Achieving E911 Compliance with Webex

With recent enhancements to its Webex Calling cloud-based phone system, Cisco has made it simpler for organizations to be in compliance with new E911 requirements. The federal law is designed to eliminate delays and confusion among emergency services personnel responding to 911 calls.

Phase 2 of RAY BAUM’s Act took effect on Jan. 6, 2022. It requires any organization utilizing a multiline telephone system (MLTS) to provide precise “dispatchable location” information to first responders when a 911 call is made. The law addresses a problem that has plagued emergency responders for years.

Since the late 1960s, dialing 911 from any telephone in the U.S. links the caller to an emergency call center known as a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Dispatchers receive information from the telephone company about the street address for incoming calls, allowing them to send emergency responders to the caller’s location.

While that works well for phones associated with a static location such as a residential home, a simple street address is not enough information for calls coming from hotels, apartment buildings, school campuses or office buildings with dozens or hundreds of rooms. The lack of an exact location can cause potentially devastating delays. For instance, studies show that a one-minute delay in responding to cardiac emergencies can increase the mortality rate by 2 percent.

‘Nomadic’ Users

RAY BAUM’s Act requires calls to generate additional information such as room number or floor number to accurately identify the location of the emergency. The first phase of the law, which went into effect in early 2021, applied to fixed telephones associated with an MLTS system. Phase 2 applies to “nomadic” users who move around using non-fixed or mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.

For Phase 1 compliance, Webex App and devices provide location information based on the network topology configured by the system administrator. The system uses connection information such as the basic service set identifier (BSSID) from a wireless access point, the device’s media access control (MAC) address or IP subnet, along with mapping configured by administrators to accurately identify a user’s location.

For Phase 2 compliance, Cisco has integrated the RedSky Horizon Mobility solution with both the Webex Calling and Unified Communications Manager (UCM) cloud platforms. Horizon Mobility can track nomadic users as they move on and off campus to ensure accurate location information in an emergency.

Location Updates

If the app determines that a user has moved to a new unknown location, it will prompt the user to update their address. That’s quite an important capability now that companies have large numbers of mobile and remote employees who on any given day might be working at home, a coworking space or a coffee shop. Once the location is updated, Webex will store the address so the next time the user is at that spot the app will recognize it as a known location.

When an emergency call is placed, the app not only determines the user’s location, but automatically routes the call to the appropriate PSAP and then notifies your organization’s security and administrative personnel. The service is included with existing Webex Calling and UCM Cloud subscriptions for all U.S.-based users.

If you’re unsure if the law applies to you or whether your system is in compliance, give us a call. We can review your system configurations and dial plan to determine where you stand. If necessary, we can conduct a more thorough assessment to determine what updates or modifications are required to become compliant. Most important, we can help you take the proper steps to protect everyone in your organization in the event of an emergency.

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