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Will E911 Always Be around in the Hour of Need?


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June 18, 2012

Will E911 Always Be around in the Hour of Need?

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

While the E911 system isn't anything new, it's facing some very real challenges from technology much newer than it is. The growing use of mobile devices is making things very difficult for E911, but it's not going down without a fight from companies like Avaya (News - Alert), who are putting plenty of research and development into ensuring that, when-- or where -- its users need it most, it will still be on hand.

Avaya's research into the matter shows the need for E911 very clearly. Businesses account for 10 to 12 percent of all 911 calls. Despite this startling statistic, further cause for alarm is shown in that at least 80 percent of all businesses, schools, and even government facilities need to take some kind of steps to ensure their E911 readiness. Thus, while businesses account for a large portion of 911 calling, they're also the least likely to be ready to use E911.

The biggest problem, as it turns out, in getting businesses up to speed with E911 is the rapid adoption of mobile devices and VoIP systems. Since mobile calling is, by definition, mobile, pinning down the location of a mobile device for use in E911 calling is a tall order. Further, since VoIP systems don't depend on a landline phone at all, the standard means of establishing an E911 location on a VoIP call are far, far more difficult than originally projected. Considering the number of states that either have 911 laws in place that require accessibility to E911, or are working on passing legislation that requires same, the stakes are high for a variety of reasons.

911 works by dialing the number, which is recognized by the Local Exchange Carrier as an emergency number. The number is then routed to what's called a designated E911 Tandem, a specific router geared only for 911 calls. But in order for all the standard functions of an E911 call to take place, the call both needs to be routed correctly, and the call's location needs to be easily ascertained. In the case of businesses, this may be even worse, as E911 calls may get locations involving cubicles back, and that has the potential to make things worse, or certainly more confusing.

While some companies have attempted to fix the problem themselves by requiring employees dial an in-house number for emergencies, use different dialing codes to get out, or add extra digits, these practices aren't considered the most useful for the situation. In fact, under some legislation, they're outright illegal. Several Avaya tools, like the Avaya Aura and the Avaya Communication Server 1000, offer compliance outright with E911 by way of hardwired phone locations systems, location-based routing capabilities, and support for a variety of endpoints, ensuring that the E911 system can work to its fullest in the event of an emergency.

Between the legal ramifications, potential PR issues, and the desire to keep employees safe and productive during an emergency, it's clear that businesses need to step up their E911 readiness. Avaya's looking to make that process much simpler, and thus makes their product line well worth looking into, especially for those businesses looking to save money and add features by way of VoIP calling.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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