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Compliance with Virginia's E911 Law Detailed in Webinar Featuring One of Its Architects


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September 18, 2009

Compliance with Virginia's E911 Law Detailed in Webinar Featuring One of Its Architects

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

Virginia’s new enhanced 911 law is a comprehensive, sweeping measure that affects all multi-line telephony systems providers and includes no grandfather clause, an expert and public official who help craft the legislation said this week.

“(Automatic location information) is required from every station, meaning that if you have a telephony instrument that goes through a PBX (News - Alert), it needs to have location information, and that’s a physical address, in some cases a street address with a specific suite,” according to Samuel Keys, Jr., public safety communications regional coordinator for the Virginia IT Agency’s public safety division.
He spoke this week during a Webinar sponsored by RedSky Technologies Inc., a Chicago-based provider of enhanced 911 solutions.
The free, hour-long talk – which included a question-and-answer session and a look at available E911 solutions from John Mitchell, RedSky’s (News - Alert) regional director of sales – covered the Virginia law in detail but also should appeal to companies looking into secure enhanced 911 solutions, as it covered the ABCs of the location-based technology and its advantages over traditional emergency response systems.
An archived recording of the Webinar is available for download here. 
Generally speaking, E911 delivers a distressed caller’s location to a 911 center or public safety answering point, or “PSAP.” With E911, a caller’s location is identified immediately by the dispatching operator, saving critical minutes and even lives.
“For those of us that dial (9-1-1) from home, that information already is delivered,” Keys said during the Webinar. “But today, as technology changes with wireless phones, that information is not delivered. And with the MLTS, the (location) information that typically has been delivered usually is the billing address of the business that owns and operates the PBX. The legislation’s idea is that the enhanced 911, just like the information that’s delivered from home to a PSAP, also gets that information from your office or another location, like an assisted-living facility, a hotel or resort area, so that people know where you are without having to ask you.”
It’s a critical piece of information for emergency responders: Consider a situation where a 9-1-1 caller’s voice is drowned out by noise or his or her ability to speak is impaired by smoke inhalation or something else.
Keys began working on the legislation five years ago. It was passed by Virginia’s state legislature in 2007 and took effect July 1. In his professional role, Keys provides leadership assistance and direction in support of the Commonwealth’s PSAP and 9-1-1 operations. He has extensive experience with the issues surrounding E911 location information management through his 20 years’ experience with the Fairfax County Police, the FCC (News - Alert), the Washington Metropolitan Area Council of Governments and the Association of Public Communications Officers.
Specifically, Virginia’s law calls for all PBXs or multi-line telephone systems installed after July 1 to provide automatic number and location information – known in the industry as “ANI” and “ALI” – to a local public safety answering point for all 911 calls, unless alternate methods have been approved.
With Massachusetts, whose new E911 legislation also took effect July 1 (see RedSky’s Webinar on that change here), Virginia becomes the 16th U.S. state to adopt sweeping new laws that target the technology, which uses location-based services to pinpoint the whereabouts of distressed 911 callers.
The Old Dominion State’s E911 law ranks among the more comprehensive measures yet passed, as it targets both residential and business MLTS.
Keys highlighted several features of the state law, including the fact that it prevents charging customers for 911 calls.
“We all know that there’s a service fee for wireless, and some localities have a 911 fee that they can pass on to the customer, but this legislation in Virginia prevents them from charging the customer for that 911,” Keys said. “And that protects the end-user. Not everyone will use 911, but when they do need it, not everyone will pay for it and that’s what this bill seeks to ensure.”
The law also protects against liability, except where gross negligence is involved, protects against the release of private information, such as private phone numbers, and exempts those localities that do not offer E911.
During his talk, Keys cited a couple of situations where failure to have a proper 911 emergency response system in place actually lead to death.
Ultimately, Keys said the threat of that kind of tragedy is why it’s important to turn to a trusted source for E911 solutions, and RedSky – a company with more than 260 enterprise customers – fits that description.
In his portion of the Webinar, Mitchell went into detail about various solutions offered by RedSky, including location PS-ALI, E911 as a hosted service, on-premise software solutions, solutions for distributed enterprises and solutions that can address the challenge of protecting mobile and remote workers.

Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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