By: Mark Turpin
To make it easier for individuals to call 911 and for first responders to pinpoint the location of callers, Congress recently enacted two new laws: Kari’s Law and the Ray Baum Act. These two laws aim to make it easier than ever to call 911 in an enterprise setting and direct first responders to 911 callers as quickly as possible.
What is Kari’s Law?
Kari’s Law, which took effect February 16, 2020 and named after Kari Hunt Dunn, affects organizations that own or operate their phone system, including hosted services such as Cisco HCS, or UCM Cloud. This legislation requires enterprise phone systems to:
- Enable dialing 911 directly without requiring a prefix or outside code
- Notify an on-site party such as the receptionist or security manager when an emergency call is placed from within the organization
- Send a valid callback number that a 911 dispatcher can utilize to reconnect with the 911 caller. You should not send the main number of your office as it could connect the dispatcher to a receptionist or auto attendant, instead of the 911 caller
Who was Kari Hunt Dunn?
Kari’s Law is named in honor of Kari Hunt Dunn, whose case highlighted how such a simple, easily corrected configuration error could have fatal consequences.
Kari was the victim of homicide after being attacked by her estranged husband in a Texas motel room. And though her 9-year-old daughter tried desperately to call 911 for help, she was unable to connect because she didn’t know the motel’s phone system required a nine be dialed first to make an outside call. Further, no one within the hotel knew anything was wrong as there were no notifications of the attempts to reach 911.
What is the Ray Baum Act?
The Ray Baum Act, which took effect in January 2021, requires all enterprise organizations to provide automated dispatchable location information whenever a 911 call is placed using your phone system and provide the 911 dispatcher with a valid callback number so they can connect directly with the original 911 caller.
This means that all phone systems need to provide 911 dispatchers (officially called PSAPs, public safety answering points) with detailed location information so they can pinpoint the caller’s exact location.
A dispatchable location includes more than just a valid street address; it also requires information such as the building, floor, suite, or room number and may include additional directional information (for example, break room, second floor, southwest corner).
This information is critical because many enterprise and campus environments include a collection of multi-story buildings with multiple rooms and complex layouts, which can make it difficult for individuals who aren’t familiar with the layout (such as first responders) to locate the exact source of the 911 call.
This information is essential if the 911 caller cannot speak (because they are choking or have trouble breathing because of a severe allergic reaction) or are otherwise incapacitated.
Providing a valid callback number poses a challenge for many organizations, whose phone systems are likely configured to provide only the main business phone number when a call is placed to an outside line. Unfortunately, when this main number is called back, it will connect the 911 dispatcher to the receptionist or an automated system instead of the individual who placed the 911 call.
Because of the callback and notification requirements, many phone systems are currently not configured to comply with Ray Baum and require configuration and potentially additional software solutions.
Dispatchable Location Information for Remote Workers
All organizations’ business phone systems will be legally required to provide dispatchable location information for their remote workers starting January 6, 2022. Dispatchable location information (in this case, their current and correct address) for workers connecting to the office from home, a hotel, or any other location (such as their local coffee shop) must be automatically sent to 911 dispatchers.
For example, Susan decides to catch some sunshine and temporarily trades her desk for a spot on the patio at her local coffee shop. While she is working, an incident occurs, and she needs to call 911. If she is using her softphone (such as Cisco Jabber) as of January 2022, it will no longer be legal to send the 911 dispatcher to her on-site office. Her phone must let 911 know that she is at the coffee shop.
How will These Laws Impact Enterprise 911 Functionality in the Future?
911 legislation changes incredibly slowly. Prior to Kari’s Law and Ray Baum, the last significant law change occurred over 30 years ago in the 1990s.
However, the number of technologies designed to improve outcomes and provide vital notifications is rapidly innovating. New technologies now make it possible to:
- Integrate 911 calling systems like 9Line’s with mass notifications (via voice, email, or SMS) using systems such as SingleWire’s. This functionality is critical should a widespread incident, such as a fire, occur.
- Leverage digital signage, which can be updated with just a few clicks and used to draw attention to issues and help guide first responders. This is particularly vital for buildings with complex layouts and can save valuable time in an emergency.
- Provide vital digital information, such as a building’s floorplan, to a police officer’s squad car. This enhanced data feed can help ensure all first responders have access to the up-to-date information they need to make critical decisions.
Though some of these technologies may seem like science fiction, they exist in several forms today. As such, safety-conscious organizations should take the time to evaluate these technologies and decide if they want to leverage them as part of their overall safety posture.
If you would like to learn more about these technologies, or begin integrating them into your phone system, please contact our team.
How Can 9Line Help My Company Become, and Remain, Compliant?
9Line is the only 911 compliance partner that is able to certify 911 locations, testing every single phone in your building or on your campus to ensure that it has been programmed and mapped correctly.
We believe that calling 911 is a right, not a privilege. That is why we work hard to offer high-quality 911 compliance services at affordable prices.
- Native CER integration: This provides real-time address validation and automatic updates using Cisco Emergency Responder.
- No clunky apps to manage: With 9Line, you can use your existing Cisco workflows for remote workers, so you don’t need another app just to call 911.
- Real-time address validation: CER-integrated address validation ensures all your addresses are accurate before that information is submitted to 911 dispatchers.
- Privacy first: With 9Line, all of your calls are fully encrypted using TLS (transport layer security) and SRTP (secure real-time transport protocol).
- No data limits: While some competitors only offer 20 characters for 911 locations, 9Line supports up to 60.
- Support for VPN, MRA, and Jabber: All users are able to self-provision their own home addresses without administrative assistance, streamlining the process and helping ensure employee home addresses are always up to date.
Educational Institutions: Alyssa’s Law Expands to More States
Alyssa’s Law, named after Alyssa Alhedeff, a 14-year-old student in Parkdale, Florida and one of the 17 victims of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School mass shooting, is spreading across the United States.
You can check on the progress of Alyssa’s Law in your state here.
Alyssa’s Law requires all public and charter elementary and secondary school buildings be equipped with a silent panic alarm with a direct connection to local law enforcement.
Even if your state has not yet passed Alyssa’s Law, school districts and other affected organizations should prepare for compliance by taking time now to carefully plan and implement their silent panic alarm systems and ensure they have been correctly configured and are fully functional before Alyssa’s Law comes into effect in your state.
For more information about Alyssa’s Law, please visit makeourschoolssafe.org.
In emergency situations, every second counts. You need to know that employees, customers, and visitors can quickly and easily contact 911 and get the help they need as quickly as possible. 9Line makes it easy to stay compliant while safeguarding lives.
Don’t delay. Book your free (virtual) assessment today.