8 AM - 5 PM CST M-F

What is an emergency phone?

Here’s an obvious statement: security is important. Emergency phones are part of essential public safety infrastructure. But what is an emergency phone exactly?

This blog is a clear, easy to read introduction to emergency phones using examples. We sell emergency phones from only ultra-reliable, well-established brands that are trusted throughout the industry, including:

Viking E-1600-45-IP VoIP Emergency Phone

An introduction to emergency phones

In essence, an emergency phone is a high-visibility intercom with additional features to improve reliability and accessibility. They can call via either a push-button and speaker like an intercom or have a handset like a traditional telephone.

We’re going to cover some of the major features and questions to consider when looking for an emergency phone.

Aiphone IX-SSA-RA VoIP Emergency Phone

IP emergency phones vs analog emergency phones

Like phones, intercoms and paging systems, emergency phones come in two varieties: IP and analog. Analog emergency phones either connect to an analog phone line (POTS line) or connect back to an FXS port on a phone system. VoIP emergency phones, like VoIP phones, run over the IP network and connect back to a VoIP phone system or cloud phone service.

We go over the difference between analog and VoIP in detail in many places. For an analogous situation, check out our Paging Systems Buyer’s Guide where we talk about the difference between analog and IP paging systems. Many of the concerns written about there are the same that you’d have with IP vs analog emergency phones.

Viking E-1600-20-IP VoIP Emergency Phone


When shopping for an outdoor emergency phone, you’ll want to make sure it’s rated for outdoor installation. This means checking two things: the operating temperature range and its durability ratings.

Operating temperature range tells you how cold or hot the conditions can be that the phone has been tested to work in. Durability ratings are industry standards that devices need to be tested for. The two most common ones are the IP rating and IK rating. The IP rating indicates how well it resists dust and water getting into the device. The IK rating indicates how well it holds up against impacts.

Talkaphone VOIP-600EI VoIP Emergency Phone

Extremely simple user interface

During an emergency, you don’t want to have to think. You want to have the simplest possible user interface. And what could be simpler than a call button? Press it: that’s all you have to do.

Most emergency phones have a single call button. Some have two buttons, like Talkaphone VOIP-600EI, which has a large red Emergency button and a smaller black Info button. Braille lettering lets people who can’t see know which button is which. The user interface is as simple as can be.

Similarly, an emergency phone with a handset is dead simple: pick up the handset and it’ll automatically place the call.

CyberData 011209 VoIP Emergency Intercom

High visibility

Emergency phones are meant to be seen. There are a few ways manufacturers design the phones to improve visibility. They might be a bright color, typically red or yellow. If the emergency phone is intended to call the police, it might be blue. The Viking E-1600-IP Series of VoIP Emergency Phones, for example, has a wide range of colors.

The other prominent method is large lettering. How about an emergency phone that says EMERGENCY on it like CyberData 011209? That’s pretty good for getting attention.

To improve visibility, you could also attach as a peripheral a strobe light, which will flash a bright light when activated. Strobes are useful for improving accessibility, as well.

Viking E-1600-BLP-IP VoIP Emergency Phone

ADA compliance and accessibility

Emergency phones must be useful for everyone. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1992 has standards for accessibility that ensure an emergency phone is effective for all people. Among the requirements are features like hearing aid compatibility and usability by people who can’t hear.

Viking Electronics, for example, has a huge range of ADA compliant emergency phones with Grade 2 Braille lettering. The emergency phone will transmit a unique location ID code or voice message to the call attendant, which means that someone who can’t speak or hear still alerts the necessary personnel.

Talkaphone ETP-MT/R Campus Emergency Phone

Emergency phone towers

For parks, campuses and similar open, public areas, emergency phone towers are your best bet. These are free-standing, weather-resistant structures that hold and protect the emergency phone. As independent structures, they are highly visible: a dedicated solution that improves public safety.

Talkaphone is well-known for their emergency phone towers. They offer many different options, including ones with integrated solar power or strobe lights. They can work as part of a wide-range alarm broadcasting network, as well.

Algo 1202 Emergency Call Button

Emergency call buttons

Another option is an emergency call button like Algo 1202. This simple device has a button that dials a set extension or series of extensions, sending a prerecorded message. Rather than an intercom, it’s more similar to an alarm, letting the call attendant know where help is needed without requiring vocal communication.

Viking K-1900-712L-IP VoIP Panel Phone

Emergency pool phones

Emergency pool phones are in high demand. We wanted to highlight a couple features that you might not think of when shopping for an emergency phone for swimming pools. If you’re using the phone for an outdoor swimming pool, you’ll need to ensure it is outdoor-rated and water-resistant.

If you’re getting an emergency phone for an indoor pool, you’ll want to make sure that the phone is highly resistant to water, not only because of the potential for splashing, but also because indoor pools have extremely high humidity levels. Condensation becomes a major hazard to the lifetime of your emergency phone.

Viking offers their emergency phones with Enhanced Weather Protection (EWP). Viking EWP greatly improves resistance to humidity and condensation. EWP includes many enhancements. Viking hand seals connections with a non-corrosive sealant, adds foam rubber mounting gaskets, and pots the whole circuit board in a flexible urethane or thermoplastic encapsulating material. EWP products meet the IP66 rating.

Viking E-1600-02-IP VoIP Emergency Phone

Emergency elevator phones

Getting stuck in an elevator is just… bad. Don’t want to think about it bad. Emergency elevator phones are important. What do you look for in an emergency phone for elevators or lifts?

You’ll want something compact and that’s flush mounted, which means that the phone is set into the wall rather than sitting on its surface, like Viking E-1600-02-IP. You want to save space: flush mounting helps. Tamper resistance is essential. Look for an emergency phone that uses Torx security screws.

If you have any questions that we didn’t tackle here, get in touch! Our experts are waiting for your call.


Related Blogs