The widespread adoption of IP-based phone systems has been a blessing for enterprises. These technologies provide next-generation communication capabilities in a cost-effective, flexible and highly scalable manner. However, they are also associated with one major complication: 911 calling.
With multi-line VoIP systems, there is no straightforward way to identify the physical location of a caller. Quite obviously, this presents a serious challenge for emergency services personnel and is a major area of concern for enterprises. In many situations, police, fire and paramedics are sent to the location of the PBX (News - Alert) system, which can be miles away from the extension where the call was actually placed. Organizations with multiple floors and buildings are most at risk of suffering from this problem.
States across the nation have responded to this dilemma by enacting legislation that require enterprises, schools and other organizations to implement next-generation E911 solutions, which ensure that emergency personnel can identify the location of individuals after they dial 911 from PBX phones. Nearly two dozen states have already passed strict regulations that mandate that certain organizations deploy these systems or risk facing substantial fines and other penalties.
California is on course to become the next state to join this group. Earlier this year, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in the State of California held a public meeting to discuss the situation and the responsibilities of PBX owners, service providers and government agencies. The meeting was attended by Verizon, AT&T (News - Alert), Time Warner and leaders in E911 solutions space, including RedSky.
Following lengthy deliberation, the commission and those in attendance crafted a brochure that details the risks associated with PBX systems and the steps that organizations can take to ensure the safety of their employees.
The document encourages schools, enterprises and other organizations to invest in a plan that provides E911 dispatchers with specific location information. These options include purchasing PBX upgrades, subscribing to services like PS/ALI (Private Switch Automatic Location Identification) and collaborating with third-party E911 solutions provider on a customized solution.
"Failure to provide station location on 911 calls from your PBX phone system poses a major risk to your employees, customers and/or students," reads the document. "Work with your equipment vendor and local telephone service provider, and educate your staff and students about your phone system’s capabilities. In an emergency, seconds count!"
The Public Utilities Commission has encouraged service providers to post the brochure on their website and make it available to all PBX owners in the state.
California is not stopping there though. The commission is pushing for legislation to be enacted that would require PBX owners and lessees to take the steps necessary to provide location information from all extensions. The staff of the communications division of the PUC has requested that the state adopt NENA's (National Emergency Number Association) Model Legislation for E911 for Multi-line Telephone Systems. Many states currently use this widely accepted guideline for their own legislation.
Comments on the proposal to enact NENA Model Legislation are due on or before June 1, 2011, meaning California is not far away from enacting E911 mandates.
The commission has also noted that it is planning on adding information regarding E911 to its website. Furthermore, it has encouraged providers to include the logo (pictured below) to promote the need for E911 edification.
Click here for more information on how E911 solutions can help eliminate the dilemma facing PBX owners.
Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard