Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mobile Apps and 9-1-1

While apps hold great promise for improving public safety and emergency response, much work remains to ensure apps intended to replace or augment a voice call to 9-1-1 are as secure and reliable as the public has come to expect from our nation's 9-1-1 system. These issues are being addressed, but placing a voice call to 9-1-1 is still the best way to get help for the foreseeable future.

  • The 9-1-1 network is trusted, reliable, and secure. It's the product of years of careful design to ensure callers are connected with the appropriate 9-1-1 center (known as "public safety answering point" or "PSAP").
  • It's separate from the networks that handle ordinary calls and other smart phone communications (such as texts, apps, social media, internet access, etc.)
  • When you dial 9-1-1, your service provider hands off your emergency call to this separate network, which is designed to handle communications involving the safety of life and property.
  • It's closely regulated and monitored at the federal, state, and local levels, with rules that vary by jurisdiction.
  • The most reliable way to request emergency services is through a voice call to 9-1-1. At present, the 9-1-1 network is not capable of handling more than voice calls, or in some cases, basic text messages.
  • The 9-1-1 network is gradually transitioning to advanced, IP-based networks. These Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) networks will enable the use of text, video, and other data over reliable 9-1-1 networks.
  • Mobile apps are being developed that attempt to provide advanced capabilities before NG9-1-1 arrives, BUT: apps use the public internet, as opposed to the safe and reliable 9-1-1 network.
  • Many 9-1-1 centers do not have internet access. Those that do, closely control it in the interest of security.
  • Standards must be completed to ensure that these apps work nationwide and are effective for emergency response.
  • These apps often make dangerously misleading claims that they can replace a voice call to 9-1-1.
The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) is the world's largest association of public safety communications professionals. APCO recognizes that apps hold great potential and has taken steps to address several of these issues and remains committed to ensuring all public safety apps, not just those that contact 9-1-1 centers, are as effective as possible.

Bottom line? Continue making voice calls.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

9-1-1 Dispatching Technology: 2000 vs. 2015

Technology changes a lot in just a few years.
Here's what a typical work station looked like for a dispatcher back in the year 2000:

This is what a typical workstation looks like in 2015:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wandering Person Program

Do you have a member of your family that suffers from an illness or condition that can make them prone to wandering off and becoming disoriented?

The Midcoast Regional Child Development Services, in conjunction with the Help Autism Now Services (HANS), is working with law enforcement agencies within Knox County to promote the wandering program. Knox County agencies are developing a database to serve individuals with Alzheimer's, Autism, and other conditions that make them prone to wander. The program collects information such as physical description and photos of the individual to allow officers to more easily identify the lost person. Other important information includes potential triggers and ways to calm the individual down. All of this information saves valuable time when a missing report comes in.

Any resident of Knox County can contact a law enforcement agency in Knox County (Rockland Police Department, Thomaston Police Department, Rockport Police Department, Camden Police Department, and Knox County Sheriff's Office) or submit the information directly to the Knox Regional Communications Center in Rockland.

If you would like to have someone in your family entered into this database, please fill out the form at this link and either email it with recent photos of the person to, or mail the form with copies of photos to: Knox Regional Communications Center, 301 Park Street, Rockland, ME 04841.

Please contact KRCC Director Linwood Lothrop at or at 594-0429 x118 if you have any questions.

All information is kept confidential.


What is swatting?

Swatting is when a person reports a false emergency to public safety for the intent of getting a ("SWAT team") response to a location where no actual emergency exists. The calling party will often report that they are involved or nearby as a witness to a home invasion, active shooter, or hostage situation, attempting to muster the largest response possible. Often, the law enforcement response is substantial, with police confronting the unsuspecting victims at gunpoint, only to learn that there is no real emergency.

Those who attempt to cause a swatting incident use several techniques, including caller ID spoofing, TTY relay technologies, and social engineering. Communications Centers/PSAP's receiving these calls must proceed as though the call were real in case it actually is. These actors will often have a reasonable-sounding scenario, and will sometimes include personal information. These actors have various reasons for doing this. Sometimes they do it for "fun" and view it as a prank, while other times it is used as retaliation against a real or perceived issue with the victim. Several public figures and celebrities have been the victims of swatting recently.

