Why dialing 9-1-1 may do more harm than good

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Quite a bit of criticism has been put on the 9-1-1 network, the technology, and even where you call 9-1-1 from lately. While we grew up learning those three important digits, recent turns of events have shown that it might not be as blissful as we once thought.

Avaya-WiFi-iStock_000015729094Medium.jpgThe cellular network, once thought to be incredibly accurate with cell phone locations, has been recently come under attack by industry experts that have provided data to the contrary. Residential voice over IP service, that was once heralded for mobility and ease-of-use from anywhere, has shown to be highly questionable when relying on the location to be maintained by individual account owners. Stories of travelers around the world taking their phone with them to faraway places like Singapore, but then reaching a 9-1-1 operator in the Midwest when they, or someone else places and 9-1-1 Call from that device, still show up in the news from time to time.

The California chapter of NENA (CalNENA), an organization representing 9-1-1 Public Safety Answer Positions (PSAPs) in the State, issued a concerned letter to the then acting chairwoman Clyburn Mignon of the FCC that claimed the wireless location accuracy was actually on the decrease instead of getting better.

FCC_Logo_100.jpgEven the Federal Communications Commission has acknowledged the location and mobility problem within commercial PBX or Multi Line Telephone Systems (MLTS), and issued a Notice of Inquiry to the industry to establish how bad the problem was. The overwhelming response to that question was “YES! There is a problem!” The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) stated that immediate action should take place, as there was no perceivable technology roadblock that would prevent solutions from being implemented.

In the hotel/motel industry, the problem knows no brand name, nor does it abide by any “star rating”. As I usually travel weekly, I always make note of what the “emergency instructions” are in each hotel that I stay at. Commonly I see placards on the telephones themselves saying things like:

Dial 9 – 9-1-1, or Dial the operator
The worse, is when I see “Press this emergency button”

Where exactly does this call go? The front desk? Are they trained to deal with an emergency caller?

Just recently I arrived at one of my hotels after midnight at night. The clerk at the front desk was obviously tired, but did his best to check me in with a smile. When I got to my room, I noticed that the instructions on the phone were “EMERGENCIES – DIAL 0 FOR THE OPERATOR”.

I did have the occasion to dial zero for the operator, and when I did, it took several rings before anyone answered my call; good thing I just wanted to know what time breakfast was, and not that I was feeling pains in my chest, or was having shortness of breath.

Had 9-1-1, or 9 – 9-1-1, actually worked and connected me with emergency services, chances are if I wasn’t able to communicate, no one would know what room I was located in, as I doubt any mechanism for on-site notification was deployed. Even on the OUTSIDE chance that it was deployed, what protocol was being followed? And more importantly what training are these employees been given? You may think that the state public safety agencies have specific requirements and legislation controlling this, or the Federal Communications Commission would have strict standards that have to be followed. Unfortunately neither is the case, and in fact only 18 states have legislation that require this, and most of them have laws that are written so long ago they no longer make any sense.

Since the holiday season seems to be the season for “lists”, and many of us will be traveling and staying in hotels, I thought I would compile some photographic evidence of how I find 9-1-1 implemented in the places that I stay across North America.

Quick disclaimer: While you may think that some of the photos reference a specific hotel brand, it is not in any way my intention to call any particular hospitality chain out as being more noncompliant than another with emergency calling. The problem spans every hotel brand I have encountered. While I frequent some more than others, it is because of their customer service, and the value that they deliver.

Fletch’s 2014 Top 15 list for “Really? You’re going with that for 9-1-1?”
Actual signage from phones and hotel rooms.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911


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