The family of a murder victim is making major strides with a national petition to seek a legislative remedy of requiring enhanced 911 systems in hotels (and possibly other places of public and private gathering). In other words, you would only ever need to pick up a phone and dial 9-1-1 to reach emergency assistance. Yep, no more dialing “9” or other precursors first to get an outside line.
On December 1, 2013, police responded to a stabbing call at a Baymont Inn & Suites hotel in Marshall, Texas. But the call came for a hotel neighbor after the victim’s own 9-year-old daughter attempted to dial 911 from the room phone, just as she was taught: press 9-1-1. But without pressing the required “9” first to dial out, the call failed, as her mother remained in need of immediate medical care.
“If it makes it onto our radar a few times a year, then it does sort of beg the question: How many identical situations are out there that we just don’t hear about?” said the Association’s government affairs director Trey Forgety.
Hank Hunt’s daughter, Kari, did not survive the attack. Now Mr. Hunt is leading to make a change with his petition for “No 9 Needed.” On the petition website, Hunt says:
We are attempting to ensure that any person needing police, EMS or the Fire Department at any hotel or motel location may be able to dial the numbers 911 and receive emergency response. In a panic, any under age child, or for that matter anyone in an emergency situation should be able to depend on dialing 911 from any phone in the United States and receiving assistance.
The law as described by the petition would require hotels and motels to upgrade to “Enhanced 911” systems that would let guests call for help just by dialing 911 and give the operator the caller’s exact location.
As of this posting, some 450,000 people have signed Hank’s petition.
And THE FCC IS PAYING ATTENTION
Led by Commissioner Ajit Pai in his January 2014 statement and mailing of letters to the CEOs of the ten largest hotel chains in the U.S., asking the companies for data on the properties at which consumers would reach help by dialing 911.
Since January, all ten of the hotel companies, along with the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), have responded to Commissioner Pai’s inquiry. Additionally, the AH&LA conducted a survey of lodging properties across the United States resulting in the following:
- Consumers may be unable to dial 911 directly at tens of thousands of buildings across the United States.
- No additional access code for 911 was required in 44.5% of franchised properties and 32% of independent hotels in the U.S. (The vast majority of the 53,000 lodging properties in the U.S. are managed by independent owners or franchisees.)
- Hyatt, InterContinental, Marriott, Starwood, and Wyndham all report guests can connect directly with emergency services when they dial 911 in the substantial majority of their managed properties.
Commissioner Pai told the National Emergency Number Association’s 9-1-1 Goes to Washington Conference in March 2014 that hotels have already begun to fix this problem.
- AH&LA has convened a diverse, industry-wide task force to address 911 calling and is working to develop best practices.
- InterContinental reports that the telephone provider for two of their hotel brands has agreed to push out a no-cost software update to allow for direct 911 dialing.
- Hilton is educating its franchisees and is working with phone system providers to evaluate and recommend appropriate upgrades.
Commissioner Pai has made it clear that the FCC is evaluating this problem beyond just hotels, including office buildings and school. Look for the FCC to continue to lead this effort, while the slower machine of law changes at state and local levels catch up.
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