The Origins of E911
According to the Federal Communications Commission, the emergency 911 phone number we know today launched in 1999 with The Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act or 911 Act. The service’s objective is “to improve public safety by encouraging and facilitating the prompt deployment of a nationwide, seamless communications infrastructure for emergency services.”
Since then, the FCC has led the transition from any other emergency numbers in all telephone services to 911. The Commission also regulates every phone service provider, including those based on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), to ensure they can accurately and adequately connect their clients to 911.
With an estimated 240 million 911 calls every year in the U.S., this mission is not only critical but has also accelerated the implementation of new technologies to connect users with their nearest Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).
When VoIP calls started becoming popular, emergency services faced the challenge of not being able to determine the location of origin of a specific call. Therefore, the FCC issued a series of tips for Internet-based call users, for instance:
- Providing an updated and accurate physical address to their VoIP providers.
- Being aware that 911 may not work during power outages or Internet connection failures.
- Informing children, babysitters, and visitors about their VoIP service and possible 911 limitations.
- Maintaining a traditional phone line or wireless phone as a backup for emergency calls.
Then came the creation of the FCC’s wireless Enhanced 911 rules or E911. As per the Commission, these rules provide 911 dispatchers with additional information on wireless 911 calls (such as the caller’s location and call-back number).
E911 rules are applicable to all wireless, broadband Personal Communications Service (PCS), VoIP telephone services using the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), and certain Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) licensees.
From a business communications perspective, it is essential to know about two additional 911 regulations that took effect in August 2019 because they impact organizations with multiple lines:
- Kari’s Law: Multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) must allow users to dial 911 without any prefixes and provide notifications to a facility’s central location with MTLS (for example, front desk or security office) when someone makes a 911 call.
- Ray Baum’s Act:(should this law be all capped unlike the law above? – I uncapped – online mostly lists it like Kari’s Law so it makes sense to have consistency) Rules require dispatchable location information to be conveyed with 911 calls from MLTS, as well as with 911 calls from fixed telephony, interconnected VoIP services, Internet-based Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) and mobile text service.
Explaining the implementation and deployment of E911 is highly technical and complex, involving several parties that include the 5,748 primary and secondary PSAPs in America. However, this overview explains the importance of E911 rules, and why compliance is key while partnering with an Internet-based voice service provider for your business.
Finding the Best E911-Compliant Partner for Business Communications
The pandemic raised greater awareness of the vital mission emergency services can provide to save lives and help people in desperate situations. It is key to be able to connect with them in a timely and reliable manner.
On the other hand, COVID-19 increased the popularity of hybrid work models. Even some organizations that just had one physical location in the past suddenly turned multi-office, multiplied by the number of homes their employees could use as their workplace.
Therefore, in 2020, IT managers began adopting remote technologies such as Microsoft Teams to keep their staff connected. Some of them even added services to connect Microsoft’s platform with the company’s traditional voice capabilities. More about this trend in the following section.
Coming back to this scenario, how would your organization ensure that all of its employees can safely call 911 in case of an emergency, regardless of their work location?
The only way is by partnering with a leading enterprise-level voice communications company that is E911-compliant.
The best communications and managed services provider will also offer:
- A top-notch E911 module with visualization, updating, and testing capabilities.
- Dynamic 911 call locations, which means the calls will connect with a local PSAP based on the call’s place of origin instead of a national operator.
- Significant savings for multi-location, multi-phone number companies. Instead of paying a 911 listing fee per number, a top provider will charge a fee per each address.
If your company is going through a similar communications transition, these criteria can provide a good base for your research and allow you to find the best possible provider.
What Else Can Voice-Enabled Teams Do for My Business?
Microsoft Teams is an online platform for meetings, virtual events, calls, chats and collaboration. Even though it launched in 2018, it wasn’t until last year that it reached 75 million daily active users due to COVID-19 lockdowns that forced people to work remotely.
Stanford University economist, Nicholas Bloom shed some light on the work-from home-trend:
- By June 2020, 42% of the U.S. labor force was working from home full-time, while another 26% percent – primarily essential service workers – were working on their business premises
- The U.S. could be considered “a working-from-home economy”
- The group of work-from-home employees accounted for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity
More recent data by PWC reveals:
- “Remote work has been an overwhelming success for both employees and employers. The shift in positive attitudes toward remote work is evident: 83% of employers now say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company, compared to 73% in our June 2020 survey.”
- U.S. executives are planning an increase of 72% investment in tools for virtual collaboration and dedicate 70% more funds to IT infrastructure to secure virtual connectivity. These investments aim at supporting hybrid work models.
- Most U.S. companies are heading toward a hybrid office workweek. The majority in this group (32%) responded they are “Going with the flow. Business performance is not suffering. We’ll likely increase the level of remote work.”
The need for virtual collaboration accelerated the adoption of Microsoft Teams in several organizations. While this platform offers native capabilities a basic phone system cannot perform, it can’t provide businesses with PBX call features to handle multi-location and advanced call features, such as call routing, queuing and advanced call reporting.
To give stakeholders a comprehensive communications and collaboration solution across the board, companies needed to quickly and efficiently expand Microsoft Teams’ default features in 2020 with more robust voice capabilities.
In response, providers developed solutions. BCM One, for example, is a top Microsoft partner that developed Voice-Enabled Teams to scale companies’ communications networks by filling the gaps between their voice service and Microsoft Teams.
Besides premium and more affordable E911 management capabilities, a thorough suite of Voice-Enabled Teams features will include:
- Advanced Call Routing & Queues
- Cloud Calling
- SIP Trunk Sharing and Linking
- Telephony Extensions
- Collaboration Management
- Near 100% Service Uptime
The expanded platform combines all of the video, chat, file storage, and Microsoft integrations of Teams with the enterprise voice features growing businesses need.
BCM One is the leading managed technology solutions provider and a Microsoft Gold Partner with a dedicated Microsoft team on staff. BCM One’s expertise will help you develop a Teams migration strategy that will work at your own pace, with E911 compliance guaranteed from day one. Contact us to learn how.