Seeking the right ADA-compliant emergency phone is a difficult process. A plethora of choices can ma

If you’ve ever had to sort through the confusing terms and special charges in all those long-distance plans phone companies are selling these days, you already have a pretty good idea of what’s involved in picking the right Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant emergency phone for your facility.

Because, just like those reportedly “5-cent” calling plans that jack up their rates if you call during peak hours, making the wrong choice when selecting an emergency phone can bust your budget, limit your options and inflate your monthly phone bills.

All ADA emergency phones are not created equal. It’s a phone-cord jungle out there, and the key is to untangle the facts from the hype. You can start by nixing the idea that the higher priced models provide the most features. In fact, a survey (see chart on page 58) of the most popular models shows just the opposite to be true in some cases.

Some of the lower-priced models contain not only the features you need immediately but also offer some long-term money-saving features as well. You must take into account dialing features, and how calls are handled and disconnected, when looking at these devices.

How about those phones with fancy enclosures and shiny big red buttons? You’d be surprised to know that under some of that glimmering sheet metal you’ll find very obsolete technology—technology that will prove costly to repair as parts become scarce.
How these phones are powered and in what kind of temperatures they operate are other very important considerations when seeking assurance that the phone you select will work properly. You could be held liable for the smallest malfunction.

This may not be such a big deal if you’re in the market for a single emergency phone for a specific location, such as an elevator. But if you’re buying a slew of phones for various locations, including parking ramps, banks of elevators and other areas of rescue, you’re talking about a major investment—especially when you consider that the pricier ADA-compliant phones can sell for more than $850 each.

The phones used for comparison in this study include ADA-compliant phones from each of the six largest manufacturers of the devices: Allen-Tel, CEECO, GAI-Tronics, Talk-A-Phone, Rath Microtech and Viking Electronics.

When it comes to meeting the basic ADA requirements, all makes and models incorporate the same features—a built-in dialer, speakerphone, a call connected light, and some method of identifying the location to the answering party. But once you go beyond the basics, you’ll find significant differences among manufacturers.

Dialing Considerations Are of Utmost Importance

Any comparison of emergency phones should start with dialing features. After all, this is how users start the process of using the device. ADA-compliant phones do not have dials or touch-tone pads—they have built-in auto dialers. But whom do they call and what happens if the line is busy or no one answers? That could mean serious trouble with some of these phones.

Find Out Who Is Handling the Emergency Calls

The bottom line when handling emergency calls is to ensure that all calls are handled promptly, professionally and at all hours. This fact may prompt you to consider using one of the newer emergency phone features.

Disconnecting Can Cause a Major Headache

When discussing disconnection at the end of a call, you don’t want the emergency phone capturing the phone line for endless periods of time. Vandals and pranksters could have a field day if they knew they could tie up your emergency phones for hours on end.
This is why most phones have a built-in call timer.

Put the Phone in a Workable Environment

Installation costs are always a concern when outfitting a facility with emergency phones. It is costly enough to run low-voltage telephone cable in protective conduit to protect it from elements and vandals. The last thing you need is to run AC power to those same phones.

Potential Liability Becomes a Bigger Issue

The latest trend in the emergency phone market comes courtesy of the legal profession. If the emergency phone you installed isn’t working when it’s needed most, even if the failure is due to vandals, you can expect to be sued. The minute you install an emergency phone, you incur a legal duty to keep it operational at all times.

Pricing Comparisons Should Be First and Final Step

Each manufacturer offers several models of phones, each with varying degrees of sturdiness. However, most often, differences in price are usually related more to construction design than standard features. Therefore, for these comparisons, the least costly models were selected.

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