If you, as a homeowner, is the target of a swatting incident, you should:
  • Remain calm - There will be a large officer presence outside your home.
  • Follow the instructions given to you - In order to provide a smooth resolution to the incident, listen carefully and follow the instructions given to you by the officers.
  • Do not run towards the officers - Keep hands visible and remain still until given instructions on what to do.
  • Advise officer in charge of all people currently in the residence - Let officers know of all persons in the residence and their location (basement, second floor, etc.)

REMEMBER - A swatting investigation is a response to a major crime in progress. Officers must handle the response as a real situation until they are able to make contact with the residents and verify that the call is false.

Caller ID Spoofing

Caller ID allows you to identify a caller before you answer your phone. A caller's number and/or name are displayed. Some phone and cable companies even offer widgets that allow you to see caller ID displayed on your TV or computer screen. Unfortunately, this service is susceptible to fraud. Using a practice called "caller ID spoofing", callers can deliberately falsify the telephone number and/or name displayed in order to disguise their true identity.

FCC rules on Caller ID Spoofing
Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, FCC rules:
  • Prohibit any person or entity from transmitting misleading for inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.
  • Subject violators to a penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation of the rules.
  • Exempt authorized activities of law enforcement agencies in situations where courts have authorized caller ID manipulation to occur.

What are the rules regarding Caller ID for telemarketers?
FCC rules specifically require that a telemarketer must:
  • Transmit or display its telephone number or the telephone number of the seller on whose behalf the telemarketer is calling, and, if possible, its name or the name and telephone number of the company for which it is selling products or services.
  • Display a telephone number that you can call during regular business hours to ask to no longer be called. This rule applies even to companies that already have an established business relationship with you.

What other tips can the FCC give consumers?
  • Don't give out personal information in response to an incoming call. Identity thieves are clever - they often pose as representatives of banks, credit card companies, creditors, or government agencies to get people to reveal their account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords, and other identifying information.
  • If you get an inquiry from a company or government agency seeking personal information, don't provide it. Instead, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company's or government agency's website, to find out if the entity that supposedly called you actually needs the requested information from you.

What are the rules for blocking and unblocking your telephone number?
The FCC's Caller ID rules protect the privacy of the person calling by requiring telephone companies to make available free, simple and uniform per-line blocking and unblocking procedures. These rules give you the choice of delivering or blocking your telephone number for any interstate (between states) calls that you make. (The FCC does not regulate blocking and unblocking of in-state calls.)

What can I do if I suspect a violation of Caller ID rules?
If you have caller ID and receive a call from the telemarketer without the required caller ID information, if you suspect that Caller ID has been falsified, or if you think the rules for protecting the privacy of your telephone number have been violated, you can file a complaint with the FCC.

How do I file a complaint with the FCC?
You have multiple options to choose from to file a complaint with the FCC.
  • File a complaint at this link: FCC Complaint Form
  • Call 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)
  • By mail:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Have you ever wonderered what a 9-1-1 Center looks like?

Here's an inside (and outside!) view of the Knox Regional Communications Center in Rockland, Maine

Multiline Telephone Systems (MLTS):
The Overlooked Location Accuracy Problem

There is a great deal of talk about wireless location accuracy these days. Many people have died or been severely impacted because 9-1-1 systems were not able to provide an accurate location of a cell phone caller who was not able to verbalize their location.

Location accuracy is important, especially when an average of 70% of calls to 9-1-1 come from wireless phones. In Knox County for example, 828 of 1,154 9-1-1 calls were wireless in the month of June, which is 71% of all calls.

However, since the inception of E9-1-1, and long before cell phones were the focus, there has been another problem that has never been adequately addressed – multiline telephone systems (MLTS), or private branch exchange (PBX) systems.

Access to 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP’s) and the limited location information these systems provide once connected are both long-standing concerns. Correcting these deficiencies should receive the same focus and energy as the wireless location problem.

Government and public safety agencies throughout the country have gone to great lengths to ensure consumers have 9-1-1 service available to them through traditional landline, wireless and VOIP services. However, every day millions of Americans, primarily at their place of employment, utilize MLTS that do not offer effective 9-1-1 service.

Most MLTS/PBX systems enable the digits 9-1-1 to be dialed and routed to a PSAP. However, the vast majority of these systems do not provide location information with the 9-1-1 call to enable emergency responders to know the actual location of the emergency within a large facility. As an example, a call from the 5th floor of a large hotel might only provide the street address of the building and not the floor or the room. Emergency personnel would have no way to know where in the building the caller was. If the caller is unable to provide his/her location and no one else is available to provide assistance, such a lack of information can prove fatal.

