Two federal bills could impact central station operators

ESA alerts industry to take notice, contact representatives
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Two bills in front of Congress could greatly impact the alarm monitoring industry, raising issues of privacy and information disclosure.

The first bill, H.R. 3621, or the “Call Center Consumer’s Right to Know Act,” introduced on Sept. 22 by Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA), would require any central station to immediately disclose where it is located when picking up a call. This could pose problems for third-party monitoring centers that are supposed to be “invisible” to the end user. The bill also requires the companies to certify their compliance with this mandate to the Federal Trade Commission every year.

The second bill, H.R. 3717, or the “Kelsey Smith Act,” was introduced Oct. 1, and seeks to facilitate more responsive coordination between law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies and wireless cell phone carriers during emergencies involving missing persons. It is named for a girl who went missing and whose location—because of privacy restrictions—was not released to first responders for four days. Once her wireless carrier was forced to disclose her last known location, determined by the nearest cell phone tower, emergency personnel located her body in 45 minutes.

Some argue she could have been saved. The bill would require wireless phone companies to swiftly respond to law enforcement requests for location information of victims who are in jeopardy of death or serious physical harm.

Both bills are currently in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Electronic Security Association, formerly the NBFAA, is drawing attention to the two bills, which are being examined by the Alarm Industry Communications Committee, made up of representatives from industry associations including Central Station Alarm Association, ESA, the Security Industry Association and major alarm companies and manufacturers.

John Chwat, president of government relations consulting firm Chwat & Company, and the ESA representative to AICC, feels the bills demand attention and a common stance from an often-fractured industry. “We should develop an industry position on this rather than everybody doing their own thing,” Chwat said. “We’re dealing with all the telephone companies and all of the cell phone companies. This is a major issue involving huge industries. Our industry needs to be prudent and figure out what it is we need to take a position on. ESA is doing that and is urging the rest of the industry to focus on these bills and prepare a position.”

Chwat urged everyone in the industry to learn more about the bills and stay informed. More information can be found on ESA’s website at www.alarm.org or by sending an email to Chwat at John.Chwat@chwatco.com.