Written by Mark J. Fletcher, Avaya's Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions. He represents Avaya on the APCO Standards Development Committee and the NENA Institute Board, and also contributes technical guidance to various committees at the FCC.
On Dec. 1, 2013, in Marshall, Texas, Kari Hunt went to the Baymont Inn to meet her estranged husband with her children. Little did she know, a single digit would stand between her and the emergency services she would so desperately need. During the visitation, Hunt was brutally murdered in front of the children. Her nine-year-old daughter attempted to call 9-1-1 on the motel room phone, but wasn't able to get through because she didn't know to dial 9 first.
At an early age, our parents, teachers, police and firefighters teach us that if you need help, you call 9-1-1. Unfortunately, access to 9-1-1 from multi-line telephone systems (MLTS), also known as private branch exchanges (PBX) can be problematic. Often, the caller is required to dial 9 and/or another numeral before placing any outside call, including emergency calls to 9-1-1.
In response, several major hotel chains have implemented policies requiring direct dialing to 9-1-1 as part of their brand standards. Additionally, 18 states have legislation on the books regarding MLTS/PBX systems; two of those states have penalties for non-compliance.In January 2014, an updated MLTS/PBX plan was drafted and presented to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. It focused on simple steps that could be put in place at little to no cost to enhance the public's access to 9-1-1. These requirements are:
- Access to 9-1-1 with and without an access code: Telephones must have the ability to reach 9-1-1 by dialing only the digits 9-1-1.
- On-site notification of 9-1-1 calls: This is critical so staff can respond appropriately or direct emergency services upon arrival.
- Prohibiting the interception of 9-1-1 calls: Answering calls internally blocks the person who needs assistance from responders.