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Morning Lineup – December 16

Friday Morning – Don't be Alarmed

One of our loyal readers, Mark Donovan came across an industry bulletin from the Alarm Industry Communications Committee, a group of monitored alarm businesses who make their living installing home and business fire and security alarm systems.  The bulletin (reprinted HERE) warns their members about a bill that is working its way through the U. S. Congress that will allow monitored alarm signals to bypass the alarm company's switchboards and go directly to the 9-1-1 dispatch center.

On the surface this looks like a pretty good idea and a pretty bad idea.  The good part is that alarm signals will go to the dispatch center in a lot more timely fashion.  During the year that I worked in dispatch, we were constantly confounded by alarm companies who repeatedly called the wrong fire departments to report alarms sounding, and in a high number of instances the report from the alarm company was delayed by several minutes.  And I'm talking about 15 minutes or more.

Univ. of Iowa photo

The bad part is that a high percentage of monitored alarms are not true emergencies or mistaken signals.  This new bill includes the so-called personal emergency devices that elderly and handicapped people wear ("I've fallen and I can't get up!").  An excerpt from the AICC bulletin reads:

The problem could well result in 9-1-1 operators being flooded with automatic sensor generated calls, from security devices, as well as Personnel Emergency Response System (PERS) calls. The alarm industry which currently screens these calls before they are forwarded to 9-1-1 centers knows from experience that the vast majority of these calls from burglar and fire alarm systems as (well as) from PERS systems do not require dispatch. The overwhelming majority of PERS calls (99%) do not require the dispatch of emergency services. In many cases the senior is seeking just to talk with someone or has inadvertently set off the alarm. Currently the alarm industry screens all these calls before they are sent to the 9-1-1 operator to determine whether emergency services need to be dispatched. On an annual basis we screen over a 100 million calls a year. Of that, the industry resolves in the high 90% without a referral to 9-1-1 operators.

There is a lot more to this issue than just that, however.  The bill does not mandate the signals to go directly to the dispatch centers, but allows the localities to require it if they want to.  I get the impression that the Congress is creating the legal process that will allow a variety of "new" communications, such as phone texts, videos, and other electronically-generated digital messages to be directed to 9-1-1 centers.  And of course, cynical me strongly suspects that the alarm companies are trying to protect their turf and keep their own alarm centers populated and operating.  My first response when I read this was to think that if they are getting 90% false calls, then they had better get their act together and either reduce the rate, or stop peddling them as "emergency" devices when they obviously aren't.

We had better get our own non-emergency response to the apparatus now and get it checked out.  I'm going to send a signal to the Bunn-O-Matic and get a fresh pot started.  See you back in the day room in a little while.

 

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