Why cellular 911 has location problems

Why cellular 911 has location problems

For those of you who read my regular Blog here, I am happy (and proud) to announce that Network World has graciously given me a regular Blog on the Network World site.

I will not be duplicating content from this blog. The Network World content will be all original. Also I will not be posting the NWW content here, but will provide a brief synopsis of the NWW content a day or so after it is published, this week I bring you:

Why cellular 911 has location problems

Most calls to emergency 911 come from wireless callers, yet the system for locating those callers can’t handle them.


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.


America’s 9-1-1 System: John Oliver Got It Right (Mostly)

America’s 9-1-1 System: John Oliver Got It Right (Mostly)
Note: TV Image courtesy HBO’s “Last week Tonight with John Oliver”

An AUDIO VERSION of this podcast is available on SoundCloud

9-1-1 Access still remains the most crucial step to emergency response

For those who may have missed HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on this past Sunday night, there was a humorous but important segment featuring America’s 9-1-1 system. I had gotten a heads up on this earlier in the week, and was anxious, albeit fully expecting this to be the average story, poorly researched and full of inaccurate assumptions around 911.

Fortunately, I could not have been more wrong. I sat back, watching the segment go on for nearly 15 minutes – each second being more amazing than the last – sprinkled with just the right amount of humor to make the important points stand out. I have to commend Mr. Oliver, and his staff, who had obviously did a great deal of homework on the topic. The level of detail, as well as the subtle references, proved that quite a bit of preparation went into this piece, and they had talked to the right people in the industry. While John formulated a ton of pertinent points, accurately describing the sad state of America’s overall 9-1-1 infrastructure, he focused on cellular location accuracy and challenges leading to how we got there. But in addition to this problem, a few other critical points were missed – starting with ‘access.’

For any current 911, or Next Generation 911 system, to function properly – access into the system is first required. Only then can any end-to-end functionality and benefit for citizens be expected.

Universal access to 911 means being able to reach emergency services from any device, at anytime and from anywhere. It means that 911 works both with and without an access code in Multi-Line Telephone Systems (MLTS), as I have covered in Kari’s Law many times. Currently there are House and Senate Bills working their way through the legislative process, and in these, we make the point that about access to 911, followed immediately by on-site notification that establishes situational awareness – bringing the building aware of the fact that a particular station dialed 911, and most importantly, the location of where that particular device is in the building.

We are not asking for internal folks to answer those calls – they are likely not trained to do so – we want them to be aware they happened. Doors may need to be unlocked, elevators may need to be held, and life-saving assistance might be rendered while waiting for public safety to arrive. When they do, that pre-arrival coordination can speed response considerably. Despite the fact that many building operators feel that answering their own 911 calls, is the right thing to do, this is generally not a good practice to follow. When you dial 911 or you dial another established emergency code in the building, the call needs to reach the proper public safety answer point (PSAP) and not intercepted by someone who is not trained to respond properly.

Less than half of the States have current legislation covering this, and only a small few have any penalty for non-compliance. This may radically change if the House of Representatives takes an important next step in ensuring access that will lead to increased public safety by voting on H.R. 4167, also known as “The Kari’s Law Act of 2015.” This Bill sat in committee for only a day before a unanimous vote and 24 Republican and Democratic sponsors brought this to the House floor for a full vote. As most of my readers already know, Kari’s Law was named for “Kari Hunt who was murdered in 2013 by her estranged husband in a Marshall motel room while her 9-year-old daughter tried unsuccessfully to dial 911…because the girl did not know that the motel phone system required dialing an extra 9 to reach an outside line.” After much work in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott enacted Kari’s Law as the first Bill he signed. A similar bill is expected to be signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam sometime in the next month.

Federally, Kari’s Law in the bi-partisan H.R. 4167 Bill, with a companion S.2553 in the U.S. Senate, will accomplish the following:

  • Amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require phone vendors and individual buildings to ensure people could connect directly with emergency services without having to press ‘1’ or ‘9’ first.
  • Require outgoing ‘911’ calls connect directly to emergency services without local interference.
  • Ensure that on-site personnel are notified that a ‘911’ call was made.

