911 Concerns Fuel New FCC Proceeding
Imagine dialing 911 and hearing an automated voice tell you that what you have dialed is not a valid number; or reaching a 911 call center only to have emergency personnel dispatched to the wrong location. In response to such problems, the FCC yesterday released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) asking a broad range of questions about the capability of enterprise-based communications systems (ECS)—internal phone systems used in places like office buildings, campuses and hotels—to provide access for 911 calls.
According to the FCC, certain of these systems may not support direct 911 dialing, may not have the capability to route calls to the appropriate 911 call center, or may not provide accurate information on the caller’s location. The NOI seeks public comment on consumer expectations regarding the ability to access 911 call centers when calling from an ECS, and seeks ways, including regulation if needed, to improve the capabilities of ECS to provide direct access for 911 calls.
The FCC generally requires telephone service providers to offer enhanced 911 service, which basically means that the provider will forward the caller’s telephone number and registered location to the appropriate public safety answering point (PSAP), which should be the 911 call center closest to the caller. Call takers at the PSAP are then responsible for dispatching the appropriate emergency responder—police, fire or ambulance.