$300 To Call 911? I Guess The Neighbors Will Be Letting Your House Burn

[ 21 ] March 5, 2010 |
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Tracy and Loma Linda, California are now going to charge residents $300 for every call to 911 with an option to pay $48 for unlimited calls for one year. If you are not a resident of Tracy or Loma Linda,  it will cost you $400 per call. Is this a creative way to make up for a budget shortfall or a recipe for disaster?

From KTLA:

LOMA LINDA — Residents making 911 calls requiring emergency medical services now have a choice — pay $300 per call, or sign up for an annual fee. The Loma Linda Fire Department plans to charge residents $300 for each 911 call, beginning Monday [March 1, 2010], under its new “Fire Medical” program. Residents can also choose to pay a $48 dollar annual membership fee and not be charged for each call. The fee covers each household.

Non-residents will be charged $400 per call or an annual fee of about $60.

No fee will be charged for police or fire emergencies. The cost does not cover any charge from a private ambulance company. The money will go to the fire department, which hopes to offset the costs of providing specialized services to the community. Officials say the fire department responds to more than 3,000 calls each year, about three-fourths of which are for emergency medical services.

I can see it now:

Operator: 911, how would you like to pay for this call? We accept debit, Visa, Mastercard and American Express. I can also give you instructions on how to make a payment through Western Union.

Caller: Help me my baby is turning blue!! He’s not breathing! Help me!!!

Operator: Ma’am, calm down. I will be happy to help you as soon as you make your payment. You are a resident, correct? Non-residents pay a higher fee.

Caller: What??!!! MY BABY IS NOT BREATHING. I NEED AN AMBULANCE NOW. HELP MY BABY!!!

Yeah, that will be wonderful, won’t it? So let me get this straight, Tracy and Loma Linda City Councils, you are going to charge your residents to use emergency services that are supposed to PUBLIC safety, paid for by tax dollars and therefore ALREADY subsidized by your residents?  And this is legal? Uh, huh. So in my state, California, which is already one of the most expensive states to live in and completely broke, two cities want to charge it’s residents for PUBLIC services that have already been bought and paid for by the taxpayers of those cities and the state. Oh and don’t we all pay a 911 surcharge on each and every phone bill???

Tracy City Council member, Michael Maciel, was quoted as saying “How much is your life worth to you?”

Apparently, my life is worth $300, to you, Michael.

Does anyone see a problem with this picture?

Anyone?

Another California city, Ventura, is also adopting a fee for 911 calls. However, their charge is much more reasonable than Tracy or Loma Linda at $1.49 per month, if you sign up for the plan, or $50 per call if you opt out. The city will also waive any fees for Good Samaritans who make emergency calls.

From The L.A. Times:

Strapped for money to hire additional police officers and firefighters, Ventura will soon charge a monthly fee for emergency calls to help pay for services.

Residents in the seaside community will pay $1.49 a month for emergency service access beginning May 1. If they choose to opt out of the plan, they will be charged $50 for each 911 call.

City officials stressed that the action is vital to improving public safety services.

The fee will be levied on about 158,000 residential and business land lines and cellphones in the city.With exemptions for certain low-income residents and pay phones, Ventura hopes to raise at least $2.2 million annually to cover much of the cost of operating its 911 dispatch center. The money will also be used to hire six additional police officers and three firefighters.

Councilman Neal Andrews, who cast the lone vote against the fee this week, said the panel should not have authorized it without a public vote.

The 911 service is a core part of our public safety program; it’s not something people should have to pay for extra. It’s not optional,” Andrew said.

“The public has a right to expect access to emergency services on demand — when they need it, without encumbrances of any kind.”

Don Facciano, president of the Ventura County Taxpayers Assn., agreed

Our main point is that it’s a tax,” he said. “So just call it a tax and put it before voters and let it be judged on its own merits.”

Ventura is believed to be the only Southern California city to adopt such a charge. But similar 911 fees are in place in several Northern California communities, including Santa Cruz, San Jose and San Francisco.

Ventura City Atty. Ariel Pierre Calonne said that allowing residents to opt out of paying the monthly fee should protect the new ordinance from lawsuits.

“I think we’ll be successful if challenged,” Calonne said.

A “good Samaritan” exemption in the ordinance will waive the $50 per call charge if someone who opted out contacts 911 to assist someone else. Businesses with multiple phone lines will be charged for three phones per trunk line.

The city of Ventura has this whole 911 fee thing in a much better perspective than either Tracy or Loma Linda. But I have to stress that I do not believe that any “fees” should be charged to anyone needing emergency or public safety assistance. An increase in taxes, maybe, but how much is too much? Don’t our tax dollars, property taxes, sales tax and city taxes pay the salaries and budgets of these publicly funded. public safety agencies? Isn’t it their job “to serve and protect”? Or is the creed only “to serve and protect” those that ante up? Is this a trend that will soon be sweeping the entire country or is it exclusive to cash strapped California?

I did not find any information about “Good Samaritans” being excluded from the per call fee for either Tracy or Loma Linda, CA, so I can only deduce that they are also liable for said fees if they call to report anything. No one will be calling 911 when their elderly neighbor slips on the ice and breaks her hip if they are going to be charged $300. If you go on vacation and your house catches fire, expect to come home to a pile of ashes. I expect the crime rates in both cities to rise as well as apathy towards people in jeopardy. Witnessing a crime in progress will likely not elicit the observer to call 911, but rather to keep moving on. Bank robbers will be having a field day, and a profitable one at that.

