The name derives from Commissioner Gordon's secure line to the "Batphone" in the Batman television show of 1966–68. In the modern Batman comic book continuity, the Batphone made its debut in Detective Comics #786 (November, 2003), in the form of an encrypted cellphone that allowed Gordon to securely contact Batman, as well as allowing other calls just like a normal cellphone. It also carries a tracking device in case of trouble. Unlike the original Batphone, the device is not red and looks like a regular cellphone. This version also became the version of the Bat-Signal used in Batman: Earth One.
A bat phone often has some or all of the following properties:
It gets answered outside of working hours
It does not make the caller wait on hold or navigate through cumbersome voice menus
The line rings straight through to high-level management or technicians without having to be transferred from front lines.
The number is only given to selected people
Shields technical personnel from receiving irrelevant calls
Bat phones are common in many industries. The phone numbers are typically given to key customers so that they may reach important individuals in case of emergencies or critical situations. Bat phones can also provide direct access to politicians or notable people.
Police Stations in the United Kingdom are often closed to public enquiry overnight, in this situation it is normal for a call point to be provided. This is often referred to internally as a Bat Phone.
Another example of their use is for Internet service providers offering a selection of Internet services that range from dial-up access to secure web server hosting. Customers using the secure web hosting facility would be given access to a 24-hour bat phone for prompt resolution of technical issues, while dialup customers seeking technical support would be required to wait on hold and/or call only during business hours.