Research shows that one-third of hotels have not upgraded their phone system since 2012. Think about that for a moment: companies like Snapchat, Instagram and Lyft were either newly founded or just being launched at that time. In today’s world of digital innovation, seven years seems like 30.
So much has improved in terms of technology, including a hotel’s basic capabilities to reach 911 services. Not only this, but there are new federal requirements that mandate phone systems be compliant with specific capabilities by February 2020. That is when the Kari’s Law Act of 2017 goes into effect, requiring systems to provide direct access to 911 without an access code, as well as provide onsite notification of an event occurring and direct routing to the proper 911 center.
The tragic story behind Kari’s Law makes it imperative for hotels to improve their systems. Kari’s nine-year-old daughter, Brianna, repeatedly tried to call 911 from a hotel room while her mother was attacked by her estranged husband just a few feet away. Despite her attempts, she couldn’t get through because the hotel’s phone system required callers to first dial “9” to get to an outside line. Signed February 16, 2017, Kari’s Law will go into full effect in February 2020 and end organizations’ two-year grace period to replace or upgrade their existing systems. This is a great (and long overdue) step toward overcoming some of today’s greatest 911 challenges.
At the top of this list is lack of location data. Consider findings from a 2015 national investigation conducted by USA Today. After sorting through hundreds of pages of local, state and federal documents, it was discovered that the chance of 911 getting a quick fix on location ranges from as low as 10% to as high as 95% (unpredictable, to say the least). In hospitality, research shows that only 38% of organizations have direct 911 dialing let alone targeted location data.
With less than one year left of this grace period, it’s time for hotels to do what needs to be done to better protect, serve and save the lives of staff and visitors. Technology has evolved in just about all systems to the point where we never again have to endure a scenario like Kari’s. The basic access requirements of Kari’s Law, combined with the latest advancements in technology, leave no excuse for hotels to neglect their emergency communications.
One very important investment these organizations can and should make to improve and save lives is to implement a Next-Generation 911 (NG911) compliant solution which will provide additional critical digital data. This makes it possible for originating networks to directly contribute valuable and relevant information to 911 centers such as X,Y location coordinates, but also the ability to now provide X,Y,Z coordinates, allowing faster and more informed emergency response.
In the case of a hotel, this new ability to share real-time data and collaborate with public safety significantly enables first responders with detailed, life-saving data. This can include not only a building address, and the specific device from which a call was placed, but other details such as the square footage of the property or a detailed floor plans, which entrance is best to use, and more. This is now all possible using NG911 Additional Data repositories in use by PSAPs. Within seconds of receiving a voice call, “additional data” indicator appears alerting to the presence of this additional information. From there, it’s a matter of simply clicking the window to access that life-saving data.
These data collaboration possibilities are endless. Guests could attach medical data to their PMS (Property Management System) profiles to indicate a physical disability, giving anyone responding to an emergency a heads up on the situation. HVAC sensors could plot a “heat map” of an area where a fire alarm has been set off, giving response personnel a looking glass view of the situation while en route.
NG911 additional data reimagines the response possibilities of emergency services across every vertical.
With technology readily-available, what’s stopping hotels from moving forward? For many, deploying NG11 additional data may not be top of mind. To this I ask: how many more preventable tragedies are hotels willing to tolerate which can easily damage their brand? We must engender more proactive urgency around this issue, and we need it now. The same location capabilities can assist locating staff, equipment needed, among other things, so while emergency response is about saving lives, there are other applications the hotels can benefit from to improve guest experiences too.
911 may be the most important call you’ll make in your entire life. If something were to happen to you, you would want to know that you could easily access emergency services with a reliable and compliant system, and you would want to know that responders could find you in the least amount of time possible to save your life or the one of a loved one.
Ask yourself: what if it was your child, parent or sibling who needed to dial 911 but you had made the choice not to improve your system? It is clear the problem exists and that there is a solution. Don’t wait for a tragedy, take action now. It’s not worth the risk to take your chances.