E911 in the Hybrid Workforce

Posted on September 7, 2021

As enterprises solidify their hybrid workplace strategies, they also must consider employee preferences for flexibility and the physical environment they create for their teams. According to Edelman’s 2021 Work Trend Index survey, 73% of employees want flexible remote work options to stay, and 66% of business leaders say they are already considering redesigning their office spaces for hybrid work.

In addition to office spaces, it will also be important for businesses to restructure their emergency preparedness capabilities around a workforce that is no longer completely remote. While there are challenges associated with keeping a distributed workforce protected, enterprises can leverage cloud-based VoIP solutions that are scalable, easy to implement, and low cost.

However, research from Metrigy shows that approximately 22% of companies do not have a clear understanding of how service providers manage their E911 (or Enhanced 911) capabilities. Businesses should be aware of federal regulations around E911 compliance as they create safety objectives for a hybrid workforce.

Outlined below are considerations for companies to take to meet E911 safety objectives and compliance.

E911 Refresher

Enhanced 911 is a cloud-enabled feature of the traditional 911 emergency calling system. It is a network that can associate a person’s physical location to their phone number using a software application. E911 services route emergency calls to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), much like a traditional 911 call, but it also allows the appropriate operators, dispatchers, or first responders to pinpoint the precise location of the caller without them having to provide it verbally. This is especially beneficial for large office spaces, where identifying the exact floor or room of a building may be challenging, or remote work, where employees work across distributed settings.

Requirements for Businesses

Businesses must meet Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements when implementing E911 systems, as mandated by Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’s Act. Further, the FCC requires that all new E911 systems must:

  • Enable direct-dial access to 911 without a prefix (i.e., 9), as required by Kari’s Law.
  • Provide notifications of 911 calls to appropriate security personnel (usually the employer), as required by Kari’s Law.
  • Transmit dispatchable location information to PSAPs, as required by RAY BAUM’s Act.

Enterprises can rely on cloud-based E911 services to meet these needs and mitigate negative impacts from emergencies. The following best practices offer specific considerations to make when implementing an E911 strategy.

Best Practices for E911 in the Hybrid Workforce

 Enable Softphone Applications

Companies that want to optimize E911 for hybrid workers can enable softphone applications. A softphone is an application, rather than dedicated hardware, that is installed on an internet-connected device and used to make phone calls. Softphones are a valuable part of an enterprise’s VoIP toolkit because they support employees working away from the office who might not have access to corporate phones. Further, softphones linked to the company’s phone system can provide a real-time location to 911 responders.

 Update Workers’ Provisioned Locations

The provisioned location is the address tied to a phone number. This location determines which PSAP the caller will be routed to when dialing 911 and the address respondents receive in an emergency. Businesses can update these locations to correspond with individual employees’ locations, which the employee can also do if prompted at the time of login. For example, provisioned locations can include the office or an employee’s home address, allowing 911 calls to dispatch to the appropriate PSAP.

 Activate Emergency Alerts

Companies should have a way to notify the appropriate personnel when an employee dials 911. When an employee has dialed 911, emergency alerts may go out to security personnel, upper-level management, and administration, team members, or trained medical personnel within the organization. Employers can partner with their carriers to determine if these alerts are already enabled or if they need to create them. Whether employees are using a company-provided IP device or their personal cell phones, companies should verify device usage and ensure their employees are adequately protected.

 Flowroute Supports E911

Flowroute’s Numbers API provides accurate E911 capabilities online and allows users to create, view, update, and delete E911 records from any location. This remote access helps employers meet FCC regulations and safety objectives. In addition, customers have total control over their security and can monitor and gather metrics any time through Flowroute’s API, SDKs, and online management portal. The E911 integration process is simple and compatible with a broad assortment of soft switches and session border controllers.

Intrado and Flowroute can provide all forms of endpoints for subscribers, including IP phones, softphones and wireless phones integrated with a wide range of voice platforms.

Cloud-based communication solutions will allow companies to operate and thrive in an increasingly distributed workforce. Businesses can rely on communication service providers like Flowroute, now part of Intrado, to help them meet the needs of a hybrid workforce and keep employees protected no matter where they work.

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