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911 Access

Can 911 find your remote workers?

Tricia McConnell Tricia McConnell
Tricia McConnell
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As mandatory work-from-home policies come into effect across the U.S., it’s a good time to revisit some of the implications of supporting 911 for work-at-home users as well as the limitations of VoIP and wireless emergency calling. We’ve compiled some general guidelines and best practices for how to manage 911 location and emergency calling policies in the near term. 

What happens when a 911 call is made from a traditional desk phone that has been moved from the office to a home or remote location? 

Unfortunately, for the purposes of 911, this probably won’t work. Traditional desk phones typically use certain functions in the on-premise or cloud-based PBX/soft-switch to which it is connected. Usually, these systems are designed so that a desk phone can be unplugged and moved to another location in a building. 

If the user takes the device home and connects through the corporate VPN, however, the PBX/soft switch most likely will not recognize that the phone has been moved to an entirely different location. As a result, any 911 call made from the device at home will probably route to the public safety answering point (PSAP) that serves the office location, not the employee’s home. The call may have to be transferred to the correct PSAP (assuming it’s a nearby jurisdiction) and the user’s home location would not be provided to public safety. 

Should I update remote workers’ provisioned 911 location?

Yes, you probably should. Accurate end user location information is critical to effective emergency response. If a user with a softphone application who usually works from an assigned location within an office is expected to be working remotely, we recommend an update to the provisioned 911 location. Ideally, options that prompt users to update their current address at the time of log in can be leveraged to simplify this process. 

We also recommend enabling emergency notifications as these alert the enterprise when a 911 call is placed, providing the user and location information to designated personnel. Notifications are also now a regulatory requirement for Kari’s Law

Dynamic 911 location capabilities, such as those found natively in Microsoft Teams, allow organizations to provision all potential locations within the enterprise, which can include a user’s home address or other frequently-visited remote location. 

When the worker is at their remote location and places a 911 through Teams, the call will route to the appropriate PSAP for the callers location, with the address displaying to the emergency call taker. If the worker comes into the office and connects to the company’s internal network, the location used to route the call is based on one inside the enterprise, such as a conference room or suite. Support for dynamic 911 location is becoming increasingly common in today’s modern enterprise. 

Should workers use their cell phone if they need to call 911 while working from home?

Generally speaking, we expect end users to use the most familiar option and one that provides the most direct access to emergency services. The truth is, when we’re in distress, we reach for the nearest device, which is usually our cell phone. However, be aware that if an employee makes a 911 call from the native dialer on their smartphone, this call is made without any notification within the enterprise. In addition, the specific address of the home is unlikely to be provided to public safety and any apartment number or unit number is certainly not provided from the mobile device.

With the upcoming deadlines for RAY BAUM’s Act and with some anticipating that the prevalence of remote work will only continue to grow from this moment, it’s a good time to establish formal processes for capturing location for work-at-home users, as well as following best practices for testing 911 location. 

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