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E911...What you don't know CAN hurt you!

On a December day in 2013, Kari Hunt Dunn took her three children, ages nine, four and three, to visit their estranged father at a Texas hotel room. When the man turned violent—forcing Kari into a bathroom and stabbing her—the woman’s nine-year-old daughter did exactly what she should have: She dialed 911. But the call didn’t go through. She tried three more times, all unsuccessfully. Why? Because the hotel required her to press 9 to get an outside line. Despite the little girl’s repeated attempts to get help, she received none. The hotel’s phone system failed her family. Sadly, Kari died as a result of that attack.


Not only should hotel and motel owners take heed. So should any business with a location from which it’s currently impossible to dial 911 directly. Are you and your PBX in that group? And that’s not the only issue you can’t afford to ignore. In this month’s TCom TidBits, we look at Enhanced 911—and what you need to know to be compliant.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

If you consider safety “job one” for your organization, you’re in good company. However, you might be surprised how many companies overlook a key aspect of safety: ensuring your phone system allows emergency personnel to quickly find an emergency caller. The ability to pinpoint a caller’s exact location is known as Enhanced 911 (E911). At issue is the reality that many phone systems of large facilities, such as office buildings, healthcare facilities and institutions of higher education, transmit only the main billing number—not the caller’s exact phone number—to the 911 answering point. As a result, the 911 answering point can derive only the main billing address of where the 911 caller is located. In some cases, the unfortunate result has been that emergency response teams are unable to locate a caller in time to help. That has led to loss of life, as well as wrongful death cases in which juries have not been sympathetic to organizations that didn’t take measures to protect the people on their premises.


It’s the Law


The Association of Public-Safety Communication Officials and the National Emergency Number Association have led the charge to encourage stricter E911 regulations. Many states have implemented laws requiring multi-line telephone systems to support E911. In Illinois, since June 30, 2000, businesses have been required to adopt enhanced E911 capabilities within 18 months after it becomes available in their area. For full details, see section 15.6 of the Illinois Emergency Telephone System Act.  Specifically, this mean PBX phone systems must allow for “multiple location identification.” Some exemptions are allowed based on workspace square feet and alternative means of signaling and responding to emergencies—and, of course, whether your area has E911 capabilities—but you would be wise to err on the side of caution.


The Potential Consequences


Failure to provide E911 protection could result in regulatory fines and expose your organization to large damages from civil and criminal litigation. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may consider failing to adopt E911 as evidence an organization did not maintain a hazard-free workplace for employees, which could result in regulatory fines. At Jewel Team, we can help you better understand this critical issue, as well as assist you in selecting an appropriate solution for E911 compliance. Be sure you are keeping your employees, visitors and others—as well as the reputation of your facility—safe. Contact me today at 309.243.8100 or email for a free preliminary consultation.

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