Intuitive and reliable emergency calling is fundamental to the health and safety of any organization. For Microsoft, meeting e911 calling requirements for 172 buildings spread across the United States posed technical and geographic challenges. But thoughtful planning and inclusive participation was critical to enabling this functionality, on time and under budget.

 

As communications have expanded beyond fixed lines to modern calling solutions such as Microsoft Teams Phone that include VoIP, shared devices, and mobile capabilities, companies are required to support direct dialing of emergency services. It is also a company’s responsibility for ensuring “dispatchable location” information is conveyed with 911 calls. RAY BAUM’s Act and Kari’s Law represent legislation designed to ensure people have the ability to connect with emergency services through multi-line telephone systems that support many users across a single campus, building, or facility.

 

The obvious statements are worth saying. Microsoft has many employees. In many locations. All across the United States (not to mention, globally). Enabling compliance with these important safety policies required the planning and effort of many, but it was made possible through a thoughtful well-implemented plan.

 

Success starts with a good plan

In alignment with regulatory requirements, Microsoft Digital Employee Experience began by defining it’s per-building compliance approach. The approach was implemented by a team leveraging the current Teams emergency calling technical capabilities. The plan which faciliatated this effort was focused on ensuring e911 compliance across Microsoft’s footprint of 172 United States buildings. The goal included mapping roughly 140,000 network jack/wireless access points with physical locations so that a 911 call from Teams would be dynamically routed to the most appropriate emergency response center. Success would mean that any e911 call details include the civic address of the building as well as an accurate location of the user requiring emergency assistance.

 

Best practices of identifying stakeholders, defining roles and responsibilities, establishing milestones and metrics, and assigning budgets were also key to making sure everyone worked in sync. Microsoft’s approach included the following efforts:

Defined per-building compliance approach using a combination of wireless BSSID, ethernet switch, ethernet switch/port, subnet.
Secured budget and identified vendors to conduct wired/wireless civic address location mapping of the 172 in-scope buildings.
Created a milestone framework to provide consistent visibility to stakeholders for the multi-semester initiative.
Developed change management plans covering technical and organizational resources and ensuring the integrity of the e911 location database while incorporating future changes.
Conducted twice-monthly cross-org steering meetings to ensure all necessary e911 requirements were on track.
Completed proofs-of-concept related to building audits, location configurations and testing of dynamic e911 feature capabilities in Teams and call routing to hosted Emergency Routing Service (ERS).
Communication and training were foundational for the ongoing success of this program and service. Awareness of emergency services capabilities via Teams Phone were posted internally and regularly communicated to internal groups.

 

Technical implementation

Teams provides the framework to implement emergency calling. However, there are many actions each customer must complete to make e911 fully functional. The customer-driven technical configurations are the pieces that define specifics about your environment and users. Here’s how Microsoft addressed a few of the most critical components:

Configured e911 call routing with an emergency call routing service partner to ensure appropriate routing on the calls based on address information within the call ‘SiIP header’.
Established the trusted IP addresses which are the external IP addresses of the enterprise network. Once implemented, these determine whether the user’s endpoint is inside or outside of the corporate network before checking for a specific emergency address and network identifier.
Assigned emergency addresses for all Microsoft buildings within the United States, this assignment includes the civic address as well as the associated geo codes. 
Associated network identifiers (wireless BSSID, ethernet switch, ethernet switch/port, subnet) with these emergency address locations.
Created and assigned the emergency call routing policy to our in-scope users. This policy configures the emergency ‘mask’ numbers (911), and the PSTN route per number.
Created and assigned the emergency calling policy to in-scope users. This policy configures the security desk notification experience when an emergency call is made. In addition, this is where we set the external lookup functionality, allowing end users to configure their emergency address when they are working from a network location outside the corporate network. Finally, we used this policy to set the emergency service disclaimer to show a banner to remind end users to confirm their emergency location.

Future-proofing emergency calling

Few things are constant. That especially applies to employees, office locations, technology, and legislation. With this in mind, project leads developed a change readiness framework that included a cadence of ongoing compliance audits and built-in flexibility to accommodate future needs.

Developed an e911 change management solution used for making ongoing database updates when network infra changes occur.
Refined change management processes in partnership with the legal team, support tiers, venture integration team, network team, and real estate team in support of long-term e911 data integrity across wired and wireless networks.
Deploy, test, validate, repeat the e911 mapping exercises with existing and new real estate spaces. Alignment of network data with civic address location was quality tested with the initial effort and will be repeated annually to ensure quality of datasets.

 

Configuring Teams Phone e911 capabilities in your organization

Enabling Teams Phone e911 capabilities in your organization can play a critical role in ensuring the safety of your staff and patrons. Regardless of whether you use Microsoft Calling Plans, Operator Connect, or Direct Routing, be sure to reference the guidance for managing emergency calling policies in Microsoft Teams.