Numerous service providers currently offer technical solutions to the MLTS. Sixteen states have enacted statutes and regulations. In Maine, Title 25 § 2934 deals with Multiline Telephone Systems. In general, business systems responsible for operating a MLTS shall ensure that such a system is connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network in a manner that ensures dialing 9-1-1 will result in the display of the ANI (calling number) and ALI (location) at the appropriate PSAP.

MLTS Problems

There are two primary issues involving MLTS systems:

First, is the actual ability to reach 9-1-1 from a MLTS system. Most PBX’s use an access code to allow system extensions to dial outside the system into the public switched telephone network (PSTN). PBX systems are used in facilities such as public safety complexes and hotels. When a caller picks up the phone to make an outside call, they normally have to dial “9” or some other digit to get an outside dial tone. To reach emergency services, they must dial 9-9-1-1, for example. Many times in an emergency the caller never remembers to dial a”9” to access an outside line and the call never goes through. Most PBX systems today provide, or can be modified to provide the ability to allow 9-1-1 to automatically pass through the PBX system to a PSAP. Businesses should also have notices posted on the telephone explaining the need to dial “9” plus 9-1-1 for systems that cannot be modified to automatically pass these calls through.

The second problem is more complicated, but given improvements in telephone equipment in recent years, it is not as expensive to correct as it once was. A MLTS typically has a central switch to which a number of extensions are attached. Sometimes they are all in the same building, but in many cases, multiple buildings are involved. A hotel is an example of a system contained within one building, while a school system or a college campus are examples of systems where multiple buildings are served by the one switch.

In a hotel, if someone dials 9-1-1 and the hotel has already taken the necessary steps to allow direct dialing of 9-1-1, the call rings at the PSAP showing the main address of the hotel but does not provide the room number where the call originated. If the caller is not able to vocalize this information, the dispatcher does not know where to send the help. In the school system example, the problem is much larger. A call to 9-1-1 from any of the buildings shows the main address where the system switch is located, not the correct building where the call originated from. Even if the correct building can be identified, the system still does not show the specific location within the building. Having this problem fixed is essential to allowing the public safety community to provide the best service possible. If the switch itself is not capable of allowing the delivery of specific location information of the calling device to the PSAP, the system owner/operator is required to install adjunct equipment that will allow for that provision under Title 25 § 2934. Further, the database for phone location information should be required to be updated in a timely manner whenever a change to the phone system is made.

*Note: When a business switches from a PBX system to a more modern VOIP system, the requirements are still there to ensure that every telephone exchange assigned to the system is properly identified with the physical address, telephone number and location within the facility. If there is no information programmed, the 9-1-1 system does not know the correct PSAP to send the call to. These calls are then defaulted to the Department of Public Safety in Augusta for processing. This delays emergency response because the dispatcher will have to re-route the call to the proper PSAP and there is always the risk of the call being “dropped” or disconnected.

Business owners should consider this: Do the first responders know where the call is coming from in your system? In large office buildings or campuses with multiple buildings, it is not enough for first responders to show up at the front door. Conveying accurate location information to emergency personnel is critical.

If someone calls 9-1-1 from your building, how long it could take EMT’s to find the caller if he/she was unable to vocalize his/her location?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Full-Time Dispatcher needed!

The Knox Regional Communications Center (KRCC) is currently looking for eager, dedicated individuals interested in a career in emergency communications. Dispatchers handle requests for all law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services received via 9-1-1, telephone, intercom, and radio. The dispatcher also documents calls using computer software systems and established protocols. Dispatchers frequently interact with people who are agitated and under stress, and must have the ability to remain calm.
Applicants must be high school graduates or equivalent, be able to type at least 40 wpm, have excellent communication skills, and have no criminal record.  No prior experience is required, and the KRCC is willing to train a qualified candidate who is interested in emergency communications as a career.

The County provides an excellent benefits package to full-time employees including health insurance (100% paid for the employee, and 75% for family coverage), paid vacation and sick leave, retirement plan, and other voluntary benefits.

Interested applicants may apply electronically on, or email a cover letter and resume to Application forms and job descriptions are also available at the County Administrator’s office, located on the ground floor of the Knox County Courthouse, 62 Union St. in Rockland, and on the County’s website: Any relevant certifications or training certificates should be submitted with your application. The County reserves the right to reject any and all applications and to select the most qualified applicant(s).

An Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/H