Why does this matter? It matters because countless Americans will finally have protection, confidence and necessary peace of mind that when a 9-1-1 call is made in times when it is needed most, there will be a first responder who will have the necessary information to reach the victim without the many issues raised by you, Mr. Oliver. It will mean that America’s network of phones, an invention created by Alexander Graham Bell in March 1876, who’s first call was actually an emergency call, when he called out to Watson after spilling acid on himself, will finally serve the interests of all Americans nationwide.

So what can Americans do? Call your Congressman NOW at (202) 225-3121 to express your support for H.R. 4167. Support for this initiative has never been so important.

In closing, here’s my personal challenge to you, Mr. Oliver:

Ask your IT telecom folks at HBO if 911 can be dialed from the phone on YOUR desk. If it can’t, I’ll stop by and show you how to fix that for free. Why? Because you made me laugh (not an easy thing to do), and to prove that it’s simple and just the right thing to do.

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.

REALLY? Don’t call 911??

REALLY?    Don’t call 911??

At the earliest age, we are taught three life-saving digits. 9-1-1.

We are taught this is the emergency number by our teachers, our parents, and our grandparents. 9-1-1 is plastered on the side of every police car, fire truck, an ambulance that we see. We are taught that 9-1-1 will bring help no matter where we are, or what we need. But recently, a disturbing trend has been emerging that changes the core message of 9-1-1 from “Anytime, Anyplace, and Any device”, to one that states “UNLESS . . . a particular situation exists, then dial some other number.”

We expect large companies with large facilities to have internal security departments. Some may even have a company nurse or medical facility. And yet others, due to the nature of their business, may even have a firefighting team on hand that can instantly respond to an urgent event. While we expect these companies to have some mechanism in place to summon the services, we still expect that 9-1-1 still works as advertised and is not intercepted. Unfortunately, that is not always true.

In November 2015, Business Insider published an article in their tech section claiming that they had come in the possession of an internal Amazon document that tells workers “Do Not Call 9-1-1 !” in the event of a medical emergency, according to a company policy document obtained by the Huffington Post.

Last year, the United States Postal Service changed its no 9-1-1 policy after being criticized after the death of Samuel Macasieb, who was found unconscious inside of a facility in Oakland California. USPS policy stated that employees needed to contact the United States postal police for emergencies, who would then assess the situation and contact emergency services if required. But in this case, an ambulance took 53 minutes to arrive, and Mr. Macasieb never regained consciousness.

While it’s easy to blame companies for improper emergency services policies, we expect our public safety agencies to know better than to circumvent the 9-1-1 networks. Although it is not steeped in current technology, and capable of multimedia communications commonly used by devices today, the network does provide resiliency, redundancy, and a known level of reliability designed to ensure that calls are delivered. The network provides for PSAP inter-flow functionality, PSAP overflow functionality, and PSAP rerouting functionality during peak periods and congestion. These are all attributes that are not normally available on telephone lines offered through the public switched telephone network.

Why then, would a 9-1-1 PSAP advise the public NOT TO CALL 9-1-1 from their cellular telephones?

While it might seem difficult to believe, that is exactly what citizens in El Dorado County and Oakland California have been instructed to do. In both areas, a local 10-digit number is published for citizens to call to reach public safety officials directly. Why? For whatever reason, the Wireless network is purposely provisioned to send cellular calls from the cell sectors in these areas to the California Highway Patrol. There, the calls are triaged based on the location of the caller, and then transferred back to the appropriate agency for emergency dispatch; obviously adding response time to the call, and delaying first responders.

Why take the long way around the block for emergency calls? Several reasons likely contribute to the logic used here. They may be financial in nature as centers want to maintain their call volumes at levels that warrant the funding they receive; they may be geopolitical or based on data that was relevant at some point in time, but may have now changed. When cellular phones first became popular,  usage was primarily by citizens in vehicles, where routing to CHP likely made the most sense. Today, cellular penetration has exceeded 100% in the US, and many have ‘cut the cord’ in their homes, dropping wireline services altogether. With this phenomenon, new data needs to be collected and evaluated. For example, a 2007 report from CalOES, the Governor’s Office Of Emergency Services identified that 42.4% of the 11.6 million wireless 9-1-1 calls that occurred in California, failed to connect properly. It was these horrific statistics that kicked off the RED Project (Routing on Empirical Data), which consisted of several phases to remediate the issue across the state by readjusting the cellular sector routing. The RED project would utilize special satellite imagery that was coupled with the origination location of 9-1-1 wireless callers. Based on this data, the routing of each cellular tower sector was adjusted to route correctly to the local PSAP agency. After just six years, wireless 9-1-1 location accuracy was improved dramatically, wherein 2013 only 0.9% of cellular 9-1-1 calls needed to be rerouted, despite the volume of calls increasing to nearly 16.4 million a year.

