Colleges and Universities at Higher Risk for Noncompliance with RAY BAUM’S Act

College campus phone systems fall under the RAY BAUM’s Act which requires all 911 calls to include a dispatchable location.

Colleges and Universities at Higher Risk for Noncompliance with RAY BAUM’S Act

(Photo: Ekaterina Siubarova, Adobe Stock)

Late one evening on the campus of a sprawling university, a top staff member working in his office suddenly began to feel unwell. Realizing he may be suffering a heart attack, he managed to place a call to 911. In the few seconds it took to connect the call, the heart attack quickly rendered him unable to speak. Fortunately, because the IT team had done the work to comply with a new law that requires location information to be sent along with the 911 call, first responders identified the exact office information and were able to quickly reach him and save his life.

You might be thinking, “Isn’t that how calling 911 works?”

Parents, families, and faculty place a lot of trust in universities to keep everyone safe. College is frequently a student’s first adventure from their parents, creating opportunities for danger. Not to mention the amount of personnel needed to run the operation of large, multi-building campuses. Bottom-line: schools are high-risk places, and the expectation from parents and faculty is that the emergency response plan would be top tier in order to respond to that risk.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In January 2022, the final deadline for regulations from a law called RAY BAUM’s Act (RBA) went into effect, which requires campuses, such as college campuses and large school districts, to fashion their phone systems so that every 911 call includes a dispatchable location as well as a call-back number to help dispatchers direct first responders to the scene as quickly as possible. Without a location, first responders do not know which room in which building, or which satellite campus to go to, resulting in slower response times, and in some tragic occasions, preventable losses of lives.  Equally, accurate address information protects first responders. They want to ensure that if they need to breach an entrance, they’re entering the right location.

Despite the clear importance of RBA, a report came out stating that only 57% of enterprises are compliant. With college campuses’ phone systems falling under RBA, the reality is that students and employees may be at risk. Of course, there are many reasons why. Funding may pose an issue, and with competing priorities, 911 considerations may have fallen to the wayside.

What’s more, compliance can be difficult depending on the makeup of the school’s telecommunications system. Older universities often have older phone systems, while on the same campus often newer buildings contain newer equipment. A school with one or more satellite campuses must account for the different buildings, neighborhoods, and even cities that may need to place a 911 call. And, with the growing hybrid workforces, professors and administrators working from home must also be protected.

Despite all of these challenges, an RBA-compliant university is always worth it. The fact that it’s the law to comply aside, with the lives of students, faculty, and staff, there is no room to consider when or if an emergency may occur. What matters is that the university is putting the safety of its population first.

You can learn more about RAY BAUM’s Act and find out if your university is compliant here.

Robin Erkkila is a 911 expert and sales engineer at Bandwidth.

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