Compliance with new laws for 911: What your business needs to know

Posted on February 26, 2020

The majority of the population knows to dial 911 in an emergency. But what many people don’t know is that if they have an emergency inside of an organization operating a multi-line telephone system (MLTS) – common in hotels, office buildings, schools and hospitals – their ability to get help quickly may be compromised.

However, in August 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules to implement Kari’s Law and Section 506 of RAY BAUM’S Act to help Americans get emergency services quickly and easily to individuals in these environments. Communication service providers (CSPs) and enterprises need to take action to ensure their communications systems comply with the new laws.

Kari’s law, which amends the Communications Act of 1934, is named in honor of Kari Hunt Dunn, whose tragic passing in 2013 alerted the nation to the dangers of requiring a dialing prefix to access 911. Her 9-year-old daughter was with her at the time of the incident and was unable to reach emergency services because she didn’t know she had to dial “9” to reach and outside line before calling 911 from the hotel where they were staying. Thanks to the tireless advocacy of 911 champions like Hank Hunt, Kari’s father, individuals will benefit from easier access to 911 when connecting to the service from certain private phone systems. RAY BAUM’S Act also addresses the need for improvements to communication systems to ensure that responders can easily locate the emergency.

These new federal regulatory obligations indicate that any providers, carriers or enterprises may not operate, manufacture, import, sell, or lease multi-line telephone systems in the United States, unless the required changes are implemented. Other requirements of the regulation include:

  • Direct dial for 911. Kari’s law requires that enterprises operating MTLS platforms provide direct access to 911 without dialing any prefix, post-fix or trunk access code. This ensures that users of your phone system, who may not be familiar with its operation or are not thinking clearly in an emergency, can access emergency services quickly, and can just dial, as we’ve all been taught, 9-1-1.
  • Notify on-site security of emergencies. Whenever 911 is dialed within the enterprise, Kari’s law requires that a notification is sent to a designated person on site who can help facilitate an emergency response. The notification helps ensure that the on-site emergency contact is aware there is an emergency in the building so they can help emergency responders get where they need to go, such as entry into areas requiring a card key.
  • Provide a precise dispatchable location. Section 506 of RAY BAUM’S Act requires that with every 911 call, precise location information is provided to enable emergency responders to more easily locate the emergency. Previously, location information might be generic, such as a street address or administrative office for a large office complex. The new law ensures that emergency personnel know exactly where they need to go – such as the floor, suite number, conference room or other precise location information.

While it may feel like a heavy lift to make the necessary changes for compliance with the new laws, working with a trusted partner can help streamline and expedite the process. Flowroute, now part of Intrado, and Intrado Safety E911 solutions are dedicated to helping customers comply.

If you haven’t already started the required work, now is the time. The deadlines for compliance with these laws vary, with the earliest being February 16, 2020 for compliance with Kari’s Law. Non-compliance with the new law can result in large fines.

For more details, check out the following E911 FAQ.

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