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E911 – Saves Life! December 30, 2010

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Enhanced 9-1-1.

Enhanced 911, E-911 or E911 is a North American telecommunications based system that automatically associates a physical address with the calling party’s telephone number, and routes the call to the most appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for that address. The caller’s address and information is displayed to the calltaker immediately upon call arrival. This provides emergency responders with the location of the emergency without the person calling for help having to provide it. This is often useful in times of fires, break-ins, kidnapping, and other events where communicating one’s location is difficult or impossible.

The system only works in North America if the emergency telephone number 911 is called. Calls made to other telephone numbers, even though they may be listed as an emergency telephone number, may not permit this feature to function correctly. Outside Canada and the United States this type of facility is often called caller location, though its implementation is dependent on how the telephone network processes emergency calls. Typical architecture diagram:



The first 911 system was installed in Haleyville, Alabama, in February 1968 as a way to quickly connect a subscriber to the local police station. This system did not identify the caller but did provide a means to access emergency services that had not previously been available. This system was quickly adapted and improved by other telephone companies to become the E911 system which provides both caller location and identification. A pioneering system was in place in Chicago by the mid-1970s, providing both police and fire departments access to the source location of emergency calls. Enhanced 911 is currently deployed in most metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada.

Public safety answering point (PSAP)

The final destination of an E911 call (where the 911 operator sits) is a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). There may be multiple PSAPs within the same exchange or one PSAP may cover multiple exchanges. The territories (Emergency Service Zone) covered by a single PSAP is based on the dispatch and response arrangements for the fire, police, and medical services for a particular area. Most PSAPs have a regional Emergency Service Number (ESN), a number identifying the PSAP.

The Caller Location Information (CLI) provided is normally integrated into emergency dispatch center’s computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) system. Early CAD systems provided text display of the caller’s address, call history and available emergency response resources. In 1994, working in cooperation with the emergency response agencies of Covington, KY, 911 Mapping Systems, Inc.[1] founded in 1992 by Robert Graham Thomas Jr.,[2] implemented the first real-time on-screen E911 street map display to highlight the caller’s position, nearest available emergency responders and other relevant information such as fire hydrants, hazardous materials and/or other data maintained by the city. Shortly thereafter, integrated mapping became a standard and integral part of all CAD systems and continues to evolve alongside 911 response technology. For Wireline E911, the location is an address. For Wireless E911, the location is a coordinate. Not all PSAPs have the Wireless and Wireline systems integrated.

Interconnection details

Each telephone company (local exchange carrier, or LEC) has at least two redundant DS0-level (that is, 64 kbit/s, or voice quality) trunks connecting each host office telephone switch to each call center. These trunks are either directly connected to the center or they are connected to a telephone company central switch that intelligently distributes calls to the PSAPs. These special switches are often known as 911 Selective Routers. Their use is becoming increasingly more common as it simplifies the interconnection between newer ISUP/SS7-based host office switches and the many older PSAP systems.

If the PSAP receives calls from the telephone company on older analog trunks, they are usually Pulse driven circuits. These circuits are similar to traditional telephone lines, but are formatted to pass the calling party’s number (Automatic Number Identification, ANI). (For historical reasons, the PSAP will refer to these as CAMA circuits even though Centralized Automatic Message Accounting (CAMA) is actually a reference to the call log.)

If the PSAP receives calls on older-style digital trunks, they are specially formatted Multi-Frequency (MF) trunks that pass the calling party’s number (ANI) only. Some of the upgraded PSAPs can receive calls on ISUP trunks controlled by the SS7 protocol. In that case, the calling party’s number (ANI) is already present in the SS7 setup message. The Charge Number Parameter contains the ANI.

Wireline enhanced 911

When a call is placed to 911, the source of the call is recorded (allowed by special privacy legislation). The source number is used to look up the ESN (phone number) of the appropriate call center (PSAP) in a database and connect the call.

