For forty years, Americans have
depended on the emergency telephone number, 911, as an essential public
service. It’s always been free. But with increased use of cell phones and the
need to update systems the financial pressures placed on local emergency communication
centers have been tremendous – and increasingly expensive.
The city of Ventura, California,
recently tried to address this issue by charging
a fee for dialing 911. That’s right, it will now cost citizens $17.88 to
make an emergency, life-saving phone call. Alternatively, citizens can sign up
for a monthly fee of $1.49 that will allow them to make an emergency call at
I think it’s an unwise decision.
While county officials were quick to point out that the monthly fee is minimal
(and supposedly, “good
Samaritan” calls will be waived ), I suspect that most people will remember
is that there is a fee – period.
Only a sixth of the estimated,
eligible cellular and phone lines are signed up for the monthly fee. Some
people chose to forgo the monthly fee plan assuming that their chances of
requiring emergency assistance are low. Others will avoid it because their
budgets are already strained. Either way, these are the people who will
hesitate before making an emergency call. That hesitation could have dire,