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Enterprise Emergency Communications

Emergency calls and communication technology have a close connection to each other. However, the rapid technological change and its application in public networks and internal companies complicate routing emergency calls from companies to the most appropriate PSAP.

Enterprise Emergency Calling

The application and use of telephony as a means of communication in enterprises and businesses has a special connection to emergency services, as companies are particularly committed to the safety of employees, partners and guests on their premises.

The essence of fast and efficient emergency response is to receive the caller’s location, firstly to route the call to the most appropriate PSAP and, afterwards, to send the resources to the place of the incident.

Enterprise Emergency Communications today – The “Cloud” era

“Cloud” and “… as a Service” are the trends of the 2020s. In the cloud approach, not only technology and applications are operated as a service in an external data centre. Although this is often accompanied by an organisational realignment of the IT operations departments, companies become more of service users and thus hand over a large part of the operational competence to the cloud service providers.

Other services such as “storage as a service” or the outsourcing of one’s very own applications to the cloud have been ubiquitous topics since the general spread of full-fledged internet applications such as office packages in a browser window. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic, with its immediate demand for working from home,  made another phenomenon suitable for the masses: telephony from the cloud and conferencing from the cloud, jointly also known as “UCaaS – Unified Communications as a Service”.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies were forced to enable their employees to work from home transitionally and largely without preparation to maintain operations. Procedures and processes that previously interfaced with the employee on the desk at the company location had to be operated at short notice from living rooms and kitchens with all tools in use from a laptop or tablet. Meeting rooms could no longer be used and required a digital alternative.

This scenario boosted sales and innovation for cloud-based corporate telephony and conferencing service providers already in the starting blocks prior to the pandemic. But just as quickly, industry newcomers and “lateral entrants” appeared on the market, offering and marketing uncomplicated and immediately usable desk-enabled softphones from the cloud. On the one hand, the topic of emergency calls was not understood in many places, let alone considered. 

If it already became more difficult in the VoIP age for the emergency call to achieve an immediate correlation between the person making the emergency call and the responsible control centre, how does this scenario plays out when employees work from anywhere, retain their call number, but the associated location is now completely decoupled from the call number and its geographical location?

Situations now arise where not only an emergency call misrouting between two PSAPs has to be resolved: an employee of an internationally operating company with headquarters in Frankfurt usually works in the office in Liège in Belgium and lives in Luxembourg in Weiswampach close to the border to Belgium. The company decided to use a cloud telephony service that is available across countries because of its great flexibility. Now, this employee dials 112 at the moment of a severe accident right outside his window at his desk. What will happen? In response to an emergency call from a Belgian originating number that is routed out to the public telephone network in Frankfurt, how quickly can the emergency services be on the scene in Weiswampach in Luxembourg to take care of the person involved in the accident? 

Conclusion

Looking at the above technological development in the context of the constantly changing requirements of companies concerning modern communication and collaboration scenarios, it becomes evident that the support of realistic and contemporary scenarios of telephone emergency calls from company networks is needed.

1. Knowledge of the caller’s geo-position at the time of the emergency call should be established within the company’s communication platform. Appropriate user devices can be commercially available smartphones and tablets, but also PCs with the integration of clear location determination by the user.

2. In the event of an emergency call, the location data should be conveyed from the company’s communication solution to the public network, regardless of whether this solution is a classic telephone system installed on-premises, a centrally installed call server covering all locations or a pure software solution in the cloud. The technical data, interfaces and processes required for this are sufficiently defined in the standards for NG112 and functionally proven in interoperability tests.

3. Based on this location data, the public network could connect the emergency call to the PSAP responsible for the region of origin of the emergency call through the introduced NG112 technology. Suppose the point of origin of the emergency call is in another country than the point of transfer to the public network. In that case, the approaches defined in the NG112 standards also help to ensure that the emergency call is handled with the same speed and quality across borders as within a single country.

However, a holistic view and a focus on these emergency call scenarios from the perspective of all stakeholders involved in the definition, implementation and operational handling of the emergency call chain is missing to solve the overarching challenge. This includes legislators, regulatory authorities, network operators and PSAP operators, but also providers and vendors of platforms for enterprise communication as well as manufacturers of PSAP solutions.

Since private networks are currently excluded from a law-driven regulation and the current version of the European Electronic Communication Code (EECC) as a basis for emergency calling does not cover the necessary adoption for corporate communication solutions, it is recommended to establish a forum at EU level for this purpose, in which the cooperation of all parties involved is anchored and in parallel, an adequate adoption in a future version of the EECC can be promoted.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of EENA. Articles do not represent an endorsement by EENA of any organisation.

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