Magazine article Security Management

Police Not Pushing Panic Button

Magazine article Security Management

Police Not Pushing Panic Button

Article excerpt

More than a million personal alarms, also known as panic buttons and mobile security devices (MSDs), are projected to be in use by 2002. They are expected to be found mostly in automobiles (as part of a road service/directions feature), but some will be carried by individuals, perhaps as part of pagers and other small electronic devices.

Personal alarms can be a great way for people in danger to call police. With the press of a button, a person can transmit his or her precise location via global positioning satellites. But many police fear being overwhelmed by inappropriate calls from these devices, such as for medical services, car towing, and false alarms. In addition, police worry that these devices might embolden users to take unnecessary risks.

These and other concerns have compelled the Private-Sector Liaison Committee (PSLC) of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) to release draft guidelines on the use of these devices and law enforcement response. The Security Industry Association (SIA) will issue a complementary standard of its own later this year.

The struggles of police departments all over the country with false intrusion alarms have been well documented. With thai experience still fresh in law enforcement's collective memory, PSLC aims to head off further onslaughts of false alarms. "We're going to take the lessons we've learned in the last five years from the alarm industry and put them into practice," explains Mike Shanahap, a co-chair of the PSLC who helped draft the guidelines.

The focus of the PSLC guidelines is verification. Thus, the guidelines prohibit direct signals from MSDs to public safety agencies. These agencies will respond only to requests from intermediary monitoring stations that meet standards set out by the SIA. In addition, monitoring stations requesting police assistance must be able to provide a direct voice channel between the person requesting assistance and the police. Finally, because few police departments are equipped to translate geographic coordinates into street addresses, monitoring stations must supply street addresses.

Police response to a "moving" alarm is another prime concern, so the standards also seek to prevent the clogging of police and 911 phone lines by monitoring stations tracking the MSD. …

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