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911 ETC: National E911 Standard a Necessity

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July 15, 2009

911 ETC: National E911 Standard a Necessity

By Amy Tierney, TMCnet Web Editor


 
As a growing number of states implement enhanced 911 – also known as “E 911,” laws dictating caller location details to emergency personnel – providers of the service continue to support the movement toward a national standard.

 
So far, more than a dozen states, including Florida, Texas and Illinois, have E911 laws. The technology leverages location-based services to pinpoint the whereabouts of distressed 911 callers. Massachusetts recently implemented a similar law on July 1. And California, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are among other states that are weighing legislation regarding E911.
 
But there are few similarities among the state laws. Some laws are relatively lax, including one in Colorado, which instructs businesses that are unable to send location information to have users tell 911 operators their telephone numbers and exact location. And other laws, like that in Louisiana, are stricter. That one mandates that every PBX (News - Alert) installed must transmit location information to the station level.
 
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts law requires that all new or substantially renovated multi-line telephone systems must provide end-users or subscribers with the same level of E911 service that’s given to other end-users in the state. The service is better known as automatic location identification, or “ALI.”
 
The National Emergency Number Association drafted a model of E911 legislation. The latest version, released in February, reflects changes in IP Technology. Its intent is to give states assistance in drafting laws, with a goal of supporting the development of a national standard, TMCnet reported. NEMA has a recommendation regarding standardizing national E911 requirements pending before the Federal Communications Commission.
 
But until a formal standard is put into place, states must operate under their own individual laws. While that’s not necessarily a problem, officials from an E911 hosted solutions provider Everett, Wash.-based said a national law would create harmony.
 
Tina Baxter, project manager for that company, 911 ETC, told TMCnet in an interview that she would support a national standard because it would ensure a higher level of safety for people residing or working in a building with a multi-line telephone system.
 
“I would expect that a national standard would have to be somewhat general – such as owners of MLTS should be held accountable for informing their customers of the hidden risks of operating the system without E911 in place,” Baxter said. “It seems that in at least some cases, the responsible parties are not aware of the risks, and presentation of worst-case scenarios could be enough to push them into action. It would be difficult to enforce more granular laws on a national level, but 911 is certainly an important enough issue to warrant it.”
 
According to Karina Yandell, manager of corporate development, an E911 national standard makes sense. Without it, or individual state laws, multi-line telephone system operators who don’t understand the complexities involved in ensuring their system complies with E911 safety standards can unknowingly delay help to someone in distress, she said.
 
“A national standard regarding E911 for the enterprise space is absolutely necessary,” Yandell said. “When safety is involved it makes good sense for an expected standard to be put into place and enforced, which is why it is also important for the FCC (News - Alert) to be involved. A national E911 standard for businesses employing a multi-line telephone system is an important step toward ensuring safety.”
 
911 ETC, a member of NENA’s MLTS Policy Work Group, helped update NENA’s MLTS E911 model legislation. Yandell said the NENA’s current E911 model legislation “spells out very well what 911 ETC would expect to see in regards to a national standard.” If such a standard is somehow implemented, little would change for 911 ETC’s operations as the company’s mission to provide businesses with the tools to employ E911 would remain the same, Yandell said.
 

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