Kari’s Law and E911: Is your phone system compliant?

New 911 regulations that combine Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’S Act will ensure emergency calls are truly accessible—and it’s all in the name of saving lives. Here’s a rundown of the new rules, what compliance means and why it’s so important.

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Kari's Law and E911

There’s an assumption that when you dial 911, it will simply work. But that wasn’t the case for Kari Hunt.

In 2013, Kari was stabbed and killed by her estranged husband in the bathroom of a Texas motel room, with her three children on the other side of the door. Her nine-year-old daughter tried repeatedly to call 911 on the hotel phone, not knowing she had to dial ‘9’ to get an outside line. Kari died of her injuries.

For the next five years, Hank Hunt—Kari’s father—worked with U.S. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enact Kari’s Law, so that a ‘9’ is no longer needed for 911 calls from multi-line systems. Also known as H.R. Bill 582, it’s now a federal law in the U.S.

How Kari’s Law will affect your business

According to the FCC, this requires multi-line telephone systems (MLTS)—such as those used by hotels, hospitals and office campuses—to allow users to dial 911 directly, without having to dial a prefix such as a ‘9’ or use an intermediary service.

“To facilitate building entry by first responders, Kari’s Law also requires MLTS to provide notification to a central location for the facility where the MLTS is installed, such as a front desk or security office, when a 911 call is made,” according to the FCC.

At the same time, the FCC adopted Section 506 of RAY BAUM’S Act to “ensure that ‘dispatchable location’ information, such as the street address, floor level, and room number of a 911 caller, is conveyed with 911 calls so that first responders can more quickly locate the caller.”

That includes 911 calls from MLTS, as well as fixed telephony, VoIP, mobile text and Internet-based Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS). So, this can be much more complicated than it sounds at first, especially in an environment with softphones and wireless workers.

Are you compliant with Kari’s Law?

Kari's Law and E911

Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about whether their current phone system is set up correctly. But do you know if your phone system is compliant with Kari’s Law and the new E911 regulations?

As of Feb. 16, any new MLTS deployment in the U.S. must comply with Kari’s Law. “However, the law does not require organizations to ensure compliance for existing systems,” says Irwin Lazar, VP and service director at Nemertes Research, in an article for No Jitter.

“But because failure to bring existing systems into compliance may create risk, you would be wise to consult your legal counsel and determine a proper forward path.”

As for RAY BAUM’S Act, it goes into effect in the U.S. on Jan. 6, 2021 (for fixed-line operators) and Jan. 6, 2022 (for mobile operators).

“Unfortunately, ensuring 911 compliance doesn’t typically provide a quantifiable return on investment or reduce operating costs, so for many organizations, compliance efforts suffer from a lack of IT prioritization,” says Lazar. But, he adds, “E911 is one of the few areas of unified communications with life and death implications.”

For years, Allstream has been actively deploying and managing 911 solutions for clients, which not only connect users to 911 but also provide notification if and when someone dials 911 on the system.

Staying compliant can save lives. Even a few seconds or minutes can make the difference—and now, it’s also the law in the U.S.

To find out how we can help, contact Allstream.

Images: Marco_Piunti/iStock; bubaone/iStock

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