On Episode 90 of the K12 Tech Talk podcast, Chris and Mark discussed 911 requirements with school district phone systems. This article is a recap of that conversation along with some resources to check out.
Chris – “We talked about 911 several episodes back and realized that we didn’t really know what we were talking about. We thought we knew some things, but we needed to do some research to unpack it a little bit better.”
Mark – “Yeah, if you listen to a few episodes ago, I screwed up the names. So, I’m at least going to get the names right.”
Chris – “I got a new phone system over summer and also did a bunch of changes to my carrier, moved a bunch of stuff off of PRI to SIP and did a bunch of DID work. In the middle of all that, we had two different vendors talk about changes to 911 and laws that had passed. And then we had some discussion on the podcast about how far down does 911 need to go. Does it go down to just the building? Just the different campuses? Is it supposed to go down all the way to the classroom? Or just in the vicinity of that? So, Mark, you’ve done some work to tell us what is correct?”
Mark – “Yeah, so…”:
In the last year or so, there are two laws that were passed at the federal level. And so every state may have had different rules in place, but now this is federal law. It’s bringing every state to the same standard. And these are two laws that impact how you configure your phone system, and some of the things that you need to have in place. The first one is Kari’s Law. And the second one is Ray Baum’s Act. They both do different things, but they both impact how you have to configure your multi-line telephone system. This does not impact houses. It does impact any business with a multi-line phone system.
So Kari’s Law, and one of the important things is to understand the background of this law, where this came from, and why this is so important. There was a woman named Kari Hunt, which the law is named after, who was living in a hotel with her daughter, escaping her deranged ex-husband. There was a situation where the husband came to the hotel and unfortunately took the life of Kari. At the time, her daughter who was with her, was trying to dial 911 and did not know that in this hotel, you have dial 9, and then 911. The first mistake is that the daughter could not dial 911 because she didn’t know this little secret code that you have to push in order to dial 911. As a result, Kari’s Law states that every phone in your school, every phone in your district, has to be able to dial straight to 911. Not 1911, not 9911. Nothing else. Anytime somebody hits 911, it has to go straight to 911. That’s the first part of the law. The other issue though is that if they knew that the daughter was trying to dial 911, or she got through, there should have been somebody at the hotel who would have been alerted to that and could have helped out in the situation or directed police to the right place. For multi-line telephone systems, you have to have a notification system that will notify a central location that somebody has dialed 911. In a situation where you have multiple schools, maybe you have a school police officer or the superintendent’s office, you need to be able to have a notification to that central location that somebody’s dialed 911. It has to be something that a person would reasonably receive.
Ray Baum’s Act
Unfortunately, we don’t have the background of it or understand the naming of it the same as with Kari’s Law, but Ray Baum’s Act is within your telephone system and requires that specific location information for that phone has to be provided to 911. When you dial 911, the 911 operator is going to see the address of that location, or right now with cell phones, they’re going to see the GPS location of your cell phone. Ray Baum’s Act takes a step further and wants more specific information. It could be like in a residential situation, or apartment number, suite number, that kind of stuff. In a school, it’s reasonably going to be the floor or the specific area. The goal of that law is to make sure that when police are dispatched, they’re able to send the police officer or the EMT to this specific location without the need for the person calling to say where they are.
To Unpack That a Little…
Say you have a bunch of DIDs, but only so many DIDs. It needs to say high school room 100, high school room 101, or 102, or 103. Or maybe even high school bottom floor science wing. It has to be a dispatchable location. When the officer or the EMT gets to your building, that information will make sense for them to find where the call was made. In theory, if you are limited to how many DIDs you have access to, you’ll need to be strategic. 20 phones to this area, 10 classroom phones to this area. Some of the language is around if it is technically feasible to. There’s also an understanding that people have some older generation systems that may not be able to have this capability. If you are upgrading your phone system right now, you need to make sure that this is met. New phone systems coming out obviously have the capabilities.
In our experiences so far with this, setting this up will be a combination of making changes in your phone system as well as your telco making changes on their end with your input. For example, Chris has a Zultys phone system and uses AT&T. As part of his district’s AT&T agreement, he has access to a range of DIDs. In Zultys, he assigns a 911 DID to a phone/user (and has to refer to Zultys support and documentation for how to do that properly). Then, he updates a spreadsheet provided by AT&T support that lists information like DID, street address, floor level, and other location comments. Once AT&T updates their end with that information, then Chris is set for that phone to transmit the 911 DID along with the information attached to it to the 911 call center.
Work with your local authorities. They will advise. Make sure that what you’re doing and what you’re configuring meets their needs, and vice versa. Depending on the school district, or the place that you’re in, you might be able to have a close relationship with the local police and do a test run, and then they can tell you what they are seeing on their end. Also, with 911, each state is different. These are two federal laws. They do apply to everybody in the US, but your state may go above and beyond this. Your state may have additional components.