Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in August 2020 and has been revised to reflect industry updates.
Consider how calling 911 works. When you dial this emergency number, you’re connected with a Public Safety Answering Point—this is the 24/7 contact center, usually in your immediate geographical area fielding emergency calls, gathering your information, and dispatching 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 throughout 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 more about the unique features, protocols, and systems for effective 911 calling within schools.
What Is Enhanced (E911)?
With the almost universal utilization of cell phones and VoIP, which operate with Wi-Fi, cellular or Ethernet technologies, it cannot be assumed any address associated with the caller is the actual emergency location. Meanwhile, for the sake of safety—in coordination with the cellphone service provider connected to a mobile device—triangulating the exact emergency location within a school’s sprawling grounds must be simplified.
Enhanced 911 (E911) helps resolve these issues by enabling additional information to be associated with the source of the emergency call, while also letting a user update their real-time location as needed. Reliable E911 grants schools the ability to more accurately associate each phone number with a specific building on the learning institution's grounds, along with the floor and room number. This feature enables personnel to respond faster at the actual emergency location.
A VoIP-enabled emergency notification system increases the ability for schools to manage potential threats by empowering officials to alert authorities during a dangerous situation. Through the creative connectivity of VoIP, and with a very unique feature set that CCi Voice offers, when E911 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 E911 call originated.
Learn about the best VoIP systems for schools with CCi Voice!
Kari’s Law & Ray Baum Act
Sometimes this country’s E911 apparatus requires federal laws to swoop in and bolster the system 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 E911 centers. The E911 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 E911 and get the necessary help.
E911 systems must also ensure compliance with federal regulations. According to No Jitter, an online resource hub for enterprise communications professionals, “Enterprises that operate multi-line telephone systems, and have either installed new systems or completed a major upgrade since February of 2018, don’t really have an excuse for non-compliance that would likely hold up in court.” It also mentions how these inactions create an unsafe workplace per Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.
The law also requires that phone systems with multiple lines notify facility personnel that an emergency call was made. This ensures designated school staff members are aware of the emergency.
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.”
Types of Emergencies Requiring E911 Services
It’s crucial to understand and review the types of emergencies that reliable E911 services can address. The short answer: reliable E911 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 such as hurricanes—these can prompt an emergency call to school personnel so they can organize proper contingency plans.
Other less common school emergencies can include unfavorable conditions within the school itself, including a busted air conditioning system in the summertime or no heat in the winter.
Then there are immediately apparent and desperately critical emergency situations. A fire can strike without warning, and it goes without saying that when one occurs, time is of the essence. Reliable 911 can help to alert first responders toward a more accurate 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 alert, active-shooter scenarios occur without any warning whatsoever and, as such, a clear emergency communication plan is essential.
As with a fire, reliable E911 can help support emergency responders in isolating an active-shooter caller’s location. Knowing their position is incredibly vital, especially when they’re unable to talk while hiding—or they simply don’t know their own whereabouts. With reliable E911, the dispatcher can more closely identify the coordinates of the caller’s location.
Emergency Communications In Schools Are Essential
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.
Emergency technology is all about reinforcing communications between schools and first responders, while keeping parents informed and ensuring student safety. 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 involved costs or legwork in setting up the system. And it’s an added bonus when the tools you need are built-in, free, or come at a marginally extra cost, from a trusted partner (like CCi Voice). Even more enticing is you’ll receive all of these—and more—at a competitive price you can actually afford!
CCi Voice: Helping Schools Implement the Right Phone System
Once you’ve decided your school requires a new phone system or phone service, we can help you every step of the way. Whether you want guidance on the right type of service or simply want to know how many phones/users you might need. We are here for you, and are just a click or phone call away!
CCi Voice is completely transparent when it comes to pricing. View our pricing page to see how cost-effective we are, and all the features we include—at no extra charge—when compared to the competition!