E911: The Technology Responsible for Saving Lives

hand holding cellphone with emergency number 911

How tragedy sparked an essential development in technological legislation

TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, speaks with Joseph Barasoain, Director of Public Safety for Atlanta Georgia, and Captain Scott Brillman, Director of 9-1-1 for the City of Baltimore. 

In their interview, they discuss Kari’s Law and how the implementation of new technology can save lives. Learn all about the simple steps you can take, as a telecom reseller, to make a difference in public safety straight from two real leaders who work on the front lines of emergency services.

Joseph Barasoain and Scott Brillman discuss the importance of Kari’s Law and what it means for telecom resellers, VoIP providers and carriers.

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask  0:07  
Hello, we’re here at day two Vectors 2019 in Orlando, Florida. It’s been a great start to the week so far and joining me today, Scott Brillman and Joe Barasoain. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us and welcome. 

Joseph Barasoain  0:22  
Thank you, Erik.

Scott Brillman  0:22  
Thanks for having us.

Erik Linask  0:24  
So, you guys are really on the front lines of the whole E911 emergency services situation, which continues to be a discussion point for communications providers, VoIP providers specifically and, you know, some interesting, exciting and important developments that have taken place recently, specifically around Kari’s law. You know what, let’s start, tell us a little bit about what Kari’s Law is.

Scott Brillman  0:49  
So Kari’s Law is actually a sad story. A few years ago, a mother, Kari Dunn, was getting attacked in her hotel room and her daughter attempted to call 911 multiple times, to be exact four times and was unable to get through. She called 911 the wrong way, which is unbelievable. So her mother was unable to get help. So now, there’s a law that was passed that when you call 911, from a hotel or a hospital, when you dial 911, it has to go through to a 911 center or PSAP.

Erik Linask  1:33  
And the idea being that regardless of what you do, anytime you dial 911 it’s going to go through?

Joseph Barasoain  1:39  
Yeah, there shouldn’t be a wrong way to dial 911. You should be able to get a phone, dial 911 and get what you need. Ultimately, it’s how quickly that process works and Kari’s Law does address how that process is conducted now.

Erik Linask  1:53  
So we’ve got Kari’s Law. What does that mean for VoIP providers, for carriers, you know, anybody who is tasked with delivering those phone calls and making sure that dialing works?

Joseph Barasoain  2:04  
So it really assures that the provider is doing what they need to do to enable that 911 feature from dial-in directly to the PSAP, the public safety answering point. So again, it shouldn’t be going one place to get somewhere else. It shouldn’t be a transfer from a front desk, or an attendant, it should be going straight through to the 911 Center.

Scott Brillman  2:26  
Right. And today, you know, we were all really first responders in a room. We need this community to help us help the end-user be able to dial us, and there’s some great ideas that happened today in that room to make it safer for people to dial 911.

Erik Linask  2:46  
So what are the kinds of things that providers are doing and what can they do in order to help you accomplish those objectives?

Joseph Barasoain  2:54  
I would say the very first thing is educating the public so as they install or as they resell or they provide the solution for their members or their community, they really need to emphasize how important it is to make sure that they are putting in the right information.And during their setup, making sure that they’re not just grabbing their phone and going home with their phone, and make sure the right switches and buttons are pushed in order for that technology to do what it’s supposed to do.

Scott Brillman  3:25  
Right and there’s other limitations that the end-user needs to be educated with. If there’s a power outage, you won’t be able to dial 911 if there’s a network outage, you won’t be able to dial 911. And in California right now, there’s wildfires. The Electric Company shutting down power, and some people won’t be able to dial 911 because it’s on a VoIP system.

Erik Linask  3:48  
So what happens in these situations?

Scott Brillman  3:52  
So people should have backups, they should have a cell phone that they can dial 911 with, they could have an old pots line it into their house, a landline, that they’ll be able to use but have a backup plan. You know if your VoIP phone or if your power goes out.

Erik Linask  4:11  
Part of what you’re talking about is related to location, right? You know, how much are people and users aware that they need to update that location information to ensure that they’re able to get it so that emergency services are able to be dispatched to the appropriate location.

Joseph Barasoain  4:31  
And I think that’s the reason why we’re here. We see many of our calls coming in our 911 centers with the wrong information. So in other words, you decided to telecommute from home today and your employer allows you to take your phone home or use a softphone application that actually has your desk phone ringing to your cell phone. The issue there is if you forget and you dial 911 now from that cell phone, and it’s set to dial out to your desk phone, we’re going to send somebody to your home or we’re going to send somebody to your business depending on how you’re setup, and that’s where the issue really lies. We’re getting a lot of those now. And as the technology shifts towards this new side, we’re going to see more of it. And if we’re not on the front end of this, and you are on the front end of this, it’s going to become a bigger issue for us.

Scott Brillman  5:19  
Seconds count when you’re having the worst day of your life. And you need to call 911, the 911 operator and the first responders should know exactly where you are, so we can get to you quickly to save your life.

Erik Linask  5:33  
The same thing applies simply to your cell phone if you’ve got the carriers that are enabling Wi-Fi calling. So as soon as you enable that, I did this the other day actually, the first thing that it prompted me for is my location and then a reminder that I need to change or update that location if I’m no longer where I currently was. So there’s a lot of consumer education that has to happen in addition to business.

