Emergency Management Tips: Improve Guest Safety with Enhanced 911 Tools

11/23/2009
Picture this: Emergency responders approach your front desk personnel. A 911 call has been made from your hotel, and they need your staff to pinpoint the exact location of the emergency. Is your technology sophisticated enough to enable your staff to quickly identify the origin of the call? Or will they need to manually place a call to each room until they find the original caller?
 
If it's the latter, you've wasted valuable time and potentially put the guest in question in serious danger.
 
Effective emergency management is all about connecting the right people with the right information quickly and accurately. However, telecommunications in many hotels and other businesses often rely on private branch exchange (PBX) technologies that connect individual extensions throughout the facility through one central system. As a result, calls made to a 911 operations center may not provide any information about the exact location of the caller. The emergency responders can see that the call is coming from the hotel, but they cannot identify the specific wing, floor or room.
 
This presents serious obstacles to successful emergency management and creates significant liabilities for a hotel. But today's enhanced 911 (E911) technologies eliminate the risk of liability by pinpointing the exact location of a caller and automatically notifying the appropriate personnel.
 
Protect your guests and yourself
Currently, 16 states have existing 911-related laws stating that businesses are responsible for being able to provide accurate physical location information to emergency responders. And even more have similar legislation pending. It may only be a matter of time until E911 is required in your state. Furthermore, recent research has indicated that a business could be liable for negligence in court should an emergency responder not have access to the information they need regardless of whether or not its state has enacted E911 laws.
 
E911 solutions address several emergency scenarios that hotels might experience:
 
  • Hang ups: E911 solutions give dispatchers and need-to-know staff the information they need to quickly determine if a 911 hang up is simply a mistake, a prank or something requiring an emergency response.
  • Medical emergencies: Knowing where a 911 call is coming from, especially if the caller is unable to communicate, allows responders to travel the shortest distance to the emergency site.
  • Intruders: In the event of a 911 call reporting a crime in progress, E911 solutions alert staff to quickly set in motion the designated emergency response, including lockdown procedures. In turn, first responders can take action based on caller-location information.
  • Hazardous materials: A hazardous materials event, such as a chemical spill or a gas leak, requires a highly specific response. Following a 911 call, E911 solutions provide dispatchers with information essential to directing first responders to the emergency location and assisting need-to-know staff with any evacuation procedures.
  • Fires: E911 products pinpoint a caller's location automatically, removing the burden on a caller to remain on the line, while also delivering vital information to first responders.
 
What to know before you buy
The most effective E911 solutions go beyond simply alerting emergency personnel to the origin of a call. They should also have the capability to notify the appropriate personnel on site. If your front desk personnel don't know where a call originated from or, even worse, that a call had been made in the first place, they won't be able to assist emergency responders when they arrive. Choose an E911 solution that automatically notifies need-to-know staff through computer screen pop-ups, email alerts, text messages and call-alerting displays.
 
Dolce Hotels and Resorts recently implemented this type of E911 solution from Teo Technologies at its Aspen, Colo., and Austin, Texas properties. With a combined 266 rooms between the two locations, Dolce required an E911 solution that offered these capabilities. While other systems the hotel chain looked at provided various levels of operability, Teo's solution provided the reliability and simplicity the organization was looking for. With E911 alerts, Dolce can be sure that the right people are in the know, no matter where they are in the hotel.
 
Bottom line: E911 solutions help hotels protect their guests while also protecting themselves against liability.
 
Nathan Miller is the director of facilities and technology for the Lakeway Resort and Spa, a Dolce Resort. He has worked in the hospitality industry for 10 years and has served as the information systems manager for three companies at five different properties in Texas and Louisiana. Nathan has a bachelor of science in computer information systems and holds A+ certification from CompTia and an MCP from Microsoft. He is currently enrolled in a Master of Business Administration degree. Nathan has been a member of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) since 2006.
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