Despite this improvement in location accuracy and routing, several communities still refused to take this additional call volume, even though wireline calls are decreasing in numbers. Some communities actually go out of their way to tell local citizens to reach them on local numbers on administrative phone lines. Unfortunately, these calls do not transit special Selective Routers in the carrier network, and therefore, the pANI record that provides the lookup key for the location information isn’t provided so that the caller can be located as they would if the call was delivered on a 9-1-1 trunk.DontCall911-Pic01

Residents are just blindly doing what they are told by authorities, and likely have no idea they have circumvented the entire 9-1-1 system that was designed to locate them and provide access to pubic safety. As an example, http://SafeOakland.com advises residents to program a 10-digit number into their cell phones to ensure emergency calls get to them.

This raises some burning questions:

  • Have Public Safety officials lost all trust in the 9-1-1 network?
  • Are they , refusing to implement technology that is openly available to them?
  • How can we possibly expect to set an example for citizens to follow suit in their local MLTS businesses?

Even more disturbing is the mass hysteria market that has been created where companies are targeting the fear in people by selling Apps that actually circumvent the 9-1-1 network and deliver the call to where THEY feel it should go, not where Public Safety has decided the call should go, be it right or wrong.

Should we expect the public to pay for Apps like this?

Personally, I take issue with a company trying to charge me $20 a year for an App to route my 9-1-1 calls when I am already paying a monthly 9-1-1 service fee for that same service, and a bit less I might add. Tech Insider reported that the Bluelight App wants to offer an annual plan for, “$20 a year, Oakland residents will be able to press a single button in an app that dials 9-1-1 and provides an Oakland dispatcher with their location all at once. It takes about 10 seconds (minus the time it takes to open the app).”

How does this App dial 911 differently than the user? How does the app get the data to the PSAP? These important piees are conveniently not mentioned in the article. And there lies the rub.

While the smart device has all of the information you could possibly want from GPS and WiFi BSSIDs and even carrier cellular towers it can see, there is no way to get that information to the PSAP. An intelligent connection capable of passing data simply doesn’t exist in that environment. Inevitably this makes the application a bit of a brick in my book. Of course, you could staff a call center, intercept the 9-1-1 call and then manually capture all of the data and verbally provide it to police, but then you are intercepting all 9-1-1 calls, taking responsibility for the proper call handling and procedures, plus adding time between the caller and they help they need.

I have been looking at NG9-1-1 ‘solutions’ for a decade. While great ideas have emerged, much work has been done, and NG9-1-1 networks have been stood up and tested, there has yet to be a full implementation of NG9-1-1 where the origination point generated a SIP-based emergency call, with PIDF-LO, routed intelligently through an IP network, and delivered to the PSAP on an IP infrastructure with additional data embedded in the INVITE message, or behind a URL enclosed in the header.

It comes as no great surprise that enterprise businesses make poor public safety-related decisions, like the United States Postal Service policy. At the end of the day, it may actually be administrators compensating for the lack of functionality in the local public safety networks that is being denied to them based on a fear and misunderstanding of current technology capabilities. While none of us likes to be overregulated, there comes a point where legislative guidelines are there to protect our well-being. The speed limit on my street is 25 mph. Not because there was a tragic death, not because there is any statistical history that dictates it. It is that way because children are playing in the area. While most people know, and respect that fact, the speed limit is there to promulgate it and create an enforcement mechanism should someone decide they know better. It all goes back to the old saying, “Laws exist for when ethics fail.”

Is it time we have some ‘laws’ that cover what NG9-1-1 actually is? And what it actually does? Without a consistent adhered to reference architecture, NG9-1-1 will remain just a fantasy of the future.

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.

Predictive Assistance via Caller Context

Predictive Assistance via Caller Context

A concern that can exist in nearly any city, county, state, or even country, is that once an easy to remember emergency number, such as 911 in the US, 112 across the European Union, and the 999 available in the UK, has been deployed, massive misuse of the system by non-emergency calls starts to put strain on the network; equipment and even staff must now cope with the increase of non-emergency citizen outreach beyond the purpose of the service. Because there isn’t a catchall category of call types, there often isn’t a single, all-encompassing solution to the problem. Technology can help and when properly deployed, is capable of providing support for dealing with many of the strains that are put on Emergency Networks and Systems.

