Magazine

Emergency Phones Q&A

PT spoke briefly with Samuel Shanes, CEO of Talk-A-Phone, on the subject of emergency telephone and communication equipment.

Question: Why have emergency telephones in your facility? First off, it's smart for business. Emergency phones offer your customers and visitors one additional level of service - if they are lost or need some information, here is a resource they can use. Of course security is also important, as is the comfort of just having emergency phones available.
Although certainly critical, the phones' use in response to criminal activity is a small part of their function. People with medical conditions, or vehicular emergencies, or who are simply confused, are all important.
There is the legal aspect, too. If you provide emergency telephones, and CCTV and proper lighting, you are telling the public, and potentially a court, that you are being proactive in preventing problems in your facility. Does it absolve you of all responsibility? No. But can be another part of your defense if you have a legal situation.
But most of all, having emergency phones just makes good business sense.
What makes emergency telephones different from standard intercoms? These phones are designed to be used in the rough and tumble environment of the parking facility. Think about the concrete and often how banged up it can get. The same thing can happen to the equipment in a garage. It must be able to take the punishment the public and environment can deal out.
Plus, the design of the phone, and its installation, makes it more usable for the public who may be unfamiliar with the equipment.
How has the technology changed? The past two years has brought voice over internet protocol (VOIP). This technology has been a major factor in the advancement of emergency telephones. It means that the equipment can communicate over existing local area networks, wide area networks, or wireless networks already in place. Systems can be monitored not only locally but at regional headquarters or at centers literally thousands of miles away.
These are the same networks that carry CCTV, security, data, and internet activity. Emergency phone communications take a very small part of the bandwidth. VOIP has meant a substantial savings in installation costs and increased flexibility for the user.
How has the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) affected emergency phones? Since the act was put in place over 15 years ago, it has become a driving force in the design of the phones, with many having to be ADA compliant, particularly in elevators. Local codes also are requiring emergency phones in some cases and set the requirements for installation (height being an example.)
How does one go about designing a system? Manufacturers offer extensive design help to contractors and consultants. Cut sheets, typical drawings, A and E specifications are available, as well as design build drawings.
What is on the horizon? Expect to see the convergence of different technologies such as cameras in the phones, access systems, plus the interfacing of different hardware and software. Units will be smaller, more powerful and feature rich. You can anticipate all this, and with little increase in price.

Article Abstract from March, 2006




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