IDG Contributor Network: Congress presented with shocking E911 MLTS report by GSA

After ignoring a Congressional directive for more than three years, as well as an FCC commissioner’s direct request, the General Services Administration (GSA) finally produced a report on the status of 911 dialing in federal buildings. Despite the long delay, the content and quality of the report were disappointing at best.

On Feb. 22, 2012, the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 was passed as Public Law 112-96. As with many bills, the law covered a broad array of topics, one of them being the establishment of a national public safety broadband network expanding high-speed wireless broadband and improving communications interoperability among first responders. Within this section, the law also required that the GSA audit and produce a report on the 911 capabilities of multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) used in the almost 10,000 federal buildings and facilities under their control.

The GSA report

The GSA was given nine months to complete the audit and then deliver a status report outlining their findings to Congress. That report was due Nov. 18, 2012, and should have included an inventory of facilities and the 911 calling capabilities that existed in them. There was no requirement to correct any found deficiencies or invest in capital equipment or software. The report was intended to assess the risk to federal employees in federal buildings. Unfortunately, no report was produced, and the ability to summon emergency services by federal employees in federal facilities remained unknown as the November deadline slipped by unnoticed. 

Fast-forward a year later: 1,200 miles away in a Marshall, Texas, hotel room, Hank Hunt loses his daughter Kari in a tragic murder. During the horrific confrontation, Hank’s 9-year-old granddaughter attempted to dial 911 four times to reach help for her mother but was met with what she describes as “static.” After the event, Hank started on his mission to educate MLTS telephone system owners, as well as advocate for state initiatives and legislation requiring the direct access to 911 and on-site notification, features many MLTS have built in but are often left turned off by installers.