history or a local citizen profile.

In these ways, social media mentions are correlated with other information to give you a broader snapshot of the public user and a clearer understanding of context at the exact time you interact with them, enabling you to provide improved levels of service. Social Media Manager also allows you to link to other municipal applications to identify potential opportunities of interaction with each constituent. Based on this analysis and categorization, Social Media Manager routes the mention to the function within your agency or municipal government that is best equipped to respond, such as Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation or Public Safety. With Social Media Manager, all these variables are handled automatically so that governments can respond quickly and with the appropriate specialist skill level and the right message.

Self Dispatch – A Major NO NO!

Guest Blog By: Greg Bogosian
Certified Reserve Police Officer
Commonwealth of Massachusetts

It’s a slow night in town.  Everyone is making their own work in the absence of calls, running LIDAR or catching up on paperwork, or maybe doing some community policing.  Perhaps you’re driving around on patrol, eyes and ears open for what might otherwise be unseen, or maybe you’re just trying to stave off boredom at the hands of the “Q” word (whose name shall never be spoken in this blog.)

Suddenly, a hot or interesting call comes in.  Doesn’t matter what it is – shooting, robbery in progress, vehicle pursuit, squirrels breaking into the local bank – it’s something, and it beats doing “nothing,” so you and everyone else on the shift within a reasonable distance of the call decide to head over to check it out and help.  Maybe you tell your dispatcher that you’re going, maybe you don’t (hint: if your dispatcher doesn’t know where you are, neither does the ambulance.)

Suddenly, there are enough cruisers on scene to arrest the same individual multiple times over (take turns?) and therein lies a gigantic danger-factor increase that we must take a serious look at.  So let’s talk about what happens as a result.

When More Isn’t Better
We all know from the Academy about the concept of contact-and-cover during a felony stop.  One officer makes contact while the other provides cover in case things go sideways – a clear delineation of roles that allows us to each perform a specific set of tasks, because we each understand what we are supposed to do.

But what happens if you suddenly have 10 guys on scene?  Are they all going to approach from a safe angle, or are you going to find that since they came from multiple places, some of them are converging from the other side, putting themselves in a crossfire pattern?  What about the question of who does what – do you think that the contact-and-cover roles are still going to remain as clear when suddenly you have 8 more guys on scene who want to act because that’s what they’ve been trained to do?

The latter might work okay if you have a controlled scene, but if the brown stuff truly hits the fan, all that is going out the window.  It’s nobody’s fault – the simple truth is that if that happens, you’re not going to be able to adequately communicate to each other because you will be too busy reacting.  Unlike a public order platoon or other “planned mass response,” these unplanned multiple-officer responses often don’t have clear rules of engagement, either, because the threat is unknown and oftentimes not observable until the last second.

As we’ve seen in many unfortunate examples, the result of the decentralization of a response, and the attendant confusion, is that people may be shot who were not the intended targets, or other adverse consequences may arise out of the incident, because the crowd mentality reduces awareness of the actual level of action needed… in part, because we tend to go with what the guy next to us is doing.

The other side to this argument is, of course, that nobody “really” knows how many officers will be required to respond to a particular call – but that’s the reason why dispatchers exist and why they are so highly trained.  There will be the 1% of calls that truly go sideways and need all hands on deck, but for the most part, dispatch will be able to get a sense of what’s going on and send out the appropriate number of officers to handle what is anticipated to be the situation.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, too: going because we have nothing else to do does happen with some frequency in many areas, and isn’t always because we “don’t know if something is going to go wrong”.   We got into this job because we wanted to make a difference, for the most part, and sometimes just driving around, or doing paperwork, doesn’t really feel like it fits the bill, even though it does.  (As the saying goes, you never know what you prevented just by being visible.)

Nothing Else Waits
To flip around the argument that “you never know what will happen” justifies every patrol vehicle within a 25-mile radius going to a call that sounds busy or hot, consider that a call where large numbers of time-critical resources are actually needed could just as easily happen while you’re part of a 15-cruiser pileup on a residential street as a result.

What if your “hot” call is actually hot but part of it is mobile (e.g. fleeing felon, simultaneous related crime scenes, or – heaven forbid – an actual coordinated, multi-site terrorist attack), requiring resources in multiple locations all at once?  All of the sudden, your self-dispatch has resulted in a scenario where your agency’s ability to adequately respond is negatively impacted, potentially resulting in death or bodily harm not only to civilians, but to other officers who may now be engaging a threat requiring more personnel.

It’s never as simple as “oh, I can get out if I need to,” by the way.  Once you’re on a scene, either by dint of your cruiser not having jump jets to hop over the other 10 cars between you and the egress point, or because you’re now involved in the scene otherwise, it is very difficult to actually respond as rapidly as you could if you were not otherwise encumbered.  Geographically, as well, you’re probably out of your normal sector and facing an increased response time even if you are the last car who pulled in and can get out.

The upshot of all of this is this: self-dispatching may seem like a good idea at the time, but in reality it actually hampers our ability to respond clearly and precisely to the reality of the call that we are faced with.  There may be a few times where it actually helps, but for the most part it results in there being too many cooks in a kitchen where the wrong number of people can result in something far worse than being burned by mishandling a pot on the stove.  If you can, remember that your own truly hot call may be just around the corner at any time, and that those who actually need you to prevent them from being consumed by an inferno are counting on your being there to extinguish the flames.  That, in the end, is the true reason that we’re out here, and the greatest difference that we could ever make.

 

Greg Bogosian is certified as a Reserve/Intermittent Police Officer by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and spent twelve years working as an EMT-Basic, including four years as a field EMT and dispatcher for the City of Boston EMS.  He was additionally a member of a Federal medical disaster relief team for ten years, with experience responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the pre-deployment of resources for Hurricane Ike.  Greg currently has a passion for educating public safety professionals about matters which impact their lives every day, and welcomes feedback and suggestions in the spirit of ensuring that best practices make it out there for all to benefit from.