A recent survey* of property management professionals revealed that while more than 60 percent of respondents were aware that telecom companies are phasing out POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service, also known as analog copper land lines), nearly half reported their elevator emergency communication systems are still based on this endangered technology.
The survey, conducted in early 2022 by emergency communications leader Kings III, underscores the importance of helping building managers and operators develop a comprehensive emergency communications plan that’s not only based on 21st Century technology, but that also keeps pace with modern building codes.
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In an effort to educate the building management and engineering community on the importance of updating emergency communications systems, Kings III has made available key findings from the survey.
POTS replacement candidates
First up, among survey respondents, there’s no one strong consensus candidate for replacement of POTS lines used in older elevator installations.
- The most popular land line replacement strategies include: Cellular (34.8%), PBX (26.4%), and Cable Line (15.58%)
Each of these strategies has strengths and weaknesses, but as the SME, Kings III strongly recommends a cellular solution in order to best meet unique code requirements and needs regarding risk reduction specific to emergency communications. Kings III offers a cellular system that meets these specific needs, along with bandwidth sufficient to maintain video and two-way communications, a requirement in more than 40 states who have adopted ASME 2019 and/or IBC 2021+ codes. This capability may not be possible with other elevator communication strategies.
Who answers the call?
While most respondents reported a professional organization monitors their elevator phones, there’s still room for improvement:
- Responsibility for answering the elevator phone: In-House Security (23.4%), Elevator Company (20.4%), Specialized Emergency Monitoring Company (20.6%), Fire, and Security Company (20.4%)
In the event of a major emergency, relying on in-house security or a general security company to provide accurate and timely safety and medical advice is dicey. Kings III maintains a network of call centers that are staffed around the clock with experts who understand not just how elevators work but are also trained in first aid and emergency response. Additionally, Kings III leverages a third-party service that provides access to translators who are trained in English and one or more of the array of languages spoken in the United States, ensuring clear communications regardless of the situation.
Concerns with VoIP
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a popular replacement strategy for day-to-day communications in commercial settings for decades. However, even those using VOIP technology voiced concerns about general security and reliability of these systems.
- Two-thirds (66.7%) of respondents using VoIP technology had at least a moderate concern about power outages disrupting communications.
- A whopping 70.1% of VoIP users reported at least a moderate amount of concern about a third-party monitoring company having access to their company’s IT network through their VOIP systems.
These shortcomings become even more troubling with regard to life safety devices such as elevator phones.
An additional concern for those using VoIP for elevator communications is code compliance. Without customization to add layers of redundancy, reliability, and security, standard VoIP service is not code compliant in most of the US.
What’s the timeline?
After more than a century of use, telephone companies across the country are abandoning copper phone lines as quickly as they can and giving varying amounts of notice to their customers.
It’s important for building management to have an actionable elevator emergency communications plan that can be implemented prior to the discontinuation of POTS in their area. With some respondents reporting that their plans have fallen to the back burner, Kings III wishes to remind them that they may not receive a lot of notice from their phone company before POTS lines are terminated. Having a plan in place that can be deployed quickly and far in advance of that deadline is imperative.
New building codes
New building codes in a growing number of states now require video and two-way communicants in elevator systems, in addition to the standard requirements for battery backups with 4-hour talk-time in the event of a power outage.
- More than half (53.2%) or respondents were unaware of new building codes that require video and two-way communications.
- 59.7% of respondents knew of the requirement for a battery backup with 4-hour talk time in the event of a power outage.
Kings III provides a comprehensive digital monitoring service that includes two-way communications, video capabilities and battery capacity for 4+ hours of talk time. Plus, the Kings III monitoring center is staffed around the clock with professionals who specialize in elevator emergency communication — something that on-site security or even an alarm and fire monitoring company cannot boast.
Other key takeaways:
- One major consideration that was not part of the survey was the cost of operation for those respondents still using older POTS equipment in their elevators. Anecdotal evidence shows POTS costs rising significantly in most areas, as phone providers encourage customers to jettison old phone lines before the service is officially terminated by the provider.
- Frequently hidden costs and fees associated with maintaining POTS are buried in complicated billing statements for large commercial buildings. Unless a building manager looks at the bill line-by-line, these fees could be missed, and they add up quickly.
Kings III monitors 100,000+ emergency phones across the United States and Canada. They are fully integrated; not only engineering and manufacturing emergency phones but also providing one-stop-shop solutions that include installation, maintenance, and 24/7 monitoring. Talk to one of our experts here.
*Survey was conducted in four parts and consisted of four key groups, including a sampling of BOMA Members, Kings III Customers and Prospects, and a panel conducted by Centiment.