Types of Emergency Phones: Glossary and Resources

Types of Emergency Phones: Glossary and Resources

As an emergency communications provider, this next sentence should come as no surprise. We want to talk about emergency phones. Sounds super straightforward and not loaded at all, right? Ha, we know. There are so many different types of devices that can be considered emergency call phones. Do emergency phones have to be phones with emergency buttons? Are they always 911 emergency phones? There are even emergency use only cell phones. Do those count as emergency help phones? Our answer? If you are looking into information on emergency phones, it’s worth getting some context on all emergency response options at a high level. Here, we’ll attempt to do just that by providing a ‘types of emergency phones’ glossary with important facts and links to outside resources for ALL types of emergency phones, along with special considerations.   

Generally speaking, of course, emergency help phones are typically phones for emergency use only. While elevator emergency phones and emergency pool phones are often required by law and thought of as staples when it comes to safety assistance, emergency response options are available (and recommended) for any and all vulnerable areas.  

Find out how to improve safety and reduce costs at your property

Our best-in-class emergency phone + monitoring solutions provide peace of mind and are backed by decades of expertise

Learn More

Best Supplier -
Communication System


 For simplicity’s sake, we’ll break this down into three parts:  

  • Indoor Emergency Phones 
  • Outdoor Emergency Phones
  • Miscellaneous Emergency Response


Areas of Refuge

An area of refuge, also known as an area of rescue, is a designated place where people trapped in a building can go to seek and await help. Tenants may need to wait in an area of refuge if evacuation is not a safe or possible option in the case of fires and multiple other emergencies. A common example of a need for use is that of bedridden hospital patients who may be unable to descend stairs and need to wait for the fire department or first responders in a safe place. Within these areas, two-way voice communication systems, or phones for emergency use only, are required.   

The two-way voice communication system may be the only accessible means to help during a dangerous situation, so its presence is key. Drilling down further, that two-way communication system should contain the following: 

  • A call button 
  • A light indicating that an emergency communication staff knows about the emergency and is on the case 
  • Hands-free capability for ADA compliance

An SOS call box device, or a help point in an area of refuge is required by law in many states (check your local laws). 


Simple Elevator Phone Test Reveals CA Realty Corporation's Need for Kings III

You’re more than likely going to be riding one of the 18 billion elevator trips that take place every year. The odds are that at least a few of these rides will experience a malfunction (we hope it’s not yours!). Causes can be attributed to anything from normal wear and tear to electronic issues. Nobody wants to be stuck in an elevator, but some people will be more freaked out about it than others. It’s no joke: being stuck in an elevator, for some, can trigger physical and psychological conditions. An emergency response phone is already required in any public elevator in the United States (visit our code database to see what your state expects). An emergency phone for elevators and its response makes all the difference. The difference maker that sets us apart from other solutions is a user-friendly call that is immediately placed to an emergency dispatch center, connected to skilled, empathetic operators ready to respond 24/7/365.  

How do elevator emergency phones work? Today’s technology can offer both cellular and phone line options. With the decommissioning of landlines, many are looking at landline replacement options: 

  • VoIP elevator phone: although widely available, VoIP can be an issue when it comes to elevator phone use. A round-the-clock monitoring team, when they need to call back your passenger, may need to be granted access to your network.  
    • Note: be aware that using your IP address for these types of communications can possibly bring security issues.
  • Cellular elevator phone: for most property owners, the cellular solution is the way to go, as long as it’s customized. Here’s how: 
    • Ensure your cellular solution allows for the monitoring center to identify the caller’s location. This needs to be drilled down to the location and even the elevator cab number. The passenger should not need to provide this information.  
    • The system requires a direct connection to power, along with a battery backup.  
    • When evaluating your system, make room for time to connect. Here, speed is a value. Give your passengers a “concierge experience,” making a quick emergency response a much-appreciated amenity that shows you are thinking of them in a stressful moment.  

Fitness Centers 

Fitness Center Emergency Help Phone

Due to an abundance of both electric equipment as well as physical activity, fitness centers can be considered high-risk areas and require an extra level of safety. While not necessarily required by law, emergency response phones can provide a higher level of help than emergency calls from cell phones can offer and can be true lifesavers in the event of an emergency in your fitness center. 


