E911: 6 Things Every Hospitality Technology Professional Should Know (Part 2)

nec-hospitality-technology-e911We’re at the 2014 HITEC conference this week in Los Angeles, and we’re excited to bring you the second half of our post on E911 technology.

As adoption of hosted and cloud-based telephony services continues to grow in the hospitality industry, the success of E911 implementation will rely, as it always has, on IT’s understanding of E911 legislation, and how best to prepare for installation, ongoing maintenance, or, in some cases, an upgrade.

It is, however, always safe to make sure that your current system is in compliance with 911 laws, and provides your customers with access to the emergency services they need. t This post will focus  on what to look for in your current system, and how to properly test your 911 dialing capabilities.

Proper E911 Programming

In our first post we discussed the history of E911. If you look at VoIP history, you’ll find that initially, dialing a 9 before the complete telephone number was required to get an outside line on older PBX systems. The trunking technology needed the 9 to discern that the caller wanted to reach a number outside of the establishment.  This has created problems when common convention tells the phone user to dial 911 rather than 9+911.

The problem stems from a programming error—the fix to which is actually quite simple. Most modern IP phone systems will distinguish, if programmed correctly, 911, 9+911, or any other dialing pattern. Technically speaking you can program any combination of numbers into the system that signal it to dial emergency services.

But that won’t work.  Changing the access code to another digit does not solve dialing confusion—just makes it worse.

Having a technician come in to check your system is your safest bet if you’re unsure about how your system is set up.  Be sure to ask your technician to check the whole system. But it’s good for all Hospitality Technology Professionals to know the following:

  • How your trunk access codes are routed
  • If you have Automatic Route Selection Enabled (speeds up dialing by establishing extension priorities)
  • If you have any Call Patterns/Restriction Classes in place
    • Time of Day
    • Do not Disturb/Room Cut Off Patterns

It should be noted that none of these changes require expensive re-programming; these are all simple fixes. Many hoteliers have found that re-programming, however, is the safest alternative for their customers.

Other alternatives, like routing the call to an internal operator or security desk, actually creates more risk for your business and your customers, as security personnel are rarely trained properly to handle all types of emergencies.

Don’t Forget to Test

Re-programming your phones without testing them is the equivalent of having no system in place at all. Your hotel’s technology professional should test the system once the re-programming has been completed.

While this might sound like a simple thing to do, it can actually be a bit tricky. Many organizations forget to do this, and reacting to an emergency when it happens becomes incredibly more difficult.

But how do you go about testing 911 dialing capabilities without tying up valuable emergency services resources?

  • Locate the administrative or non-emergency phone number for your local police department on your city’s website.
  • Call the number, and explain that you would like to test a 911 call from your facility to ensure that the proper information is being displayed to emergency services employee who took the call.
  • Follow all explicit test instructions that are required by your state/city.

Following these procedures should allow you to appropriately test your re-programmed system. However, you need to be certain that your system is programmed the right way before running the test. If you fail the test, there could be legal ramifications for your business—depending on your state’s E911 laws.

Again, having a technician come to your facility is one of your safest options. If they’ve re-programmed your system for you, they can perform the test afterwards.

Don’t Sweat your Outdated PBX

While it’s always smart for hotels to get as much value as they can from their communications tools, the propensity to hang on to old analog or end-of-life VoIP technology means that your business is running on a communications system that’s intrinsic value has diminished. Don’t rely on an older phone system because of perceived value. Because there’s a chance that the phones you think are supporting your business aren’t.

Don’t let E911 legislation dissuade you from upgrading to IP telephony. It’s much easier for organizations to become E911 capable and to manage E911 services with the current tools and capabilities that are inherent in modern IP and Unified Communications systems.

It bears mentioning that all NEC communications solutions can dial 911 or 9+911 with proper programming, regardless of age, class of service, or room status. The best way for your organization to assess your status, is to have a technician come check your system.

In an emergency, most people simply react to what they have been taught. What we have been taught is to dial 911, and that’s why 9+911 may never come to mind.

This week, NEC will be at the HITEC conference. Stop by and see us at booth 827.

We’ll have Hospitality experts there demoing our hospitality solutions that include:

  • Unified Communications & Collaboration,
  • Facial Detection & Analytics,
  • Back Office Efficiency,
  • and Contact Center technologies.

If you know it’s time for you to have your system reviewed, call an NEC technician. We’ll be happy to help you maintain your compliance with your state’s E911 laws.