Joseph Barasoain  6:00  
Absolutely. So if you forget, or it prompts you, and you don’t do it, you just go, “I’m just gonna hit okay and go on”. That extra step is going to, it’ll save somebody’s life. Eventually, I mean, it’s designed to. It’ll say “hey, something’s wrong, fix it.” And what happens is people just hit okay. Or it’s just like when you kind of get your instructions after you do your update on your cell phone, and no one reads the three pages worth of stuff. You’re scrolling through, hitting, accepting, going on. They don’t realize the importance of making sure that that’s accurately done.

Scott Brillman  6:30  
Yeah, in the past, traditionally, in office buildings, when people move offices, they take their phone with them, and a simple sticker on a phone that says, if you move this phone, you’ll be giving 911 a wrong location that can save a life. One little sticker can save a life.

Erik Linask  6:48  
I imagine, you know, on the business side, you’ve got IT administrators and you’ve got work providers who can help ensure that those kinds of things happen on the consumer side. I imagine it’s just going to be difficult because people don’t always pay attention. They’ve got Wi-Fi calling and you know, they go all over the place, go visit friends, go shopping, go to work, go wherever they’re going. That creates some problems for US first responders.

Joseph Barasoain  7:17  
Absolutely. And during our session this morning, one of the things we heard was from one of the, I guess, the largest state probably represented out here, you know, the state requires a three-page reading in order to go along with making sure you’re updating your equipment. And at the end of the day, no one’s going to read those three pages. So maybe one of the things we got from this morning, was maybe creating a one-page document with your hot three topics that people actually read. It would be a huge help right now.

Scott Brillman  7:47  
The great thing is that there was enthusiasm and people were coming up with solutions already in the room and I think there are people that want to get together and have a think tank and figure out this problem together. Which is great.

Erik Linask  8:01  
You each represent one different state in the country. These are obviously nationwide issues, but who has responsibility for handling them? Are they a statewide issue? Are they national? Are they local?

Joseph Barasoain  8:17  
I think we all have a responsibility. And one of the things we talked about was how do we get our national associations on the public safety side, together with the organizations that you belong to, and kind of put us all together and go, how do we come up with a solution. Almost a private-public partnership. Ultimately, you know, the federal government does provide guidelines on some of this stuff. But it’s going to take the private industry to partner up with the public safety side and go, Okay, this is the true solution and this is how we get there.

Scott Brillman  8:45  
Right, we’re all interconnected now and in the future with the next generation, we’re going to be more interconnected through IP networks. And so it’s all of our responsibility. We’re a big family now that needs to figure out these problems.

Erik Linask  9:00  
Are there specific things that you guys are doing locally in your states that you feel are having a positive effect? 

Joseph Barasoain  9:08  
We’re actually trying to provide some community outreach where we provide community education. We’re actually going, “Hey, what kind of phone system do you have?” A lot of people are switching from, even the common providers, like local cable companies now providing their phone. So the technology is changing. So we’re not out there trying to get on the front end of it and going out to as little as you know, the new business that opens up that goes, “Hey, I just bought this new phone system. No one really told me how it works and the effects of it.” That’s what we’re trying to do. Just go out there and touch somebody go, “Hey, can we help you with this?”

Scott Brillman  9:39  
Yeah, in Maryland, Kari’s Law was passed locally. But we’re also discussing how our fire marshal’s office that do regular inspections every day, can educate the businesses and the hospitals, about Kari’s Law to make sure they’re in compliance.

Erik Linask  9:57  
Are there ways that technology can be further enhanced to help with this, knowing the challenges that you’re facing?

Scott Brillman  10:07  
You know, in the future, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s going to happen. Number one, and I’m just thinking about it now, if the phone has a camera on it and somebody dials 911, that camera can turn on and the 911 Center can see what’s going on in that room. There are many ideas that can happen.

Joseph Barasoain  10:26  
Yeah, the technology is just moving quick. So anything right now that we can start on the front end doing. I mean, I heard today, “can we add another line to our setup that allows us to put additional information.” Anything right now that we’re catching because it’s going to be here sooner than we think. We thought texting to 911 was going to be something of the future. Well, it’s here and we’re doing videos. It’s here, we’re doing it, so we got to figure out how to stay on the front end of this before it gets behind us.

Erik Linask  10:56  
From a location perspective, is there a way to use automation or location tracking to help us, especially when you’re talking about mobile devices? 

Joseph Barasoain  11:09  
Absolutely. We’re challenged with mobile devices in our center every day. You know, we do have mobile devices that don’t present certain information to us. And that’s a huge hindrance for us. I mean, it really hurts. We’re spending more and more time because the reality is most people don’t know where they are. They put in the location, you listen to a voice tell you to make a left, make a right, but you’re not really listening to what road to make a left on, they just go make a left in the next X amount of feet. And because of that, when you get involved in a car accident, or you have an emergency, people don’t know where they are. So we’re spending that first you know, 60 to 90 seconds going “What’s near you? Where’s the gas station? Where’s the local grocery store by you? And trying to figure out where they are.

Scott Brillman  11:55  
And there’s a company that we’ve partnered with called Rapid SOS. That’s bringing enhanced data into our center now. So companies like Uber, if you call from an Uber app while you’re in a ride and you need help, that Uber app will send us your exact GPS location. If you call from an Apple phone or an Android Google phone right now, your location services will turn on and send us your exact GPS location. So we’re getting better and better every day because of rapid SOS.

Erik Linask  12:28  
Well, you know, that’s all wonderful to hear. It’s great to have people like you representing the industry, helping move some of these important issues along. You know, unfortunate that it has taken some certain circumstances to make this all happen, but I appreciate your time here today. And good luck moving all these initiatives forward.

Joseph Barasoain  12:49  
Thank you very much for having us.