E911 for Remote Employees
Remote working is no longer a luxury or a distant possibility – it’s the norm for enterprises around the world. The “trend” of telecommuting is not new; for example, the number of people telecommuting in the U.S. has increased 159 percent between 2005 and 2017. As more enterprises adopt remote work policies, this trend will maintain its upward climb.
As the global workforce continues to evolve with modern corporate cultures favoring flexibility and autonomy of their schedules, enterprise decision makers are turning to cloud-based communication tools that provide this flexibility and facilitate smooth interactions across a variety of locations. As decisions makers encourage their employees to work remotely, they will need to guarantee that the cloud-based communication services they provide grant the same safety and access to emergency services that on-premise solutions would provide employees if they were in the office.
Luckily, cloud-based communication services offer tools that help keep interactions, and ultimately employees safe and secure.
Regardless of the physical location, corporate telephones that are hosted in the cloud and connected to the company’s PBX run on a virtual extension cord and provide a connection to the employee and the company. In addition, the number associated with the phone is linked with the address of the office, not the employee’s home. This can easily lead to a disaster if employees dial 9-1-1 from the work-provided IP device or VoIP telephone in their home office and the proper accommodations have not been put in place to ensure correct 911 connectivity. To avoid this mishap, IT leaders must make sure that their remote workers using company-provided calling platforms, are able to receive the support they need in case of an emergency.
Enhanced 911 (E911) services are a cloud enabled feature to help safeguard remote employees and are vital to overall business health. E911 delivers accurate information about a caller’s location to the appropriate operators, dispatchers and first responders. The system provides accurate location data to the requisite Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), pinpointing the exact location of where a call is originating from. By using E911 systems, employers can better protect their remote workforce.
Regulations like Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’S Act require strict E911 compliance. Specifically, Section 506 of RAY BAUM’S ACT requires that a dispatchable location is sent with every 911 call to help first responders find people in need of help.
Protecting a distributed workforce may seem daunting, but enterprises can rely on the cloud to meet their needs and mitigate impacts from emergencies. For example, because corporate VoIP lines enable scalable and flexible interactions between employees and customers and can be quickly provisioned and fine-tuned to meet needs, it is easy for businesses – with their carriers – to provide the right emergency coverage.
Businesses looking to implement E911 services for their remote workforce should consider the following best practices.
Understand the Capabilities of Your Phone System Vendors
If a business is moving rapidly into the world of telework, they should ensure they have the right systems in place to connect the right PSAP with individual employees and know how they will provide the PSAP operator with accurate caller location information. Businesses can partner with their VoIP provider to find the best solutions to meet their needs. By taking the time to research VoIP providers, businesses will be better prepared should employees encounter emergencies while working from a distance.
Enable Softphone Applications
A softphone is an application that’s installed on an internet-connected device and used to make phone calls. Instead of investing in dedicated hardware, softphones enable calling on any device with internet connection, which is extremely valuable for a distributed workforce that might not have access to corporate phones. IT decision makers can work with their vendor to enable softphone apps and ensure smooth integration across their workforce. This interface affords employees access to the enterprise phone system and all the features that come with their VoIP solution. Further, softphones that are connected with the company’s phone system help secure and provide real-time location information that would help 911 operators find the employee in an emergency.
Create Emergency Notifications & Verify Device Usage
Kari’s Law requires that organizations have a way to notify appropriate personnel when 911 has been dialed. Alerts may go to security personnel, upper-level management and administrators, team members and/or trained medical personnel within an organization. Employers can partner with their carriers to determine if these alerts are already enabled or if they still need to be created. Although many employees use their personal cell phones when they work remotely, it is wise for businesses to verify device usage to make sure their employees are properly protected.
Update Employees’ Provisioned Locations
If an employee is using a corporate device or a softphone app, it is important to update their provisioned location if prompted at the time of log in. A provisioned location is the address tied to a phone number. This provisioned location determines which PSAP the caller will be routed to when dialing 9-1-1 and what address first respondents are sent to in an emergency. Businesses can update these locations to correspond with employees’ locations, whether they’re working from home, the office, or elsewhere.
Failure to ensure proper 911 call handling puts employees and organizations at risk. It’s important for businesses to create emergency plans and evaluate how their calling capabilities can support those plans.
Cloud-based communications offer robust and nimble services that allow enterprises to operate and thrive with increasingly distributed workforces. As we move full steam ahead toward the future of remote work, businesses will find success by embracing modern communications that provide E911 services that can easily pinpoint the exact location of their employees, no matter where they’re working.
By Al Castle
Al Castle is the vice president of product and engineering at Flowroute, now part of Intrado. He brings more than 15 years of operational experience in software engineering and B2B SaaS platform management.