We often take stairs and stairwells for granted, but these are typical locations for accidents and crime. In other words, they’re an ideal place for phones with emergency buttons. Take a good look at your stairs and stairwells: are they well-lit and free of debris and storage? Are the handrails secure and do you place down no-slip strips? Check your local building codes – a code-compliant emergency telephone may be required equipment. Even if this is not the case, you must evaluate the risk they may pose and how vulnerable the area may be, as these can warrant the need, law or not.  Attention to your stairs and stairwells should be a year-round concern, but especially during icy and inclement weather. 

OUTDOOR EMERGENCY PHONES (all should be weather resistant) 


Bluelight phones

Emergency bluelight phones are also known as stationary emergency phones. They are planted or fastened in high-risk locations that may not necessarily be ideal for emergency calls. You may sometimes see them as emergency call box phones. They’re meant to be easily recognizable and provide easy access to help. Note that bluelight emergency phones don’t always require a blue light. The most common location for bluelight emergency phones:  

  • Highways  
  • Bridges  
  • Tunnels  
  • Parking lots  
  • Campuses  
  • Industrial complexes  
  • Remote roads  
  • Parks and recreational spaces  

Parking Lot Safety

Don’t be fooled by the idea that blue light boxes are “old school” or retro-looking. Today’s bluelight emergency phones are cutting-edge and state-of-the-art. They are created to integrate easily with most of today’s technology, from video cameras and card readers to mass notification software.  


One of the major advantages of emergency phones on college campuses – as with all emergency call phones – is that they can act as a deterrent to crime. The tragic reality of school shooting incidents makes campus emergency phones more important than ever. Of course, the other huge advantage is, again, like other types of phones: providing immediate emergency response when needed. Common areas for campus emergency phones include walkways, dorm courtyards, hallways, common areas, and lobbies. A campus emergency phone used during an active shooter situation could mean the difference between life and death. See our customer story: Active Shooter Drill and Planned Electrical Shutdown Reconfirm KEARNY Real Estate’s Decision to Implement Kings III Elevator Phone Monitoring. The call gets through to an always-available staff ready to get immediate help, with no fuss or missing information or confusion.  

Pool Phones

Pool and Outdoor Phones

Not every state requires emergency phones for swimming pools (though many do!), but having one onsite may reduce or prevent injury, accidents, crime and even drowning. They’re also helpful for tenants who may see structural damage and potential maintenance hazards (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure). Emergency pool emergency phones may also reduce your liability. These communication devices are best utilized when placed no further than 200 unobstructed feet from the pool itself. Without question, emergency phones in pool areas should exist solely to help in a pool-related emergency. However, the phone’s location should still be instantly accessible in all times of need, if necessary – people tend to remember that pools often have emergency help phones. Some examples below:

A real emergency call handled by our Emergency Dispatch Center (EDC):
No shortcode ID found


Highway call box

Such an emergency call box SOS is for drivers and passengers on highways who need assistance. It’s usually a metal box that contains a direct line telephone, but it could also feature other types of telecommunications devices. This is also known as an emergency roadside telephone. These boxes can often be identified by a blue strobe light that briefly flashes every few seconds. Some of them can be solar-powered. In the old days, before the introduction of two-way radios, police precincts used callboxes (or a “police call box”) at street corners. This way, beat officers could report trouble immediately to the dispatcher. It’s the same idea today.  

Emergency phones for planes  

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued regulation 47 CFR 22.925, which prohibits the use of cell phones in airborne aircraft. However, the FCC has since waived this rule for approved systems that do not interfere with ground-based networks. This waiver does not include ordinary cell phones. The goal is really about the ground, not the air: it’s to protect land-based cellular networks from interference. A cell phone call made from an aircraft could have a signal that is strong enough to cause interference at different cell sites on the ground. The solution (so far) has been the “airplane mode,” which allows you to safely use your phone while in the air. Possibly in mid-to-late 2023, airline passengers in the European Union will soon be able to use their phones without airplane mode (the decision is still being debated at this printing). The European Commission decided that airlines can provide 5G technology on planes. There is no word yet if the United States is going to follow suit.  

