Do you remember as a kid watching those clear elevators in fancy buildings moving up and down in their graceful dance as they deliver people to their requested floor? Elevators are a staple of modern life, often used in office buildings, schools, hospitals, and other public places. Depending on the age of a building, almost all multi-level buildings will have an elevator for those who may be unable to physically walk up the stairs. Because elevators are traveling between several different floors, they can not access phones in lobbies or other public spaces in the event of a mechanical or electrical failure within the elevator. As a result, the fire code has some specific requirements when it comes to maintaining communications in the event of an emergency.
Basic Elevator Phone Requirements
To start, an elevator phone will not look like your traditional desktop phone or even an old school home phone with a receiver and a wire attached to the wall and buttons to dial a number. Elevator phones are required to be accessible to users of all abilities, meaning it must be a simple touch to initiate communications. No corded phones and the phone must not require voice communications but also have a visual indicator to let the caller know the phone has connected to an attendant outside of the elevator. The phones must also be no more than 48” from the floor and cannot be programmed to simply dial 911. The elevator phone must have a dedicated 24-hour monitoring service, whether that be an onsite security office or offsite phone monitoring service.
Does an elevator need a dedicated phone line?
The answer is: it depends. There are many nuances within the fire code depending on your location and it is impossible to make a blanket statement about how the elevator phone connects to the appropriate party. In some instances, an elevator needs a dedicated phone line because it is technically considered an emergency form of communication that requires reliable access to emergency personnel. It wouldn’t do to have a multi-line phone line connected to the elevator, causing callers to hear that dreaded busy tone when their elevator is stuck between floors or someone is experiencing a medical emergency. In others, devices can be built into the line that gives the elevator call a priority over any other call that may currently be on that line. Either way, the phone line will operate as if it was a dedicated phone line always ensuring instant access to personnel who can help.
Does the Dedicated Phone Line Need to be a POTS Line?
This question has become particularly relevant as carriers begin the transition away from the copper wires (POTS lines) of the PSTN and to the newer, digital technologies and fiber connections. A long-held belief is that POTS lines will always be more reliable than a digital solution that is prone to disruptions from power outages and other issues that have frequently brought digital connections down. While that may have been true at the advent of VoIP, there have been huge strides made with the technology and in many instances, VoIP and digital or cellular lines are just as, or more reliable than copper POTS technology. How is that? The copper POTS networks, in some cases, are as old as 150 years and many lines have disintegrated due to lack of maintenance. Verizon has gone so far as to refuse to rebuild the copper lines after Hurricane Sandy and instead transfer all traffic to digital connections. Previous fire codes did require that the line be a traditional POTS line, but as digital technologies have grown, the code has been amended in many places to allow VoIP or cellular connections as long as they meet certain criteria. So no, the dedicated phone line does not ALWAYS need to be a POTS Line. It all depends on your local fire code.
What if my Elevator Only Utilizes POTS Lines?
This is a good question. Many elevators still in use were built when POTS technology was the only way to connect the emergency communications of the elevator to the monitoring location. This wiring is buried deep within the frame of the elevator and is no easy task to replace with digital VoIP solutions. With carriers in the beginning stages of retiring POTS lines, this will eventually no longer be a question of when…but how you update to digital. Do you pull out the entire elevator and buy a new one capable of communicating digitally? This can be cringe-worthy for many as you recall the expense of installing the elevator car in the first place and if the car itself works perfectly…with this one exception, forking over the cost to replace the entire car is…difficult to justify.
The other question is, “Do you attempt to update the current car and rip and replace all POTS lines?” While this may be a better option than completely replacing the car as in the previous example, it won’t be easy or cost-effective. The car could be down for days for maintenance as all the wires are replaced with VoIP connections and if it is the only elevator in the building…well…you get the picture.
A third option is an ePOTS device that connects the copper wires of your current elevator car to the digital VoIP lines of the new network. Devices such as POTS IN A BOX© that directly connect your analog elevator to your digital network resolve many of the challenges that come with updating your elevator to meet new requirements as we move into the next generation of communication technology.
You can learn more about POTS IN A BOX© and how it can help you simplify the process of updating all components of your network to digital, from police and fire alarms to fax, to SCADA by filling in the form below or continue reading from the following pages: