February 16, 2020 was the deadline to comply with Kari’s Law. Did you update your switch already, or is this all news to you?
Who was Kari?
Kari Hunt Dunn was tragically murdered in a hotel bathroom in December 2013, while her young daughter desperately and repeatedly tried to dial 911 from the hotel room phone – not realizing that she needed to dial 9 first for an outside line.
After his daughter’s death, Kari’s father Hank Hunt lobbied for a change in the law to prevent this kind of mistake in the future. There’s a fascinating conversation between Hank Hunt and Chairman Pai on the FCC podcast (along with a transcription).
Kari’s Law for Telcos
Ultimately Congress passed Kari’s Law in February 2018, which had two main provisions for service providers.
- Callers must be able to dial 911 as-is (without an initial 9) even from business/hotel lines. This includes PBXs and hosted PBXs (business groups).
- If someone within a business dials 911, there must be a notification to appropriate personnel (e.g. security or the front desk) that a 911 call was made, and from where. This allows local staff to respond themselves and to help emergency services access the premises.
(As an aside, it’s also worth noting that Ray Baum’s act (named after a legislator) added requirements for more specific location information. So business lines shouldn’t all provide the same address – instead the act requires information about buildings or floors or room numbers to help responders. Bandwidth has a useful article with more information on this requirement, which has a deadline of January 2021.)
Returning to Kari’s law, what does this mean for telcos providing a hosted PBX service?
Make sure 911 goes through
If you provide hosted PBX service to a business, there are basically three configurations that you may need to address:
- Assume 9 – if users don’t need to dial a special digit for an outside line then no action is required or this part of the act. Great.
- Dial 9 – one quick fix for businesses that require a 9 for an outside line is to update your switch translations (and digit maps) to recognize 11 as a valid call, and to route 11 calls to 911 (since 911 is viewed as 9 for an outside line followed by a call to 11).
- Other codes – if you serve businesses that require some other digit (e.g. 8) to access an outside line then the quick fix in #2 won’t work, so you’ll need to explicitly configure your business group to recognize 911 as a short code that should map to 9-911.
While the first requirement of the act can probably be handled with some configuration updates, the emergency notification requires a new feature on your switch. On the Metaswitch CFS and EAS, starting in V9.0.10 you can configure for each business group a particular line and/or email address to receive a notification as soon as an emergency call is placed from within the business group.
Metaswitch users can find detailed instructions for configuring both parts of the law on the Metaswitch Communities website:
- For 911 dialing, search for “Kari’s Law”.
- For emergency notifications, look for “Support for Emergency Call Notifications on Business Group Lines”.