Bottom line  

With any type of emergency help phones, the goal is the same: ease of use and speed of response – phones for emergency use only. The caller who is experiencing an emergency should only need to push one button to start the response process. There should be no unnecessary fumbling with cell phones or land phones, and no need to look up or relay locations, addresses, or directions. That information is preloaded and immediately available to the call center. Additionally, live operators should be on call all day and all year, with no waiting, communication gaps, or confusion. The conversation should be two-way and allow for clear speaking and hearing. Another advantage: emergency call phones can be used by anyone, including visitors who may not be familiar with the technology.  

Seconds count. We know because we’ve been making them count when it matters most for over 30 years. Since inception, our only business has been providing emergency response with best-in-class dispatchers holding Advanced Emergency Medical Dispatcher (AEMD), Red Cross CPR, and HIPAA certifications. With Kings III you have the comfort of knowing that your call will not only be answered quickly, but by someone who can provide pre-arrival medical instruction.    

Your Kings III emergency response can also be enhanced with FirstNet®, Built with AT&T. FirstNet is the reliable, highly secure, interoperable, and innovative public safety communications platform built with and for first responders. Most importantly, when the cellular network goes down, FirstNet gives your emergency phones priority.       

So, when misfortune happens – whether we are responding to a trapped elevator passenger where a building has lost power during a storm; a multifamily community where a swimmer has suffered a heart attack; or a school on lockdown – Kings III monitoring offers a reliable, cost-effective solution with an added layer of risk and liability reduction.   

Find out how to improve safety and reduce costs at your property

Our best-in-class emergency phone + monitoring solutions provide peace of mind and are backed by decades of expertise

Learn More

Best Supplier -
Communication System


FirstNet and the FirstNet logo are registered trademarks of the First Responder Network Authority. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.


What an Emergency Dispatcher will Most Likely Ask You

When suddenly faced with an emergency, you may immediately feel frightened and helpless. An emergency communications system can help reduce or eliminate those reactions by providing immediate assistance. Here's what you can expect on the other side of a call you place from an emergency phone.

Kings III Makes The Dallas Morning News Top 100 Places to Work List Becoming a 4x Winner

We're honored to be recognized by our employees and The Dallas Morning News by making the daily newspaper’s Top 100 Places to Work list for the 4th year in a row, falling in at 26th in the midsize companies category.

January 2024 Elevator Code Updates in Florida

Florida property managers have finally completed DLM requirements in their elevators (hopefully). But wait, there's more! Florida will adopt ASME 2019 starting January 1, 2024. Learn what this means, how you can comply, and get guidance from our code experts.

Survey Reveals Gaps in Building Emergency Communications Plans

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.

Successful Hotel CO Inspections

A CO is a vital requirement before opening your new-build/renovated hotel. One area we often see overlooked within the process is telecommunications. To help get you started, we’ve compiled a checklist of key telecom-specific items to consider that may be subject to inspection.

How is Elevator Liability Defined?

One of a building owner’s worst nightmares: a passenger gets into an elevator in perfect health but ends the ride with a serious physical or psychological injury. Thankfully, this is an extremely rare scenario, but all those involved in building management should know exactly how to define elevator liability and take action if an incident occurs.

How is Your Premise Liability Law IQ?

A premises liability lawsuit holds a property owner responsible for any damages arising out of an injury on that person or entity's property. Keeping your property safe is, therefore, your number-one priority. Here's exactly what you need to know.

Kings III of America Announces CEO Transition

Kings III today announced that as part of a thoughtful succession process, Dennis Mason will be stepping down as Chief Executive Officer and transitioning to Senior Advisor. Norm Nelson, who has served as Chief Operating Officer since 2018, will succeed Mr. Mason as CEO.

Apple iPhone Setting Ties Up 911 Call Centers

A recent news story highlights how an iPhone safety feature may be adversely affecting 911 call centers. Here's what property managers should be thinking about when it comes to their own onsite emergencies.

Kings III makes it easy as a single point-of-contact for all your emergency response needs. With expertise in line connectivity, compliance codes, equipment maintenance, and safety protocol, we offer the total package.