Answering a Cry for Help

A roundtable discussion of emergency phone and communications systems


CG: We believe just the opposite is true. In many cases our Code Blue phones are seldom activated, but when the need arises, it is critical that the readiness and performance is dependable. In other applications our communication systems are used on a regular basis more for an information need than an emergency. In either case, it is vital that the design and construction can support the installation in spite of the elements or surrounding conditions. This includes weather, temperature, surrounding noise and power requirements. Our products are now being used more and more as the basis for integrating additional elements of access and security, and as such our housings, electronics and software systems must be flexible to accommodate these requirements.

SP: In terms of the sophistication of much of this technology it may be true. In terms of the importance of the equipment in a particular application, the communication equipment may be more critical than other security systems. A person being attacked in a parking lot would rate the ability to call for help as more critical than the ability of a campus to retrieve images of what had happened from video recorders after the fact if the emergency phones were not in place. Emergency phones connected to relays that shut down malfunctioning equipment or valves in industrial facilities or mines can potentially save more lives and money than any other security equipment in place. They can have a much bigger impact on liability issues for large facilities than other, more "sophisticated" types of equipment.

SS: "Low-end" can be characterized in several ways. Low-end can equate with low-tech, or with low cost, or even with the concept of basic. To some extent emergency phones can be seen as all three, although recently they are more and more feature rich, so they may not be as "low-tech" as they once were. However, the ability of a person in distress or danger to communicate that fact quickly and efficiently is "basic" to any total security scheme. Probably equally basic is CCTV, providing the ability to see what is happening. The integration of these two basic and perhaps "low-end" technologies can make each more effective, and perhaps even a little less "low-end." As for concept of "low-end" equating with "low-cost," it may be true that emergency phones can be among the lower-cost elements of a total security scheme. But just as the tires, steering wheel, and windshield on your car are among the more "low-end" elements of what today is a rather high-tech device, every car needs them.

MS: The total security scheme primarily relates to the security of assets and the security of people. The many that describe emergency phone and communications systems as "low-end components" are most certainly revealing where their priorities are. Since most "low-end component" emergency phones are targeted for outdoor use, this would infer that facility owners and managers are not responsible for the security of people while they are outside of their facilities.

ST&D: Emergency communications systems benefit a range of application environments. Are there particular sectors that are currently showing increased interest in and need for this technology?

CG: We are seeing continued growth in all of these sectors as well as cities and municipalities, parks and recreation. Biking and hiking trails are also beginning to install these types of products and are using solar-cellular options to meet their requirements.

SP: Local legislation is driving the need for emergency phones at swimming pools. Many jurisdictions are also implementing stricter regulations requiring dedicated voice communications for elevators. ADA seems to be driving many of these requirements. At the same time, the proliferation of cellular phones has made emergency phones less critical for roadside assistance.

EC: The military and government sectors are purchasing increasing amounts of communication systems for use in security systems of all varieties. Entertainment venues, such as theme parks, stadiums and concert halls, are also using ever-increasing numbers of emergency phones and communication systems. There has also been an increase in mass transit, airports, bus stations, train stations and subways.

MS: Hospitals and university and college campuses have been pursuing this technology at a steadily increasing rate for the past 20 years. Parking lots in practically every area of commercial and industrial segments are showing increased interest in and need for emergency phone and communications systems.