The Architecture Problem:


Fig. 1 Silos of Call Types for Public Safety and Citizen Services


In the past, when we built and designed Public Safety networks, the solutions were siloed, purpose built creating disparate, disconnected islands of connectivity. An agency decided what their inbound traffic would be for that particular service, and then engineer the incoming trunks for a P.01 grade of service, meaning that 1 out of every 100 calls could be blocked during the busy hour. This is a standard level that is accepted by the Public Safety industry for Public Safety Answer Points.

But this creates a problem when a service (9-1-1 for example) receives more calls than expected. Typically, they would track analytics and call volume reports that displayed trend information. These reports guided them on the increase of the number of positions and trunks to handle the new projected call loads. You would think that expansion should not be a problem for agencies, as they are tasked with providing service to a geographic area, and when the population increases, call volumes increase and budgets should naturally increase.

Unfortunately, however, quite often population increases along with call volume, but agencies are always being asked (read demanded) to do more with less.

Fig. 2 Interagency trunking disrupts traffic engineering formulas

While other organizations may be able to aide with the call volume, the problem of citizens dialing 9-1-1 for everything and anything still exists. Because the network was built as independent islands of service, virtual inter-agency barriers naturally evolved. In specific cases, inter-departmental trunking can be created that allows adjacent agencies to transfer calls over those facilities directly. Now the caller is communicating with the right resource that can assist them, and we have freed up the original 9-1-1 resource to allow them to take another call, but we create another problem on the back end.


Fig. 3 – Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet)

Although the issue of routing is solved, the problem still exists where the limited trunking that connects the 9-1-1 center to the PSTN remains an issue and another blockage point. This blockage is easily corrected. By removing these trunks from the equation, and replacing or augmenting them with an IP pipe that is dynamically expanded and contracted as needed, based on the application of rules logic that takes into consideration the number of available 9-1-1 call takers that are currently available and ready to take calls.


While I realize that every Public Safety person who is reading this just got a chill up their spine, and muttered, “Your CRAZY Fletch”, this is what needs to happen to solve the problem, and is not new bleeding edge technology. in fact, local carriers have been offering SIP-based trunking to the commercial market for years. The technology has been refined and the largest contact centers in the world use this architecture to bring calls into their network, where they decide the best resource to apply to the inbound call.

BLOG-PO-Pic4With the right tools on the right network, solving these type of problems becomes simpler and a routine process in the contact center, and there is no reason why this technology and thought process cannot be applied to Public Safety Answer Points to assist in improving efficiency and reliability during large-scale national disasters. At the same time, this can also radically improve service to callers. For example, meet Ava. Ava requires 911 services on a regular basis. She is considered to be, what Public Safety has nicknamed, a ‘Frequent Flyer.’
This term is not meant to be derogatory, in fact, Ava has a medical condition that requires Emergency Transportation much more often that the average citizen, but her condition is not life-threatening.

When Ava calls 9-1-1 for medical transport, most of the time, resources are available and dispatched immediately. But on occasion, Ava’s request arrives in the middle of complete chaos. Because the 9-1-1 network is unable to differentiate Ava’s call from any other call being processed by the system, all calls are treated with the same priority level, despite the vast prior history and information that may be available. By collecting and examining this information in a context store, and associating it with a particular call event can dynamically apply specialized call handling. Simply by knowing that Ava is a frequent flyer caller, and her condition is not life-threatening, her call is answered by a Speech Recognition enabled IVR that collects the relevant information giving Ava the opportunity to escalate the call to a call taker.