Address information is not passed along by the public phone network; only the calling party’s phone number is passed. The PSAP uses the calling party number to look up the address in the Automatic Location Identification (ALI) database. The ALI database is secured and separate from the public phone network by design. It is generally maintained by the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) under contract by the PSAP. Each ILEC has their own standards for the formatting of the database.

Most ALI databases have a companion database known as the MSAG, Master Street Address Guide. The MSAG describes the exact spelling of streets, street number ranges, and other address elements. When a new account is created, the address is looked up in the Master Street Address Guide to find the appropriate Emergency Service Number that 911 calls from that phone number should be routed to. Competitive local exchange carriers (CLEC) and other competing wireline carriers negotiate for access to the ALI database in their respective Interconnect Agreement with the ILEC. They populate the database using the ILEC MSAG as a guide.

ALI Failure is when the phone number is not passed or that the phone number is not in the ALI database. If this happens, the call is passed to the trunk group’s default ESN, which is a PSAP designated for this function. The PSAP operator must then ask the incoming call for their location and redirect them to the correct PSAP. The legal penalty in most states for ALI database lookup failure is limited to a requirement that the telephone company fix the database entry.

Wireless enhanced 911

The billing address associated with a cell phone is not necessarily the location to which emergency responders should be sent, since the device is portable. This means that locating the caller is more complicated, and there is a different set of legal requirements.


The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has several requirements applicable to wireless or mobile telephones:[3]

Location information is not only transmitted to the call center for the purpose of sending emergency services to the scene of the incident, it is used by the wireless network operator to determine to which PSAP to route the call.


A second phase of Enhanced 911 service is to allow a wireless or mobile telephone to be located.

To locate a mobile telephone geographically, there are two general approaches. One is to use some form of radiolocation from the cellular network; the other is to use a Global Positioning System receiver built into the phone itself.

Radiolocation in cellular telephony uses base stations. Most often, this is done through triangulation between radio towers. The location of the caller or handset can be determined several ways:

The first two depend on a line of sight, which can be difficult or impossible in mountainous terrain or around skyscrapers. Location signatures actually work better in these conditions however. TDMA and GSM networks such as T-Mobile 2G use TDOA.[7] AT&T Mobility initially advocated TDOA, but changed to embedded GPS in 2006 for every GSM or UMTS voice-capable device due to improved accuracy.

CDMA networks tend to use handset-based radiolocation technologies, which are technically more similar to radionavigation. GPS is one of those technologies. Alltel, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile 3G, and Sprint PCS use Assisted GPS.[7]

Hybrid solutions, needing both the handset and the network include:

Mobile phone users may also have a selection to permit location information to be sent to non-emergency phone numbers or data networks, so that it can help people who are simply lost or want other location-based services. By default, this selection is usually turned off, to protect privacy.

The 3GPP specified protocol for handset geolocation in GSM networks is called Radio Resource Location Protocol.

VoIP enhanced 911

As Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology matured, service providers began to interconnect VoIP with the public telephone network and marketed the VoIP service as a cheap replacement phone service. However, E911 regulations and legal penalties have severely hampered the more widespread adoption of VoIP: VoIP is much more flexible than land line phone service and there is no easy way to verify the physical location of a caller on a nomadic VoIP network at any given time (especially in the case of wireless networks), and so many providers offered services which specifically excluded 911 service so as to avoid the severe E-911 non-compliance penalties. VoIP services tried to improvise, such as routing 911 calls to the administrative phone number of the Public Safety Answering Point, adding on software to track phone locations, etc.[citation needed]

The Location Information Server is a service that is provided by an access network provider to provide location information to users of the network. To do this, it uses knowledge of network topology and a range of location determination techniques to locate devices that are attached to the network. The precise methods that are used to determine location are dependent on the type of access network and the information that can be obtained from the device.