In our current economic crisis, where people are still losing their jobs at an alarming rate, no matter what Bohemian fantasies Obama is trying to feed us, how can any city council think that charging its residents for public safety/emergency assistance is a good idea? I don’t have an extra $48 laying around, much less $300. I also expect any tourism these cities have now to dwindle to zero. How is the loss of tourism dollars going to help these cities? I sure as hell am not going to visit any city that will charge me $400 for calling 911, should the need arise. No, I suspect anyone hearing of this new “fee” to avoid these particular locales like they were infested with Ebola, Bubonic Plague and Leprosy.

Category: Politics

About the Author ()

I'm Shan and I 'm the creator of The Asylum and a magnet for The Free Range Stupid™. I'm a little nutty, a lot sarcastic and pretty damn smart. I am also a graphic designer, blog coder, virtual assistant, free lance writer and can whip you up a killer resume, media kit or press release that would make others green with envy. Go to Skewed Design Studios to check out my services. You won't be disappointed.

Comments (21)

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  1. Brittany says:

    Wow…just wow. That’s ridiculous.
    .-= Brittany´s last blog ..Fiber One 90 Calorie Chewy Bars Review (and giveaway) =-.

  2. Stefanie says:

    WOW! That’s insane!
    .-= Stefanie´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  3. Amanda says:

    This already happens in other places. You can be a “member” of the fire department and pay a “donation” each year, or you can pay each time they show up at your house. Most homeowner’s policies have a place on them where you have coverage for this. Ours was up to $500. I honestly didn’t know that there were fire departments that still showed up for free. Everywhere I’ve lived the last 10 years, if they show up as a result of a call, you have to pay them.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..What is HouseholdSix? =-.

    • Shan says:

      Really? That is absolutely amazing to me. Emergency services are publicly funded by tax dollars, how can residents be charged for them? So while us Californians are shouting our indignance about the fees, other states already do this?

      I still think it’s wrong on so many levels.

      • Amanda says:

        There are many fire companies in PA that are still run on a volunteer basis. Maybe that’s why I’ve seen this charge where I’ve lived in MD and PA over the last 10 years, but this surcharge for responding to a call to a residence is nothing new to me. That’s why there’s coverage for it on homeowner’s insurance policies.
        .-= Amanda´s last blog ..What is HouseholdSix? =-.

  4. I never knew that they are already doing this, probably in my own home state. Wow. I think it is disgusting really.
    .-= Shop with Me Mama (Kim)´s last blog ..Freebies, Discounts and More! =-.

  5. Heather says:

    Thank god I’m Canadian. That’s all I’ll say.
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Is the Marketing Through Mom Bloggers Circus Over? =-.

  6. Christy says:

    That’s absolutely ridiculous! Your tax dollars are already paying for it, there is no reason to pay twice!
    .-= Christy´s last blog ..I’ve been a little bit busy! =-.

  7. Courtney says:

    This is outrageous! I can’t believe they’d expect that much of a fee or even payment. That’s what taxes are for.
    .-= Courtney´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday – Sweets! =-.

  8. Katie says:

    I can see having the “frequent flier” plan because I have a lot of patients who make multiple calls to 911 – but I still don’t see paying $300 per call. That’s just going to deter people who might actually need it from calling.
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Pardon my irritation =-.

    • Shan says:

      Katie, that is my point. I believe that crime and serious injuries/deaths are going to increase in these cities because no one wants to call 911 to report anything and incur a $300 bill. This will not end well, I assure you.

  9. Kasandria says:

    Wow whoever thought up this bright idea needs to be smacked upside the head! Really? $300 for calling 911? Some people’s children!
    Kas
    .-= Kasandria´s last blog ..Walmart Deals, Steals, and Matchups: March 5th, 2010 =-.

  10. Susan says:

    Ok, I know there are tons of non-emergency calls made to 911 each year (Hey where is my pizza?). Charge *those* people and leave the “true emergency” people alone.
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Treat your man to “Hey Dude” – Giveaway =-.

    • Shan says:

      I know, Susan. It’s stupid as hell. I am still shocked at what Amanda said about their homeowners insurance covering 911 calls! That is just so bizarre to me.

  11. Faythe@GMT says:

    We have been paying a special tax on our phone bill for 911 for a couple years already. And on our cell bill. I don’t know about our home owners??
    Our fire department is volunteer run, ambulance calls can come from 3 or 4 different services where we live… WI is one of the top 5 highest taxed states. And where we will, it is rural, so we do not even have our own police department, it would come from the county sheriff. I can see charging a fee to a land line that has been making calls that are not emergencies…
    but, even though we live on a border of technically 3 municipalities… when I have called 911 they have gotten here very quickly. Pretty soon Obmama will find a way to tax us for farting…. it causes bad gasses for the atmosphere… like cow burps!
    .-= Faythe@GMT´s last blog ..U.S. Security Alert: Census Scam =-.

  12. Noelle says:

    Holy cow, I can’t believe this! I had no idea that any municipalities were charging for emergency services. I guess I better look into my own town as well as my homeowner’s policy. Thanks for writing this post, and to everyone who commented with such helpful information.

  13. Wow! I think this is so wrong for those who truly have an emergency. I understand if you charged those who made prank calls or those that used it quite frequently. However, if my baby is dying, I thought they HAD to help you. Wow! This is wrong.
    .-= Rachael @ Empowering Mommy´s last blog ..CVS Deals – 3/7 – 3/13, 2010 =-.

  14. DogsMom says:

    So, if there is the “Good Samaritan” clause, and your own house is on fire, the proper thing to do would be to have a neighbor call it in. Or if you fall and break both your legs, are choking and can not breathe, you need to use someone else’s phone (not traced back to you) to call for help. There is an idea – every home needs one of those prepaid non traceable phones strictly for 911 calls.

    How many lawsuits will be a result of this? How will that save money?
    .-= DogsMom´s last blog ..Inspiration for You & Your Dog =-.

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