N11 – More than just Emergencies

9-1-1 has been called the most widely recognized ‘brand element’ in the world. Nearly everyone is aware of the number, and despite the attempt to increase awareness of other avenues of access, 9-1-1 remains to be the winner. Unbeknownst to many in the US, several other N-1-1 services are available to citizens. In most of the cases, these are geographically routed the same way 9-1-1 emergency calls are routed to centers that are close to the caller. Following the N-1-1 format, these easy to remember numbers are as follows:

2-1-1  Reserved for the World Health Organization and Red Cross
3-1-1  Reserved for local government non-emergency services
4-1-1  Not officially reserved, but often used for local Telco information
5-1-1  Reserved for Highway and Traffic information systems
6-1-1  Not officially reserved, but often used for local Telco repair
7-1-1  TDD Relay services for Deaf, Hard of Hearing or Disability
8-1-1  Reserved for the Call before You Dig utility mark-out hotline

While these services can often provide valuable information to citizens, they are often under-publicized, and under-utilized. By consolidating connectivity in the cloud, we gain flexibility in dynamically adjusting the trunking required, and calls destined for other agency remediation. This can effectively eliminate the public education and awareness problem. While the dialed number can be an indicator of the nature of the request, calls can still be handled efficiently, and resources are no longer limited and blocked.

Proactive Citizen Outreach

When a known issue exists, reaching out to the public in an affected area can be an efficient and dynamic countermeasure that can significantly reduce the number of inquiries for more information while reassuring concerned citizens that an issue is being addressed. In addition to providing information, a query can be made to ensure no other problems exist. If the citizen does have an additional concern, the system is already ‘context aware’ of the identity of the citizen, and they can be queued up against the appropriate resource. Upon connection to the person or agency that can provide the additional information they need, information about the previous interaction can be displayed to the call taker, facilitating quicker response and better service levels.

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.

Mr. Hunt Goes To Washington

Mr. Hunt Goes To Washington

It was a comfortable Spring afternoon when Hank landed at the Reagan National Airport. He was not there to see the sights, or take one of the many tours of our national treasures. Hank was there for a much more important reason, to honor the legacy of his daughter, Kari Rene Hunt, and the meaning that her life has recently become. Just 865 days earlier, after the tragic murder of his daughter in a Texas hotel room where his granddaughter was unable to directly dial 911 because the MLTS phone system required a 9 before any outside call, Hank was getting ready to tell his story to the Congressional Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Just last year in December 2015, Hank’s Congressman, Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX-1) sponsored H.R.-4167 (Kari’s Law Act of 2015) in the House of Representatives, and it was referred to theSubcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Many that claim that emergency calling from an MLTS is not a huge problem. When Avaya first brought this issue to the FCC in an open letter to the FCC Chairman, the Honorable Tom Wheeler on December 27, 2013, with a cc: to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner Ajit Pai, and Commissioner Michael O’Reilly.

It was this letter, and the companion tweet on Social Media that caught the eye of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, resulting in an initial meeting with the Commissioner and his staff in January  2014. As most people are when they first hear the story, the Commissioner was astonished at the claim that many businesses, schools, and most hotels could not access 911 directly from the telephones deployed. To validate our claims, the Commissioner launched an inquiry to the top 10 hotel chains in the United States asking them these 5 specific questions about their emergency calling environment:

  • How many hotel and motel properties in the United States does your company own?
  • In how many of those properties would a guest dialing 911 from the phone in his or her room reach a Public Safety Answering Point or 911 Call Center? In such cases, does the phone system also alert a hotel employee that an emergency call has been placed?
  • It how many of those properties would the guest dialing 911 from the phone in his or her room reach a hotel employee? In those cases, have hotel employees answering such calls received appropriate training in how to respond to emergency calls?
  • In how many of those properties would a guest dialing 911 from the phone in his or her room not complete a call to anyone?
  • If your company has any properties where a guest dialing 911 from the phone in his or her room does not reach emergency personnel, what is your company’s plan for remedying the situation? If you do not have a plan, why not?

At the NENA 911 goes to Washington conference in Washington DC in March 2014, Commissioner Pai reported the results of those inquiries, which were as follows:

  • Consumers may be unable to dial 911 directly at tens of thousands of buildings across the United States.
  • American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) survey data indicates that guests reach emergency services if they dial 911 without an access code in ONLY:
    • 44.5% of franchised properties
    • 32% of independent hotels
  • The vast majority of the 53,000 lodging properties in the United States are managed by independent owners or franchisees

While much progress has been made, as the fix for this problem is inherent in most modern MLTS/PBX systems today, the problem is still widespread. In fact, at the Choice Hotels franchise Comfort Inn, in Alexandria, where Hank and I stayed in was not able to dial 911 directly from the rooms. Recognizing the manufacturer of the telephone console that the front desk, I knew that the system was capable of doing it, yet it was not programmed properly, a poignant reminder that, without legislation and an enforcement mechanism, voluntary compliance is likely not enough to provide a solution to the issue at hand.