Initially, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a hands off approach to VoIP in order to let the service mature and also to facilitate competition in the telephony market.[8] In time, this problem reached the headlines of newspapers as individuals were unable to place emergency calls with their VoIP phones. In March 2005, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit against Vonage for deceptive marketing practices by not making it clear that VoIP users had to actually sign up for E911 service.[9]

When FCC Chair Kevin Martin replaced FCC Chair Michael Powell, he immediately changed FCC’s hand’s off policy and moved to impose 911 obligations on VoIP service providers.[10] In 2005, Chair Martin moved FCC to require "interconnected VoIP services" to begin to provide 911 service and provide notice to their consumers concerning the 911 limitations. The FCC announced that customers must respond to the E911 VoIP warning and those who do not have their service cut off on August 30, 2005. The FCC extended the deadline to September 28, 2005.[11] The E911 hookup may be directly with the Wireline E911 Network, indirectly through a third party such as a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC), or by any other technical means. The FCC explained that they felt compelled to issue this mandate because of the public safety concerns.[12] Telco industry entrepreneur and blogger Jeff Pulver opined that this was an attempt by FCC Chair Martin to hinder telephony competition to AT&T.[13]

The 911 obligations were imposed only on "interconnected VoIP." The FCC defined "interconnected VoIP" as VoIP over broadband that interconnects with the public switch telephone network.[14] VoIP that is not interconnected, such as two individuals talking to each other over the Internet while playing computer games, does not fall under the obligation.

There are, however, complicated technological problems with implementing E911 with VoIP, which providers are attempting to solve. VoIP phones are on the Internet and nomadic; the geolocation of the individual placing the 911 call can be very difficult to determine. Service providers are attempting to phase in solutions through the I1, I2, and I3 phases. During I1, the 911 call was routed to the 911 administrative telephone lines without location information. During I2, VoIP services would participate in the public telephone networks location database for the location that is identified with that telephone number. During the I3 solution, VoIP service providers would have a true IP interconnection with Public Safety Answering Points and would be able to provide even more valuable information than the legacy 911 system. Where VoIP phones are mobile, geolocation has additional problems; VoIP service providers are seeking access to mobile phone location databases.[15][16][17] These solutions are being developed through the cooperation of the Voice on the Network Coalition and the National Emergency Number Association. Vonage has encouraged its customers to register the locations from which their 911 calls could be dialed with the local public safety answering point.[18] The FCC had continued to add more requirements and mandate a more sophisticated 911 function.[19]

VoIP services have noted an obstacle to full 911 interconnection; in order to interconnect with the Public Safety Answering Point, the VoIP service providers must interconnect with the 911 telephone trunk, which is owned and controlled by their competitors, the traditional fixed-line telephone carriers.[11] This resulted in the New and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act of 2008 which granted interconnection rights to interconnected VoIP services.[20]

There are also other proposed features that are intended to allow telephone callers from large corporate telephone networks, on both traditional and VoIP PBXs, to be located down to the specific office on a particular floor of a building.

VoIP & 911 issues are also relevant to Telecom Relay Services utilized by individuals with disabilities.

911 address

A 911 address contains a uniform number, the street name, direction (if any) and the city. The address number is assigned usually by the grid of the existing community. Each county usually has their own guidelines on how the addressing is done, but for the most part National Emergency Number Association (NENA) guidelines are followed.[citation needed] These guidelines are expressed by the Master Street Address Guide (MSAG). The actual 911 addresses and associated phone numbers are put into the ALI database.

