It’s Sunday night in New England, and once again and I find myself checking into a hotel getting ready for customer meetings several hours away from home.
Tonight, I’m checking into a Homewood Suites by Hilton, in Warwick Rhode Island. Like most Hilton properties, this franchise is very clean, fairly new or recently renovated, and digitally transformed with their App based check-in process, and digital room keys. As I pull into the property, my Hilton App pings me and reminds me that my digital room keys are now active on my phone, and I only need to stop by the front desk to pick up my complimentary bottles of water, and Milano cookies (my favorite part!)
As I park my car, I remember thinking; newer property, well-maintained, new digital locks. I am going to give this property an 80% chance of being Kari’s Law compliant.
Upon entering my room, I am greeted by the standard TeleMatrix Hotel room phone, and a faceplate that says, ”EMERGENCY Dial 9–911”. While many of my Kari’s Law fact checkers out there will immediately point this out as a noncompliant hotel, I shrug this fact off, as the face plate on the phone means nothing.
The ability to actually dial 911 directly is what really counts. But, what it does mean, is that now there is some investigative work that needs to take place to find out what the real situation is.
As I go to leave my room to go downstairs and speak with the night manager, I noticed the sign on my door that says:
”CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT 911”
Uh-Oh! NOW we have a problem! There is a sign that specifically says to dial 911 and a phone that is labeled 9-911. This means that both ways better work.
As I reach the front desk, the night manager (we’ll call her Allison) greets me and asked if she could be of any assistance? I sigh slightly, warning her that this is going to be a complex and long-winded story, but I needed to ask her a few questions about 911. Immediately, she made sure that I didn’t need to call 911, which I thought was a great response to my statement, and clearly, this woman had a game plan formulating in her head already. I reassured her there was no emergency, and I explained Kari’s Law to her. Allison then told me she never heard of Kari’s Law, but knew about the requirement to directly dial 911, on-site notification, and began to show me the process.
While many Hilton Hotels use Avaya or older Nortel Systems, there are some that do not. This particular franchise had a competitor system installed, that I would guess to be six years old or more. Despite the age of the system, Allison showed me how the console would indicate the extension number of any phone dialing 911 would display to her, letting her assess the situation.
She then pointed to another phone on the counter, that was marked, “EMERGENCY PHONE FOR 911 CALL BACK – DO NOT USE”
Allison then explained that the Warwick Police Department would call that phone whenever they received a 911 call from the hotel. This call was placed while a Police unit was en route to the location, and the 911 call taker would attempt to ascertain any additional information as well as the status of the emergency updating the responding resources accordingly.
If it was a false alarm, the police would still respond to file a report and be certain there was no need for public safety.
I thought to myself, “what a great example of exactly what Kari’s Law was designed to do! Focus on DISPATCHABLE LOCATION or address the units needed to respond too”. The room is not relevant, that information can be gathered on-site, verbally or electronically through a simple display mechanism, as well as additional information that is germane to the incident.
In this case, awareness was raised, a plan was established that met the needs of local public safety, as well as the hotel property, and despite the cries of 911 database providers who are losing their billable revenues, these simple plans work. Nothing in this plan burdens MLTS operator with costly upgrades, monthly billing of 911 services, and complexity. The solution is just a simple workflow response to a life and death problem, and one that would have likely saved Kari Hunt’s life on that East Texas December 1st in 2013, as per the Coroner’s testimony.
Hotels, businesses, schools, hospitals or any other facility with an MLTS now know this problem exists. And the fix is simple in most cases.
This story comes at a perfect time. The Federal Communications Commission has an active Notice of Proposed Rule Making under FCC docket 18-261. At this very moment, the various stakeholders are frantically jockeying for position hoping to get their revenue-based model codified as law when it is simply not needed. As Hank Hunt so eloquently states in his September 26, 2018 testimony, these folks are, “nursing a bottom line like a little baby.”
I so wish that I could speak like that, but Hank Hunt has me pinned to the mat with his command of the English language and ability to convey his deepest thoughts and feelings. Kudos Hank! You got me beat like Kansas City barbecue being served in Winona, Texas! (not too bad for damn Yankee, huh?)
While we’ve made great progress over the past five years, now is not the time to sit back on our laurels. The important legislation is being discussed that directly affect how this law is implemented. There are those that are looking to fix the problem, and many others looking just to profit from it. I suggest you take the time and read the various responses to the Federal Communications Commission’s NPRM, as well as follow the reply comments that will be coming in over the next 30 days.
Anyone can go to http://www.fcc.gov/ecfs and search under Kari’s Law or 18-261. And remember, ANYONE can comment. Additionally, ANYONE can file a reply comment even if no initial comment was filed. In fact, you can listen to a recent podcast with FCC CTO Eric Burger, recorded at the recent Real-Time Communications Conference held at IIT, the Illinois Institute of Technology.