Fire-Pull-Box-smallTo add insult to injury just outside of Hanks room a fire alarm station pull was mounted on the wall. The instructions advising, “IN CASE OF FIRE”, you should “Pull the fire alarm and Call Fire Department (DIALL 911)”, but I guess they forgot to add “just not from the telephone in your room”.

Editor’s Note:
By the way, up here in New Jersey, “Dial” is spelled with one “L” in it . . .  just sayin’

While the subcommittee had seven public safety-related bills on the agenda for the day, they led off the witness testimony session with testimony from Hank.


Speaking in front of a large group is always a challenge. When that group contains only one or two people that you even know, it becomes even more challenging. It gets even worse when television cameras are trained on you; photographers are snapping away pictures, and the entire room is hanging on every word that you say. Despite this, Hank did an excellent job telling his story and making his point why the three basic tenants of Kari’s Law make sense.

  • Direct access to 911 from any device with or without an access code
  • On-site notification that the event has occurred and from where
  • No local interception of the call, unless by trained individuals

These capabilities, coupled with the NENA model legislation that recommends reporting to the PSAP by building, floor and emergency response zone, a safe environment for any building can be established.

This model is functional, efficient, and most importantly, affordable. It does not require a unique telephone number on each telephone device with an Automatic Location Information database record associated along with it, incurring monthly costs. This solution provides public safety with the information needed; when they need it. For larger more complex enterprise deployments, these solutions are completely in line with the NENA i3 Next Generation 911 Framework. This framework allows networks to contribute real-time information such as floor plans, heat sensor information as well as information about the facility, such as the location of nearby fire equipment or AEDs.

Getting to the right facility is important, as noted in my recent blog discussing the role of ANI/ALI and additional data in Next Generation 911 network environments. But the additional data and situational awareness will provide detail to the incident that can save time and lives in faster and appropriate response.

In addition to the House bill introduced by Representative Gohmert, a companion bill S. 2553  was introduced in the Senate by US Senator Amy Klobuchar (D.-Minn), and US Senator Deb Fisher (R.-Neb.) along with Senators John Cornyn (R.-Texas), Ted Cruz (R.-Texas), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). Senator Klobuchar is no stranger to 911. A former prosecutor and the co-chair of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus. The NG911 Institute supports the Caucus, who last year awarded Hank with the “Carla Anderson – Heart of 9-1-1” Advocacy Award: Presented in memory of the Institute’s past Executive Director, Carla Anderson, who recently passed away. This award recognizes an individual or organization whose contribution to public safety mirrors the passion and commitment demonstrated by Carla for 9-1-1. Avaya graciously provided sponsorship for this award, and I had the extreme honor to present this to Hank at the 2015 Event in the Rayburn House Office Building.



Hank Hunt  Commissioner Ajit Pai, Fletch


FletchHank Hunt, Representative Louie Gohmert


FletchSenator Deb Fischer, Hank Hunt


FletchHank HuntSenator John Cornyn


 Fletch, Senator Amy KlobucharHank Hunt

In an effort to raise awareness about MLTS/PBX 911 programming and compliance, and to support initiatives behind Kari’s law, Hank Hunt has created a 501 (c)3 Non-profit organization: The No Nine Needed Foundation, http://NoNineNeeded.com where you can follow the progress on the initiatives and make a donation to help support the cause.


The Change.Org Petition remains active at http://Change.Org/KarisLaw should you wish to add your name to the list of 550,000 supporters from around the world.

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.

The future of ANI/ALI in NG911 Networks

The future of ANI/ALI in NG911 Networks

What is ANI?

ANI is Automatic Number Identification. The ANI is a 10-digit Telephone Number (TN)  associated with a device originating a 9-1-1 call. The ANI may be the actual number of a device, such as at your home; it may be a number that represents your Billing Telephone Number (BTN). This representation is often the case when calling from a business MLTS / PBX; it also may be called an Emergency Location Identification Number (ELIN), often used to indicate a more granular location within a business, especially in large campus or building environments.

What is ALI?

