Consider how calling 911 works. When you dial that code, you’re connected with a Public Safety Answering Point—this is the 24/7 contact center, usually in your immediate geographical area that fields emergency calls, gathers your information, and dispatches the proper authorities. Phone services for homes or office buildings are usually associated with a service address, so this location can be automatically transmitted to an emergency response team.
Seems pretty straightforward, but the previously stated 911 protocol is antithetical to how schools are built and configured—with multiple buildings and students spread out simultaneously in different locations.
In the event of an emergency at a school, the caller would have to relay a potentially confusing set of instructions for emergency responders to navigate multiple hallways, floors, and buildings. What’s more, since phone services are often associated with the device’s billing address, the dispatcher wouldn’t be able to automatically send personnel to the site of the actual emergency.
Chaos is the last thing you need in an emergency situation, especially at a school—but that’s precisely what could occur with traditional 911 dialing.
Learn about the best VoIP systems for schools with CCi Voice!
With the almost universal utilization of cell phones and VoIP, which operate with wi-fi, cellular or Ethernet technologies, it cannot be assumed that any address associated with the caller is the actual location of the emergency. Meanwhile, for the sake of safety, the ability to triangulate the exact location of an emergency of a school’s sprawling grounds must be simplified.
Enhanced 911—or E911—helps resolve these issues by allowing additional information to be associated with the source of the emergency call, while also letting a user update their real-time location as needed. E911 grants schools the ability to more accurately associate each phone number with a specific building on the institution's grounds, along with the floor and room number. This feature allows personnel to respond faster to the actual location of the emergency.
A VoIP-enabled emergency notification system increases the ability for schools to manage potential threats by empowering officials to alert authorities in the event of a dangerous situation. Through the creative connectivity of VoIP, and with a very unique feature set that CCi Voice offers, when 911 is dialed at one of our schools, notifications can be sent to administration officials and other key people, alerting them to an emergency—while pinpointing precisely where on campus the 911 call originated. What’s more, we can also group-text a set of your top school administrators (head of school, deans, principals and other managers) to alert them to the 911 event details, plus allow group-chat between them. And we can even include a link they can click to LISTEN to the 911 call LIVE! What better way could a team of managers make a difference in the safety and security of their constituents than that?
Kari’s Law & Ray Baum Act
Sometimes this country’s 911 apparatus requires federal laws to swoop in and bolster the system in order to make dialing emergency services more efficient. Two laws in particular were written and passed with the expressed purpose to strengthen emergency calling—Kari’s Law and the Ray Baum Act, both of which CCi Voice fully integrates into your phone system.
Kari’s Law went into effect in February 2020 and requires multi-line phone systems—those used in offices, schools and hotels—to enable direct dialing to 911 centers. The 911 calls must go through without the input of additional trunk prefixes or digits that callers must dial to route the call correctly, such as dialing “9” before completing the number. This makes it easier for people in distress to dial 911 and get the necessary help.
The law also requires that phone systems with multiple lines notify facility personnel that an emergency call was made. This ensures that designated school staff members are made aware of the emergency situation.
Meanwhile, the Ray Baum Act requires telephone systems to provide critical data about the call’s “dispatchable location” to make the caller easier to find and decrease emergency services’ response times—this particularly comes in handy on a sprawling school campus with multiple buildings and possible call locations.
The FCC defines the “dispatchable location” as “the street address of the calling party, and additional information such as room number, floor number, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party.”
What Emergencies Are You Preparing For?
It’s crucial to understand and review the types of emergencies that Enhanced 911 can address. The short answer: Enhanced 911 prepares you for all emergencies, but let’s take a quick look at some specific situations.
Delays, closures, and early dismissals aren’t necessarily “emergencies,” however these scenarios can result from emergency situations. Icy roads in the winter, flash floods during rain storms, extreme weather like hurricanes—these can prompt an emergency call to school personnel so that they can organize the proper contingency plans.
Other less common school emergencies can include unfavorable conditions within the school itself, like a busted air conditioning system in the summertime or no heat in the winter.
Then there are those emergency situations that are immediately apparent and desperately critical. A fire can strike without warning and it goes without saying that when one occurs, time is of the essence. Enhanced 911 can alert first responders to the exact location of the blaze.
Similarly urgent are active-shooter emergencies. These events are terrifying enough to warrant an extensive and mandatory emergency plan be put into place. Unlike natural disasters, which typically are preceded by some type of warning, active-shooter scenarios occur without any warning whatsoever and, as such, a clear plan of emergency communication is essential.
As with a fire, Enhanced 911 can help support emergency responders in isolating an active-shooter caller’s location. Knowing the location of a caller is incredibly vital, especially when the caller is unable to talk if they are hiding or they simply don’t know their own whereabouts. With Enhanced 911, the dispatcher can identify the coordinates of the caller’s exact location.
Emergency Communications In Schools Are Essential
Emergency technology is all about reinforcing communications between schools and first responders, while keeping parents informed and ensuring the safety of students. Actually using this vital technology to thoroughly and expertly communicate emergency instructions requires research, planning, training, and proper implementation.
It’s a lot of work—but when you find the technology that’s the right fit for your school, you quickly learn that the value of emergency communication technology greatly outweighs any costs or legwork involved in setting up the system. And how nice if the tools you need are built-in, free, or a marginally extra cost to add, from a trusted partner (like Cumulus Communications)?
There are many different types of emergencies that can befall a school. The common thread in these scenarios is that all require the same efficient response. The proper emergency technology and a clearly defined plan of action makes all the difference.