Can Hotel and Business phones be changed to eliminate dial 9 for outside number?

Thinking back to the old PBX systems from 20 years ago. Is it even possible to set them up for direct dial of 911? Dial 9 for an outside number has been the standard for decades. Reeducating millions of people to dial another digit for an outside line is daunting.

Strictly on a technical level. Were PBX style phones prior to 1990 even reprogrammable? Could 911 be routed out automatically without dialing the outside line digit?

Most PBX systems are capable of handling 911 as a special case. It’s just a matter of configuration.

Where I work, we recently switched a VoIP system, and the dialing-9 thing went away. I assume that’s common, and dialing 9 is on its way out as systems get upgraded. I don’t think that will be unique to VoIP, by the way.

The 9 was to access an outside line instead of an internal one. Most phone systems have gotten much more sophisticated (that is, they don’t run on Ma Bell equipment or by her rules) and no longer need this feature.

In the mid-90s, though, we had to change our outside access number to 8 because a fast-dialing salesperson responsible for international sales calls kept hitting 9-1-1-(rest of number) too quickly, with predictable hijinks.

With modern computer technology, you can do almost anything. One place I worked at, they ahd the internal 4-digit dialing set up so you could dial the 4-digit extension of another site halfway across the country.

The problem is, most phone systems, if it ain’t broke it don’t get fixed. By the time we switched out our phone system to accomplish this VoIP miracle, the old PBX was so old you could only buy spare parts on eBay, nobody stocked them. A small hoel/motel with a fixed number of extension phones, they might have a piece of junk going back to the 70’s if it hasn’t died yet. That - not so easy to modify.

That was my concern. The smallest and least profitable businesses will often have the most outdated phone system. Who will bear the cost of replacing that infrastructure?

Sure hope it can be modified.

One thing to consider is whether the customer has/had Centrex service from the Telco. When I built a Centrex for a customer, they would specify if they wanted to dial 9 (or any other number) to get out, or they would request an “assume dial 9” set up. On “assume dial 9”, they could dial straight out, but that usually meant that customers would have to prefix a # to direct-dial extensions within the same Centrex.

Same here, although more often than not I still press ‘9’ out of habit. Call will go through either way.

The phones in my office still require a 9 to dial out, but the fax machines are now Internet based, and do not require a 9. This has caused some confusion (we have certain documents that must be faxed) and lead to large signs over each fax machine saying “YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DIAL 9”.

The last three or four hotels I’ve worked in, 911 has been a direct dial out with no need to dial the 9 first. I believe this has been a chain mandate as well as local legislative requirement. I’m going to double check that and get back to you.

When I set up the phones at work I set them up you had to dial a 9 to get an outside line…then I also set them up so you would just get an outside line when you picked up the handset. So, if you pickup the handset you have a dial tone and you can just dial you’re number (but a lot of customers that are using the phone will dial 9 anyways). If you are ‘within’ the phone system, you have to hit 9 or select a line.

Our fax machine doesn’t require a 9, but it’s wired ‘around’ the phone system. That is, the jack that it’s plugged into has a wire that runs all the way back to the phone network, physically around it, and plugs directly into the Telco’s network box, just like the phone system does.

We also have one or two other jacks that do that so that we can plug ‘regular’ phones in during power outages.

I was tangentially involved when we put in a new phone system 5 or 6 years ago. You must dial 9 to make an external call, but the system specifically recognizes both 9-1-1 and 9,9-1-1 as an emergency call. I’d be very surprised if any system was not *capable *of doing the same thing…which is of course a very different thing from it being *configured *to do so.

FWIW, the view from the 9-1-1 call center may not be much different under the proposed legislation if the caller is unable to state the location where emergency help is required.

9-1-1 systems use Automatic Number Identification (ANI) and Automatic Location Information (ALI) to help call takers determine where a call is originating. Calls from PBX systems typically provide ANI information for the “main switchboard” number. This results in an ALI location of where that main switchboard is located without regard to the physical location of the extension that dialed 9-1-1.

To put that into more layman’s terms… A 9-1-1 call placed from room 2114 at a major Las Vegas Hotel may provide only the phone number of the front desk and address of the hotel - but not the room number. Emergency responders may have to conduct a room-by-room search to locate an incident.

And as md2000 mentioned, a PBX may be set up to provide phone service to multiple offices which are not at the same physical location. The 9-1-1 center may get location for the PBX switchboard but the emergency call may have originated from the other office across town.

Take home lesson - dialing 9-1-1 is only part of the battle. If at all possible the caller needs to clearly provide location information to assist responders in finding the location. That could be an address (1811 Main St, Little Town), landmark (Room 2114 at the Las Vegas Bellagio Hotel), or other location information (at sea at GPS coordinates 19’ 22" North, 83’ 41" West).

Just to add another data point, I looked at the manuals for my phone system and it said that preprogrammed emergency numbers will bypass any restrictions the phone system may have. So, you don’t have to grab a line, you don’t have to worry that your extension isn’t allowed to make outgoing calls right then, if you need to enter an account code before you can use the phone you won’t have to do that etc.
Also, 911 is preset as one of the emergency numbers and you can add others.