ALI is Automatic Location Identification. The ALI information is the ‘911 call location data’ that is displayed to the 9-1-1 call taker on their computer display when answering 9-1-1 calls. The company designated as the State E911 provider provides the maintenance of the ALI database. As telephone numbers are installed, decommissioned, and moved from address to address, the carriers generate Service Order Interface records, and these are used to update the ALI database.

ANI-ALI-AvayaThe format of the ALI records is defined by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and designates the size and order of the fields containing information such as Business Name, Apartment or Suite number, Street Address with Suffix and Prefix, City and State, as well as other fields of relevant information.

While several variants of the record format exist, all have a specific field used to populate the location information of a device. Depending on the ALI version in use in a particular area, these location fields only contain between 11 and 60 characters of information. For a telephone to have an ALI record associated with it, there must be a unique corresponding ANI or Telephone Number. It is this unique number requirement, and the monthly recurring charges from the LEC, that makes the use and management of this process for 9-1-1, both complex and costly. This leaves the level of detail as the remaining value of the information, also known as the “ALI Granularity” covered in detail below.

ALI Granularity

There continues to be considerable debate on ALI Granularity or the precision of the location information contained in the ALI record. For example, in our homes, and on our home telephone lines, the level of granularity is the address of your home. If you call from the bedroom, the living room, or the kitchen, the same address gets reported. The reason for this is because all of the telephone devices share a single phone line, and therefore a single telephone number with the 9-1-1 network. The telephone company uses your Caller ID as your ANI for billing purposes, and to decide what 9-1-1 center your call should be routed to. In the Emergency Network, this functionality is known as Selective Routing. When the call arrives at the PSAP, specialized equipment extracts the ANI and uses it to query a database housed by the Local Exchange Carrier for a matching ALI database record. This record contains the billing address, or ALI information, associated with that ANI. This is location information, commonly referred to as the Dispatchable Address, is used to dispatch particular units to the specific incident.

While most of us have homes that are single buildings at single address locations, the same is not always true for commercial MLTS PBX systems. For example, if you are in a corporate campus environment with multiple buildings, it is important to at least send a unique ANI telephone number for each building on the property. This allows the PSAP 9-1-1 call taker to best understand the address to give to 1st responders.

Get that Fire Truck out of my lobby!

There are constant and considerably important discussions taking place amongst industry professionals regarding the level of detail of an address that is considered to be suitable for the dispatch of emergency services.While industry experts regularly debate the pluses and minuses of the various methods, these discussions often spark deep debates. Fire-Truck-In-LobbyUnfortunately, very little thought is given to those who have to actually perform the task of responding, and therefore, most evidence that is offered appears to be anecdotal at best and by those that have no real-life experience.

At one extreme, “Public Safety 1st responders must have the greatest level of detail on the location of the person calling 9-1-1” is claimed. At the other end, “You can’t get the Police Car, Fire Truck, any closer than the door”, is the counterpart argument. While there may be no one single correct answer to ALI granularity, as every building and the level of on-site services is unique, IT administrators responsible for developing the 9-1-1 response plan must consider the choices.

ANI/ALI in Next Generation 9-1-1 Networks

As the country moves to NG9-1-1 architectures, the obvious question is, “What happens to ANI/ALI Data in NG9-1-1?” Quite simply, it ultimately goes away.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 9.05.51 PM

The NENA i3 Functional Framework for a Next Generation 9-1-1 network provides a mechanism for the origination device or network to supply location related information in the SIP Message SETUP Header. Any Functional Element that can use this information has access to it, and therefore the need for ANI/ALI is eliminated.

Educating Public Safety 1st Responders

Building a public safety plan for your enterprise should never be done in isolation. In addition to consulting with IT administrators, Human Resources, Facilities staff and Security personnel, local Public Safety is often forgotten in the process. The solution to this is knowing who to ask for, what to ask them, and educating them about your facility while they educate you about their job and their capabilities.

Situational Awareness

The new Gold Standard in Enterprise Emergency response Solutions is detailed Situational Awareness coupled with Emergency Response Locations (ERLs) as defined by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). Identifying the location of the emergency to a reasonably defined area on a specific floor in a specific address, and then correlating that with on-site additional information, the response granularity concerns are addressed that satisfy the emergency first responders and the number of database records required is minimized to a level that does not waste precious financial resources on excessively granular information that is not relevant to the very people who are responding.  While detailed location information such as Cube 2C-231 is very specific, the chances that an external first responder will have sufficient knowledge of the building and location of that designation are minimal. On the other hand, INTERNAL emergency response personnel need that level of detail in order to deliver prearrival care or assistance before public safety arrives on-scene, and are ready to lead the response team to the appropriate area.