Address signage standards

In addition to upgrading communications systems, many counties and communities in the U.S. have implemented ordinances requiring property owners to standardize the display of house numbers on buildings and along streets and roadways, to allow emergency personnel to more easily locate a given address day or night, even in poor weather. These generally consist of reflective characters, at least 3 to 6 inches high, on a contrasting reflective background. It is necessary for the address number to be affixed to the building or to a separate structure such as a post, wall or fence, provided that such separate structure is located in front of the building and on the building’s side of the street. Compliant signage systems are often advertised as being "E911 compliant".[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "911 Mapping Systems, Inc". 911mapping.com. http://www.911mapping.com/web/index.html. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Robert Thomas Jr., 911 Mapping CEO". Enquirer.com. 2002-12-25. http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2002/12/25/loc_otherobit25.html. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  3. ^ "Wireless 911 Services". Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau. FCC.gov. http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/wireless911srvc.html. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  4. ^ "Sprint, Alltel, USC fined for missed e911 deadline". FierceWireless. 2007-08-31. http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/sprint-alltel-usc-fined-missed-e911-deadline/2007-08-31. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  5. ^ "How accurate E911?". GPS World. Questex Media Group, Inc.. November 2007. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BPW/is_11_18/ai_n27458948/?tag=content;col1. Retrieved 2010-11-17. Network-based technology:100 meters for 67% of calls and 300 meters for 95% of calls. Handset-based technologies: 50 meters for 67% of calls and 150 meters for 95% of calls.
  6. ^ "Carriers push E-911 lawsuit in court despite winning deadline extension". RCR Wireless News. 2008-03-14. http://www.rcrwireless.com/article/20080314/SUB/431138710/carriers-push-e-911-lawsuit-in-court-despite-winning-deadline. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  7. ^ a b "FCC Report to Congress on the Deployment of E-911 Phase II Services by Tier III Service Providers" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. April 1, 2005. http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-257964A1.pdf. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  8. ^ "In the Matter of Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, Report to Congress, Docket 96-45". FCC. April 10, 1998. p. 42. http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Common_Carrier/Reports/fcc98067.pdf.
  9. ^ OAG.state.tx.us (2005-03-22). "Attorney General Abbott Takes Legal Action To Protect Internet Phone Customers". Press release. http://www.oag.state.tx.us/oagnews/release.php?id=850. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  10. ^ "Why Does the FCC Treat VoIP as the Ugly Duckling, Techdirt July 25, 2006". Techdirt.com. 2006-07-25. http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060725/1216203.shtml. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  11. ^ a b Gross, Grant (August 26, 2005). "FCC extends VoIP E911 deadline". PCWorld.com. http://www.pcworld.com/resource/article/0,aid,122322,pg,1,RSS,RSS,00.asp. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  12. ^ "IP-Enabled Services : E911 Requirements for IP-Enabled Service Providers" (PDF). FCC. May 19, 2005. http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-05-116A1.pdf. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  13. ^ Pulver, Jeff (July 24, 2006). "A Little Rant on the Ongoing Mis-application of CALEA and E911 and Universal Service on Voice Applications and Some Ironic, Illogical Results". Jeff Pulver Blog. http://pulverblog.pulver.com/archives/005082.html. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  14. ^ Cannon, Robert. "VoIP Definition :: FCC :: Interconnected VoIP :: CFR". Cybertelecom.org. http://www.cybertelecom.org/voip/definition.htm#int. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  15. ^ Currier, Bob (2010-06-21). "Intrado Evolution of the PSAP Experience – Slide 0" (PDF). http://www.intrado.com/assets/documents/Annual_2004_NENA_Conf_VoIPforPSAP_final.pdf. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  16. ^ Meer, Stephen; Nelson, Michael (May 2004). "Intrado Next Generation Needs" (PDF). http://www.intrado.com/assets/documents/PSAP%20Issues%20Whitepaper.pdf. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  17. ^ "Intrado Emergency Calling Services" (PDF). http://www.intrado.com/assets/documents/VoIP%20with%20background.pdf. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  18. ^ Nuechterlein, Jonathan E.; Weiser, Philip J. (2005). Digital Crossroads: American Telecommunications Policy in the Internet Age. p. 222. http://books.google.com/books?id=tZPgvnoVNMkC&pg=PA222#v=onepage&q&f=false.
  19. ^ "Answering the Call for 911 Emergency Services in an Internet World". Voice on the Net Coalition. January 2005. p. 4. Archived from the original on 2005-01-23. http://web.archive.org/web/20050123043804/http://www.nena9-1-1.org/VoIP_IP/VONCoalition9-1-1whitepaper0105.pdf.
  20. ^ "VoIP :: 911 :: Regulation". Cybertelecom.org. http://www.cybertelecom.org/voip/911reg.htm. Information on NET Act and FCC proceeding implementing legislation.

External links


Courtesy of Wikipedia!

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