National Consumer Protection Week this year was held on March 4-10. Sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission, and in conjunction with state and local agencies, it is a week-long campaign of consciousness intended to make citizens aware of their rights in the marketplace.
It's a noteworthy example of how government can work in concert with other agencies, businesses and community members to create policies and laws that protect the public interest. An example of such proactive work can be seen in Seattle's implementation of an emergency call verification program. The 2004 ordinance marshals community resources by implementing fines for false alarms. However, the ordinance is crafted in such a way where local businesses and emergency call verification centers can work together in a program that benefits all parties.
The result of the program has saved the city this large chunk of money by significantly reducing the 25,000 false alarms that Seattle experienced prior to 2004. Case in point, in 2010, false alarms cost the citizens of Seattle about $1 million dollars in wasted resources. The community is safer with emergency response resources focused on bona fide emergencies, and local businesses enjoy a security environment where would-be burglars know a police dispatch is the real thing. Here are a few questions and answers about this key Pacific Northwest initiative:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Question: What happens to emergency calls?
Answer: Automated security calls are now sent to the monitoring company, where they must be verified by the Verification Center. Security technicians use remote surveillance technology to either verify the emergency call or save emergency services from a false alarm—and their customer from a fine.
Question: Can anyone still call 911?
Answer: Yes. The 911 emergency dispatch system is unaffected. This program relates to automated security system calls, which are now verified manually before committing emergency resources.
Question: Do you have to change your security provider?
Answer: No. You should make sure you have a quality security company that will ensure you get quality service and avoid fines, preferably one that offers advanced verification technology.
Question: Can individuals be fined?
Answer: Yes. Businesses or individuals who do not employ an emergency call verification service are likely to invoke false alarms and will be subject to fines.
Question: What's the best way to avoid fines?
Answer: Use a security service with an emergency call verification center that will guarantee performance while indemnifying you against false alarm fines.
Question: How much are the fines?
Answer: The fines range from $115 to $230. They are not intended to be punitive, but substantial enough to recoup some of the public cost of dispatching emergency personnel to non-emergencies situations.