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Emergency calls in the US: Solving new E911 requirements with Microsoft Teams

E911 requirements with Microsoft Teams

Jason is a Senior Director in LoopUp’s consulting team. He is a Microsoft Certified Master, and has advised customers on Microsoft’s unified communications solutions since 2010.

Most organizations are now aware of the new federal laws regarding emergency calling in the United States but struggle to understand what they need to do or how to interpret those laws. How the laws apply to your organization varies depending on several factors, two of which are particularly notable: the states in which you have physical bricks-and-mortar locations, and the size of those sites. Some states apply rules that are even more stringent than the federal laws, so organizations’ obligations could differ across geographies. The first step is to begin conversations with your legal counsel, to get advice on your organization’s specific legal requirements.

Key legal obligations – and how MS Teams can help meet them

Up until this year, there were no federal laws governing how organizations in the U.S. ensure that emergency callers were properly served when dialing 911 from their internal phone systems. States were able to make their own rules, with the result that some had none at all, while others have had strict rules in place for some time. That changed starting in February 2020, with two new federal laws called Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act, bringing in minimum standards for enhanced emergency calling (E911) across the country.  

These laws are designed to improve outcomes when 911 calls are made via the multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) such as the Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems typically found in office buildings or academic institutions.

The good news is that Microsoft Teams can be configured to help organizations meet many of the key legal requirements, including:

Legal requirementHow Teams solves it
Eliminate the need for dial-out access codes for 911 calls (e.g., an additional ‘9’ to get an external line). Teams will exempt all such prefixes by default for 911 calls when using either Calling Plans or Direct Routing.
Notify on-premises staff or other responsible individuals (e.g. security personnel or campus police) when a 911 call is made. As an emergency call is placed, responsible parties can be notified with a chat message, added into the call (on mute, with the ability to unmute) or contacted at an external PSTN number.
Providing a valid call back number to emergency services so that they can re-engage with the caller in the event the connection is lost.A direct dial number can be assigned for each Teams user. This number is displayed when dialing out to emergency services to allow a return call if required.
Provide the caller’s location so that they can be found if they become unresponsive and cannot speak.Teams leverages Location Information Services (LIS) to support emergency calling. LIS uses network identifiers such as subnets, switches and ports to pinpoint the location of the caller – down to the building, floor and desk area if required. The relevant physical address information is pre-programmed into Teams and is then automatically provided in the call to emergency services.

The importance of E911 Routing Services

Once Microsoft Teams is configured to meet E911 requirements, organizations must still purchase the Emergency Services Routing Proxy service (ESRP) through their existing SIP trunk provider or via a 3rd party such as Bandwidth.com or Intrado.  These solution providers will read the location information provided by the Teams configuration and automatically route the calls to the closest emergency services dispatch center for the location of the user.

Getting compliant

The new laws can seem complicated and they are set to become stricter in the years ahead, as additional requirements are introduced, but Teams can provide suitable solutions. At LoopUp, we can help navigate the options available on Teams, assisting with configuration and migration. To find out more, contact a LoopUp specialist.

Top tips

To help organizations as they undertake this new journey, we recommend:

  1. Involving legal counsel to get specific guidance for your organization
  2. Having your internal Microsoft Teams Voice team begin designing the E911 solution that best fits your legal requirements (or)
  3. Engaging with LoopUp to help design an E911 solution based on your legal requirements
  4. Don’t forget about ESRP
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