Making Emergency Calls When your Comms Are In The Cloud

Calling for help in an emergency is often taken for granted as something that is just there if we need it.

But providing access to local emergency services, whatever your location, is required by the FCC in the US, as well as a lot of other regulatory bodies around the world. And for good reason.

Keeping up with regulations

But if you plan to migrate your communications services into the cloud and away from the PSTN, how do you keep up with complex regulations?

Well, because of how truly complex global regulations can be, the ability to call emergency services isn’t something every provider offers. In fact, to remain compliant, most organizations still opt for an “emergency” landline telephone in the office, but even that comes with its own complexities and costs.

On top of all that, even though both the US and Europe require carriers to provide the ability to call emergency services, the exact specifics of the requirements can vary quite dramatically based on specific locations.

The US, for example, has a surprisingly large amount of legislation governing emergency number access, with Kari’s Law being the most notable addition.

Kari’s Law

As of February 16, 2020, the way that 911 calls are delivered in the US changed significantly. And the reason behind this new legislation might make you question why it took so long for change to occur.

One fateful evening in December 2013, the then 9-year-old daughter of Kari Hunt tried repeatedly to dial 911 as her father murdered her mother. But because the hotel they had been staying at deployed a multiline telephone system (MLTS) that required she press ‘9’ to dial out, her calls for help were never answered.

It was this tragedy that prompted Congress to pass Kari’s Law Act of 2017, which was signed into law in 2018 and is now in effect.

Kari’s Law Requirements

Kari’s Law requires MLTS (Mutual Transport Layer Security) to: (1) enable callers to dial 911 directly, without having to dial a prefix, such as ‘9’, to reach an outside line; and (2) provide notification to the facility using the system when a 911 call is made.

The notification also needs to draw attention, for example, on-screen messages with audible alarms or messages. At a minimum, the notification needs to include:

  • The fact that a 911 call was made
  • A valid callback number
  • Any location information provided to the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point)

This applies to all manufacturers and businesses that install, manage or operate multi-line telephone systems. And, any business found to be in ‘wilful and knowing’ non-compliance faces potential fines of up to $10,000.

While the direct dialing requirement of Kari’s Law specifically relates to the US, similar laws are also set to come into effect in Canada and the EU. If you operate an MLTS, you have a duty to ensure that it is compliant.

Some other US regulations affecting access to emergency services include:

  • The FCC’s VoIP E911 Regulations – VoIP telephone services using the PSTN need to automatically provide a call back number and, in most cases, location information to the emergency services.
  • Dispatchable Location Requirements – 50% of wireless calls must provide a dispatch location or a caller location accurate up to 50-meters.

On top of all that; regulation also varies dramatically depending on the state.

Outside the US

Expanding your horizon to include international markets only further complicates the picture.

In the EU for example, services such as Skype and WhatsApp are required to comply with some of the same regulatory requirements imposed on traditional telcos.

Member states are required to institute specific rules for compensation or penalties in the event that a provider of electronic communications services is found guilty of misconduct.

Basically, unless there is a designated role for compliance in each territory, it’s impossible for employees to keep all regulations, from each location, top of mind.

What Can be Done?

So let’s say you’re setting up a VoIP-based phone system for your company, how do you make sure that you and your coworkers can make emergency calls from your office?:

  • Buy and install fixed-line phones for emergencies and pay a hefty amount to keep them connected.
  • Do nothing and pray that disaster never strikes to add a little suspense to daily office life, not to mention your next regulatory audit
  • Work with a provider that offers compliant voice access to local emergency services.

CIOs have a lot on their minds, so how can they keep compliance as a top priority in order to avoid the regulatory pitfalls of corporate communication?

Our new ebook identifies solutions to the compliance problems facing CIOs. Read it now