The Assembly has passed a bill that would make it easier to call 911 from a public building.
The bill (A.608/S.932) sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, would require changes to the multi-line telephone systems in buildings owned by the state; a county, town, or village government; a school district; or any other political or civil subdivision of state and local government.
“Should an emergency arise in a public building where police, fire, or medical services are needed, it is imperative that those calling for help can easily reach a 911 operator,” Paulin said. “In order to ensure that time is not wasted in an emergency, multi-line phone systems should be converted to allow users to dial 911 directly.”
Many of these telephone systems, especially in larger buildings and offices, are set up to require additional steps to dial an outside line, and in the case of an emergency 911 call, this process could potentially risk wasting crucial moments before help reaches the scene.
“People … expect that if they dial 911 in an emergency, they will be connected to a public service answering point, and that emergency assistance will be dispatched,” Paulin said. “However, this is not always the case when someone calls 911 from a multi-telephone system.”
Specifically, the bill would require that all public buildings operating on a multi-line telephone system configure their system hardware to allow any call to 911 on the system to be directly connected to a public service answering point.
If the system upgrade is too expensive, the bill allows for prominently placed stickers and signs that instruct everyone how to dial an outside line and reach 911.
Paulin mentions having recently called 911 herself, describing how distraught a person typically is in those high-stress moments during an emergency. “People are not calm when dialing 911— and they just want that process to go as smoothly as possible,” she says. “If someone in your office is having a heart attack, and you have to dial a nine or a two first, that’s wasting precious time.”
Senator Thomas Croci is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.