Is it okay for an alarm company to ask a neighbor to check on its customer? By sending a 70-year-old woman over to check on their 80-something-year-old customer, American Medical Alarms may have helped prematurely end a robbery/beating in progress. On the other hand, they asked a 70-year-old woman to go investigate an emergency next door—basically turning her into a potential Red Shirt. As the heroic neighbor’s daughter points out, “They should have already considered the possibility that something like this could happen, and have policies in place to prevent it.”
Here’s what happened:
The afternoon of October 8, my 70-year-old mother got a call from American Medical Alarms asking her to check on an elderly neighbor whose alarm had gone off, and who hadn’t responded when they tried to contact her.
My mother ran over to the woman’s house and heard loud noises coming from inside. She pounded on the door and called the woman’s name, and two men carrying knives ran out, jumped a fence, and escaped down an alley. Police and paramedics got there soon afterward, and found the woman inside, beaten and bloody. She was taken to the hospital and is now doing well.
So while things turned out OK in this case, the fact remains that a medical alarm company sent my mother to intervene in a violent home invasion. Of course, they didn’t do it intentionally, and I’ll grant that it’s a reasonable assumption that the alarm was for a medical emergency. The woman is in her 80s and suffers from some serious medical issues. If it were a private party who had called my mother and asked her to check on the woman, I would understand completely.
But this wasn’t some well-meaning private party who didn’t have time to stop and think about all the possible scenarios. This is a corporation that exists primarily to serve as a middleman between their customers and local emergency services. This is all they do, and their customers pay them a lot of money to provide this questionable service. As such, they should have already considered the possibility that something like this could happen, and have policies in place to prevent it.
I emailed the company several days ago, asking them what their policies are, and what measures they intended to put in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future, but I haven’t gotten a response at all.
Update: We asked Lisa whether her mom volunteered to be on the woman’s contact list. Lisa wrote back,
My mom wasn’t sure why they called her, but it’s a pretty safe bet the woman listed my mom with the company as an emergency contact. My mom keeps an eye out for her, and from looking at their FAQs, they do ask for contact information. My mom didn’t know anything about it until they called her, though.
(Photo: Paramount Pictures and Greencolander)