What is Enhanced 911 (E911)?

911 calls have been with us for more than 50 years. The first 911 call was made by an Alabama senator in February of 1968. Back then all telephones were landlines, and associating a physical address with every landline was a simple task routinely undertaken by the local telephone company.

Since then, things have become much more complex. We now have mobile phones and, more recently, VoIP phones. At first, these types of phones couldn’t connect with 911 at all. The FCC fixed that in 2005, but even if mobile and VoIP callers can reach 911, associating a physical address with these new types of phones is not as straightforward. Mobile phones can be anywhere from minute to minute. And VoIP phone can also easily change locations.

That’s where E911 comes in. You may have heard the term E911 (aka Enhanced 911) and have questions. Let’s start with precisely what E911 is. In January 2021, the U.S. Federal RAY BAUM’S act required that all Multiline Telephone Systems (MLTS) transmit detailed dispatchable location information to the Public Service Answering Point (PSAP).

What does that mean? According to the FCC, the RAY BAUM’S ACT ensures that “dispatchable location” is conveyed with 911 calls to dispatch centers, regardless of the technological platform used, including 911 calls from MLTS. Dispatchable location means a location delivered to the PSAP with a 911 call that consists of the validated street address of the calling party, plus additional information such as suite, apartment, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party.

In simple terms, that means that when someone dials 911 from a MLTS, the system must transmit enough information so that first responders can find the caller. For hospitality, that means:

  • Room number and floor number
  • The building number when there is more than one building per civic address

E911 is a service that does precisely this. E911 enables Internet-based telephony systems (for example, SIP lines and hosted PBX solutions from Cloud5) to reach the appropriate local PSAP, using the private switch/automatic location identification (PS/ALI) service to provide the civic address of the caller. One more nuanced feature of E911 is that, armed with this physical address, E911 calls are automatically routed to the closet PSAP. This means first responders are able to respond more quickly, during an emergency situation.

Note that E911 solutions typically transmit just a main physical address. That falls short of meeting the requirement (a “dispatchable location”).  Take a large resort hotel, with multiple buildings, each with multiple floors and a thousand rooms. “1000 Ocean Park Blvd.” isn’t enough. First responders need something like “Building 5, second floor, room 203.”

We’ll explain in a bit how to fix that.

Is E911 Mandatory?

Does every business have to comply with RAY BAUM’S Act? Technically, no, but there are good reasons why they should.

There are two deadlines for compliance. The first applies to MLTS on-premises, fixed devices. Any such PBX MLTS installed after January 6, 2021, regardless of the type of business or residence it is operating in, must meet today’s requirements.

The second deadline applies to MLTS on-premises, non-fixed devices and off-premises devices. Here the compliance date is January 6, 2022.  By the way, unregulated VoIP services, like Skype, are not required to implement E911.

Note that even if you are not legally required to meet the new E911 requirements, you may want to do so anyway. First, there is the risk of damage to your brand reputation should a tragedy occur, that could have been avoided by voluntarily complying with the Act. Second, it just makes sense to protect the safety of your guests and employees.

One last note – you cannot opt-out of the ER911 requirement. If you meet the installation date threshold, you will have to comply.  Non-compliance fines can go as high as $1.325 million, so it is worth paying close attention.

Which Companies Should Use E911?

E911 is targeted at businesses where a single civic address is insufficient for first-responders to locate 911 callers once on property. Hotels, resorts, and multi-dwelling units (MDUs) are prime examples. The civic address is a start, but E911 adds additional information, such as “building 8, seventh floor, room 8714.” Such information is potentially the difference between life and death.

Requirements for E911

Is your VoIP phone system ready for E911? Most probably are, but here are a few requirements to check-up on:

  • You need your VoIP account to be associated with a physical address.
  • You will need at least 80-100 Kbps per VoIP line.

Limitations of E911

E911 is designed to make sure first responders can get to the 911 caller as quickly and accurately as possible. However, there are some limitations of E911 on VoIP systems:

  • VoIP (and therefore E911) only works if there is electrical power and working Internet bandwidth.
  • E911 is only as accurate as the information you program into the system. If that information is wrong, first responders won’t find the caller.

How Cloud5 can Help

So, how can you make sure your hotel or MDU meets RAY BAUM’S Act? Cloud5 has a new solution, E911 ERS, which will transmit location information you provide to us for each extension on your MLTS or PBX. That ensures that detailed address and location information shows up on the PSAP’s screen.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The business or hotel provides location information for each extension to Cloud5.
  2. After implementation of Cloud5 ERS, a best practice is to confirm the local PSAP is receiving the location information correctly:
  3. You place a 911 call from a given extension on your property
  4. Tell the dispatcher that this is a test call
  5. Ask the dispatcher to verify the information received including any dispatchable location details. The dispatcher may have to click on a metadata field to bring this information up
  6. If the information checks, you’re done

The Advantages and Benefits of E911?

Making your MLTS compliant with RAY BAUMS Act saves lives. Emergency routing services for e911 ties a physical address to your IP phone numbers, making it possible for an emergency response team to pinpoint exactly where you are in the city and specific hotel location—floor, room number, method to access room. Compliance is an easy decision.  Cloud5 makes providing E911 simple. Contact us today to schedule a 15-minute system assessment with one of our experts.