9-1-1 in the Enterprise does not have to be complex, or expensive; if it is, you have likely have not addressed the problem, or invested in the wrong technology to solve the problem.

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.

Breaker 911: 50-Year Old Technology Saves Lives

Breaker 911:  50-Year Old Technology Saves Lives

You can never know where technology will rear its head. Most of the time it is based on the future, but many times it can be based on our past. This week, I proudly turn my blog over to Professor Ima Pharceur, PhD. Professor Pharceur is the noted Chief Research Scientist at the world-class Social Media Communications and Information Sharing Institute of Technology (SMCISIT for short) in Brussels, Belgium.


Next Generation Citizen Band Emergency Services

There is no doubt that Social Media is deeply embedded in our daily lives today, however, it’s roots can be traced back to a Social Media craze that was popular 4 decades ago in the mid-70’s. Millions of people all over the country, and the world installed small, low powered two-way radio transmitters in their cars to talk to each other, converse with over the road truckers, and report emergencies to teams of dedicated people and police agencies monitoring CB Channel ‘9’, the official Emergency Hailing Frequency for the Citizen Band Radio Communications and Information Radio Relay System, or CBRCIRRS for short.

The Federal Communications Commission established Citizen Band Radios as a core system of low powered short-distance radio communications between endpoints on the same channel within the possible 40 channels that all exist in the 27 MHz (11 m) band.

This frequency range is distinct and separate from the existing Family Radio System (FRS), General Mobile Radio System (GMRS), Multi Use Radio System (MURS), and Amateur Radio Service commonly known as “ham” radio systems.

Unlike it’s more powerful cousins the Ham Radio, operation often does not require a license, and it may be used for both business or personal communications, and refrigeration is not required as with most Ham products. Since the frequencies, better known as channels, are open in nature, any user can share the channel in a simplex type of operation. This means that while one station transmits; other stations listen and wait for the channel to be available.

Initially, 23 channels were assigned by the FCC, however due to popularity in the late 70’s and 80’s, a massive increase in use was seen, and the FCC allocated and additional 17 frequencies, bringing the total to 40. To remain backward compatible with radios already in place, Channel ‘9’ remained as the designated emergency channel.

Today, with Next Generation Emergency Services on the cusp of deployment across the US, and with 3.5 Million professional truckers on the road in the US, that is potentially 14 Million individual eyes or ears that are keeping watch over every quarter square mile if distributed evenly.

CB-911-CircuitWith most radios in use today being digital in nature, the addition of a new additional channel, specifically designed for NG911 usage is a simple low-cost addition to nearly any radio transmitter. In an effort not to ‘step on’ existing communities and their usage of the existing public airways, this new technology, patented by the SMC Institute, uses a new Bi-Polar Wave Guide Induction Ionosphere Relay Circuit or B-PWIIRC for short, to create a new dynamic frequency waveguide that is capable of transmitting information at speeds equaling 100 Gbs, which is perfect for voice, video, text, email, IM, Internet Relay Chat, TTY-TDD, and Morse Code, making it 100% backwards compatible with technology.

200px-CrazyeddieThis very well may be the thing that brings corporations like RadioShack and Syosset, NY-based Lafayette Electronics back into business, and there are rumors that the estate of ‘Crazy’ Eddie Antar is interested in setting up mobile sales venues in Truck Stops and Shopping Malls across the northeast.

Next Generation Emergency Services expert Mark J. Fletcher, ENP from Avaya was quoted as saying, “I’ve run the numbers myself, and what they are claiming seems to work out, mathematically speaking. Obviously, rigorous interoperability testing will be required.” Fletcher added that he see’s several uses for the product, like summoning local drones and passing truckers to emergent events, because they “usually carry band-aids, and many times are armed.”

The system is only compatible with 911 solutions today, but being digitally based, there are already models on the drawing board for 112 and 999 solutions in the UK and Europe. With the 3D printing capabilities that exist now, anything that is on the drawing board is a real possibility.


Thanks to Doctor Pharceur for his tireless work on this topic, and I hope that he keeps the hammer down, and things are clean and green as he brings this technology to fruition. Happy April 1st everyone!

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.