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Well if the 911 system is already broken, maybe an app could try to fix it.

I think the problem with calling 911 is that it is free when it should cost enough money to weed out the noise.

If a call to 911 cost $100, how many people would be calling in about their tooth-aches/loneliness (http://money.cnn.com/2009/08/24/news/economy/healthcare_911_...)? Increase the dollar amount until the number = 0.

An app that allowed you to purchase credit before you had a crisis (or came with $100 of credit and you had to top off after an emergency) might help reduce that noise.

What if the $ went directly to the first responder?

There are ways to solve these problems.




This might be the stupidest thing I've ever read on the Internet (outside of Youtube comments). Are you kidding? First, many people who call 911 are calling on behalf of a stranger. Most people aren't going to part with $100 to report something that doesn't affect them directly. Additionally, there are many situations in which calling 911 is totally appropriate, but where the caller doesn't even know whether there is an emergency. For instance, reporting a possible drunk driver (which I have done on several occasions).

Also, when you drive that "false positives" number to zero you also introduce false negatives. People will wait until it is too late to call 911. This could actually have all kinds of negative externalities, like the police getting into more shootouts because things were allowed to spiral out of control.

This is all beside the fact that you are assuming that everyone who would ever need to call 911 has $100 lying around to "top-off" an app (how do people without smartphones use 911, by the way?).


I think $100 is too aggressive a number and everyone seems to have fixated on that.

I'm saying there is a number between $0 and $1,000,000 per call that will help reduce false positives and make the system more efficient. Maybe its $100, maybe its $50, maybes it $5, maybe its $0.

I've always appreciated what London did to solve its traffic congestion problems (http://grist.org/news/the-success-of-londons-congestion-char...) and while I understand they are not truly analogous, I'm a believer in using $ to properly align incentives and make a system more efficient.


I am pretty sure false positives are WAY less dangerous than false negatives. The cost of calling 911 when it is not needed is just money; the cost of not calling could be someones life. Efficiency is not the primary goal.


False positives cost more than just money. There are a finite number of ambulances in any given area. We try to staff to cover the false positives we know we're going to get, but there's just no way to predict when we'll get hit out for a stubbed toe and someone with a head cold they've had for the past three days and someone who forgot to refill their prescription for their cholesterol medication and an intermittent ringing in your left ear (I'm not making these up folks... these are just a sampling of the BS calls I've been on in the past week or two).

So while crews are off dealing with those non-emergencies, they are unavailable to respond to things like cardiac arrests and strokes...


The issue with charging money for 911 calls would be people who are not actually the victim of a crime (say, a bystander) will have a disincentive to call. In a world where some people already ignore crimes as "not my business" this cost will end up hindering reports from 3rd parties that are not involved. The most immediate example that comes to mind is something like domestic violence.


Sure, lets make emergency responders only available to people that can afford it.

Your husband is beating you, but you don't have your own income? Sorry, out of luck. You're poor and unemployed and having a health emergency that will probably already bankrupt you? Lets throw an extra charge on top of there just for you.


There are obviously a number of issues with this idea (as others have mentioned), but as a member of your 'target population' (a firefighter and paramedic), here's something that hasn't been mentioned yet:

>What if the $ went directly to the first responder?

I'm assuming you mean for these people to respond when they're off duty. It varies from state to state, but generally speaking I'm covered by Good Samaritan laws as long as I'm doing what I'm doing without expectation of compensation (if I'm on duty, I'm covered by my employer's insurance). So as soon as you offer to pay me, I'm no longer covered, and I'm not going to touch you with a ten foot pole.


I really, really hope this was intended as parody.


Dollars? How quaint. 911 should only be for the BitCoin-using technolibertarian elite.


So much potential for IAP


Charge the call, if the call is justified give a discount of 100%.


Try discussing that with the family of the murder victim Sally Geeson. She wrongly believed an emergency 999 (911 to North Americans) cost money so she did not call when she knew her life was in imminent danger as she had no credit left on her phone:

From http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2006/oct/19/guardianwe...

"...tragic consequences last year when Sally Geeson, a student, was abducted and murdered in Cambridge. Sally, whose phone had run out of call credit, sent a series of texts asking for help to friends, apparently not realising that she could have made a 999 call for free."


I intentionally mentioned the charge as a discount, for the purpose of not charging immediately. After the report is investigated and settled the caller either be charged or not. The point is the call could always be made and would be free, only in case of abuse of the number the number would be charged via telephone company. So anyone in danger could call and be sure that he wouldn't pay. The only problem I see here is prepaid phones which could be discarded after use. OR just make calls free and hire more operators and provide training.


What about all the lives lost when it takes first responders up to 8 minutes to respond to a crime because of false positives?

I really believe that this would be a more efficient system on the whole.


You're right, because lives lost due to delays include some rich and therefore worthy people, so a system that saved them and killed more poor people would intrinsically be an improvement. typically blinkered comment that doesn't even admit the possibility of funding the service, employing more responders and attempting to fix the problems. Perhaps it could be funded with this new thing I thought up where it takes money from everyone based on their ability to pay, based on the assumption that everyone is better off in a society that has reliable emergency services.


This would work if the affected party is making the call. It would still not ensure that the 3rd party caller will get reimbursed. A lot of domestic violence calls are real, yet the victims may not actually confirm that there were, in-fact, abuse (due to shame, fear, whatever) ... the reporter loses money in this case even when he/she just wants to report the crime.


The system would have to be more deeply integrated, once the report is made there is a response( police/ambulance ) and then they report back whether it was real. This would be made automatic via reports which already exist. The problem is how to integrate all these different systems together.


Who decides which calls are "real"? If I call to report erratic driving but the officers never catch the person, is it "real"? What if I report gunfire but they never find the shooter or a dead body? We WANT people to use 911, the answer to fake calls that overwhelm the system is better education, punishment for fake calls, and possibly more funding. Fake calls are not a function of the number of 911 operators or first responders, so you should be able to fund your way out of the problem in the short term if it is really that bad.


How are you going to punish fake calls if you established that you can't determine them. I agree on the last sentence.


You can't necessarily know that a legitimate call is legitimate, but you can know that some calls are fake, though not necessarily until after you've checked out the situation, hence the last sentence my previous post: you may have to fund your way out of the problem until your enhanced deterrent (increased punishment, whatever) can have an impact.




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