Our Opinion: Resolution goes beyond reimbursement

Despite a contentious start, local governments recently adopted cooperation and communication to resolve a conflict.

The governing bodies included the Cole County Commission, which operates an ambulance service, and the Jefferson City Housing Authority, an agency that oversees public housing, include Dulle Tower.

The conflict centered on the burden and expense created by repeated false alarms called in by Housing Authority tenants.

The ambulance service director in January reported to county commissioners that, during a three-year period, more than half — 51 percent — of the emergency calls from Dulle Tower were false alarms. Each call is estimated to cost $400.

County commissioners voted in late January to begin enforcing a regulation that permits the county to bill landlords or property owners when an ambulance responds to a false alarm.

The Housing Authority requested, and received, a 60-day grace period to address the issue.

Apartments in Dulle Tower are outfitted with emergency pull cords that summon ambulances.

The majority of false alarms were traced to incidents where: a tenant accidentally pulls the cord; a tenant reports the cord was pulled by a curious young visitor, frequently a nephew, niece or grandchild; or no one answers when emergency personnel respond to the scene.

Jack Pletz, the Housing Authority’s attorney, reported to the county officials Monday that Dulle Tower tenants had been advised about summoning ambulance service. The result has been a decrease in false alarms, which have totaled nine in the past two months.

Pletz also said the emergency call system is being refined so specific tenants — not the landlord — can be identified and billed for false alarms.

The county’s action was designed to receive reimbursement for false alarms.

Appropriate reimbursement is a worthy goal, but a larger concern is a rash of false alarms that unnecessarily burden our ambulance service.

The resolution targets both problems: repayment for expenses and, more important, diminishing a needless drain on emergency services.

Emergency responders must not be repeatedly distracted by false alarms because when a real emergency occurs, every moment is vital to the outcome.

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