FCC Checking With Hotels To See If Reaching Help With 9-1-1 Is As Easy As It Should Be

If you were to pick up the phone in a hotel room and dial 9-1-1, what would you get? You probably wouldn’t be in the state of mind to dial 9 first, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting in contact with emergency services as fast as possible, which is why one member of the Federal Communications Commission is looking into how it works at different hotel chains across the country.

The move by FCC member Ajit Pai to send letters to 10 hotel chains in the United States asking whether guests dialing 9-1-1 are immediately connected to an emergency call center or an employee started after a 9-year-old tried to call for help when her mother was stabbed to death, the Associated Press reports.

The girl, her mom and two siblings were at a Baymont Inn in December when officials say the father dragged the woman into a bathroom and killed her. The daughter tried to call 9-1-1 three times, but because she didn’t press 9 first, she got no response.

The girl’s grandfather has since initiated the push to find out where else this could possibly happen. Pai calls the family’s situation “horrific,” adding that he wants to dig around and see how deep the problem goes before recommending an action to the FCC.

“If it’s a ’90 percent’ problem as opposed to a ‘5 percent,’ obviously the contours of the problem will look very different and the nature of the solution will look very different,” Pai says.

It might seem like a no-brainer to have 9-1-1 always work — after all, even if you’re locked out of your smartphone you can still dial emergency services — but the problem seems to be far from solved. The grandfather noted that this week he was staying in a hotel in Waco and saw evidence that things need to change.

“There was a big card on the phone giving you instructions on how to do everything else, except dial 911,” he said of the hotel room’s phone. “It was disheartening.”

When he asked front desk workers how to call 9-1-1 from his room, they told him he had to dial 9 first.

FCC member studies Texas 911 dialing case [Associated Press]