As Multiline Telephone Systems (MLTS) users work to meet Enhanced 911 specifications enforced as of Dec. 31, 2019, they are looking for a collaboration integration to meet compliance regulations.
Essentially, the Enhanced 911 (E911) guidelines are meant to ensure the public safety access point (PSAP) – such as an emergency dispatch center – can determine an accurate location for incoming calls.
(If you want more detail about E911 compliance, check out our article, “Enhanced 911 Compliance: What Businesses Need to Know Before the End of 2019.”)
For the last several months, collaboration engineers here at The KR Group have been helping companies using Cisco Unified Communication Manager (Unified CM or CUCM) configure their Cisco phone systems to be compliant with the new guidelines.
With these new requirements, Emergency Responder has become a daily conversation piece for our IT engineers. Likewise, it’s become an important integration of Cisco Unified CM for many customers.
Before we explain why Cisco Emergency Responder is important to becoming E911 compliant, though, let’s go over what it is.
Understanding Cisco Emergency Responder
Cisco Emergency Responder is a Cisco integration product for Unified CM. IT is part of the collaboration suite available for Cisco Business Edition 6000 (BE6K) and 7000 (BE7K) users.
Emergency Responder’s goal is to track phones on your network and relay their accurate locations inside your building. This information is transmitted to dispatchers should someone in your network need to call 911.
While this might sound complex and time-consuming, Emergency Responder makes the integration easy.
It’s dynamic, meaning you won’t have to manually define every desk phone and its location – except in some cases with non-Cisco phones. And, if it’s configured correctly with your switches, you won’t have to reconfigure Emergency Responder if your users move desks.
Additionally, since it is integrated with Cisco Unified CM, you won’t have to worry about a separate username and password.
Designated Emergency Responder users, compliance officers, or anyone who requires access to the emergency call data can pull a report of the emergency call log using the Cisco Unified CM interface.
The Importance of Cisco Emergency Responder
Understanding the function of Cisco Emergency Responder has likely clued you into just how important this application is.
In the most basic sense, deploying Emergency Responder helps you meet E911 compliance requirements.
How does the application provide that compliance?
Capabilities of Emergency Responder include:
- Identifying the location of the caller
- Notifying designated internal users when emergency calls are made
- Enabling emergency dispatch to call back disconnected users
- Integrating with wireless IP phones and softphones
- Allowing easy IT administration access
1. Identifying the location of the caller
The basis of the E911 guidelines is requiring the origin of a caller to be relayed to dispatchers when users call 911.
This capability goes beyond a simple street address and provides information such as floor number or room number.
In a multi-floor building, a street address is not specific enough to direct emergency responders where they need to be in a timely fashion. The location information is a solution to decreasing response time and ensuring the response is directed to the correct location.
However, along with the need for an accurate location to be relayed to central dispatch comes the need for internal awareness of where emergency responders need to go.
2. Notifying designated users when emergency calls are made
Imagine you’re in a manufacturing plant with several production areas. When one of your employees dials 911, their location within your building is relayed to emergency responders.
However, when the emergency personnel arrives at your business, they might find the external door to the production area is kept locked. While it’s great that they know where to go, they’re only saving marginal time if they need to still go through the front desk and ask for directions inside your building.
This scenario can be avoided with Cisco Emergency Responder by allowing your front desk personnel and other designated users to be notified when your business calls 911.
While this isn’t an aspect of E911 compliance, internal awareness increases Cisco Emergency Responder’s effectiveness of a quick emergency response.
3. Enabling emergency dispatch to call back disconnected users
Another communication perk of Cisco Emergency Responder is it provides the dispatcher receiving a call with the number of the phone who made the call. Or, it will connect the dispatcher to a designated user who has been notified of the emergency call.
This way if the caller is disconnected from the 911 call, the dispatcher on the other end can reconnect to the person who made the call or knows the call was made.
For example, in a hotel, if a guest in a room calls 911 but is disconnected. Cisco Emergency Responder can be configured to provide the dispatcher to call back the room of the front desk who’s aware of the emergency call.
4. Integrating with wireless IP phones and softphones
The previous capabilities benefit the phones included with your Cisco collaboration package.
In an emergency, you can’t guarantee your employees will call from the desk phone, though. They very well might pull their cell phone out of their pocket and dial instead, and if they do that with the Cisco Jabber softphone app vs. their cell phone, it must work properly as well.
How can emergency responders accurately respond to emergencies in this situation?
While mobile phones don’t have to abide by the same E911 guidelines as business phones, Cisco Emergency Responder will help relay the same information to dispatchers if the caller uses the Cisco app on their smartphone.
If your Cisco wireless networks and switches are integrated and configured correctly, Emergency Responder will communicate with Unified CM to determine – and if needed, relay – which wireless access points mobile softphones are communicating with.
5. Allowing easy IT administration access
So far, we’ve discussed how Emergency Responder benefits users and dispatchers. However, Cisco Emergency Responder also has benefits for IT administrators.
Emergency Responder’s licensing integrates with the same licensing portal as Unified CM, so IT administrators don’t need to worry about taking too much extra time to configure the integration; it’s just another type of license.
In fact, it’s so closely integrated that your admin and designated users will use the same username and password should they need to pull records about 911 calls.
The admin also doesn’t need to worry about lengthy reconfigurations if departments move around the building. Emergency Responder includes a tracking database, and it’s automatically alerted of any moves within the building.
Do you need Cisco Emergency Responder?
If you’re a Cisco user in a building or suite with more than 7,000 square feet, you need Cisco Emergency Responder to meet E911 compliance guidelines.
Without it and by not meeting the rules and regulations, you could end up with up to a $5,000 fine if you call 911 without location information or a plan to put location information in place.
If you operate out of a building or suite with less than 7,000 square feet, meeting E911 compliance doesn’t require as many steps as larger office space areas.
If you find yourself in this category, it’s likely you can meet E911 compliance by working with your phone company to ensure the proper address and suite number are part of your record if you were to call 911. Cisco Emergency Responder won’t necessarily help you meet E911 compliance guidelines.
However, regardless of size, Cisco Emergency Responder offers:
- Emergency personnel the ability to know callers’ accurate locations
- Front desk or designated users the knowledge of who called 911
- Emergency dispatches a way to call back the user who dialed 911
- Location tracking for mobile emergency calls
- IT administration a hassle-free integration
If you’re interested in learning more about integrating Cisco Emergency Responder with your Unified CM network, reach out to us.