911 Means 911… Well, Sort of…

Here's a little nugget of news that should make your next hotel stay just a little less secure: if you have an emergency and call 911 through the hotel desk or operator, chances are very good you can't be directly connected and precious time could be lost in the ensuing confusion! This is because tens of thousands of hotels all across the country, more than 53,000 in fact, don't allow for direct 911 access. Indeed, a survey by the industry group American Hotel & Lodging Association revealed that fully 45% of franchised hotels and motels and 32% of independent hotels require guests to dial "9" before being connected to an outside line on which to contact 911 or require guests to call the front desk, which in turn calls 911. Needless to say, such delays or redundancies during a crisis can generate unnecessary confusion, delay and even panic. Sadly this fact came to light after a 9-year-old girl tried to summon help for her mother who was being stabbed to death in December, 2013 and couldn't in a Marshall, Texas motel, the Baymont Inn. After that story broke, a signature petition effort began which has thus far garnered over 440,000 signatures in an effort to compel the Federal Communications Commission to revamp antiquated rules regarding national 911 access. With computerized systems now readily and inexpensively available, such anachronistic problems are an unjustified relic of an earlier communications age. If you want to sign the petition, go on-line to Petition for "Karl's Law":http://chn.ge/1jolWS1.

Please note than you can call 911 directly on any cell phone. But, even here there can be problems and delays. Since cell phones are by their very nature mobile, the location reported to 911 will be more general than a location-specific land line. Thus, when you are connected to a responder, be prepared to give as specific and complete information as possible, which of course may not always be possible if you are incapacitated.

Hopefully, this deplorable situation will be resolved soon. In the meantime, if you stay at a motel/hotel, cover emergency procedures and 911 access when you check in and if kids are with you, go over that information carefully with them. And, if you have cell phones, discuss with them the best way to use them in an emergency. Sleep tight and good luck!