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First question, is it illegal to prevent someone from calling 911 in the event of an emergency? I'm assuming it is.

I had an internship in large corporate buildings and have seen some weird things. On some phones it had a number to call for security (999) or a private incident response team. I never was able to get a straight answer out of the bureaucracy, but do some really large corporations have private police forces you are supposed to call before (or after) calling 911?

What is the point of having a fire-warden in the building, is that so you don't have to call 911 if there's a fire? Maybe this is a better fit for workplace.stackexchange.com but I'm interested if it's legal.

I'm in a common wealth country but interested about the US as well.

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    What kind of "instruction" is this? Is it along the lines of "do not call 911, you will be fired" or simply "please call the internal number instead since our internal security can respond faster than emergency services"? The former might be illegal, the latter is very common. – Nate Eldredge May 3 '17 at 23:36
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    @NateEldredge And in the latter case, it might be reasonable to say "if you don't call our internal emergency response line you'll be fired, whether or not you called 911." If you spot a fire at an oil refinery, you need to raise the internal alarm so that pipelines can be shut off, personnel can be evacuated, and the refinery's fire brigade (who may well be better trained and equipped to handle the fire) can respond ASAP. – cpast May 4 '17 at 0:54
  • @NateEldredge it was never clearly explained to me (more like "here's the number for security in case of emergency) I didn't know it was common. – smartman2 May 4 '17 at 6:39
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Authority

A lot of this falls under life skills and common sense, rather than law per se. If you've lived and worked in skyscrapers and laboratories and corporate environments these are things you just come to know. Maybe some of this comes from being a Boy Scout growing up as well.

Calling 911

Usually there would be a law prohibiting employment retaliation against someone making a legitimate report to law enforcement, but an employer might reasonably suggest when it is and is not appropriate to do so.

Outright stopping someone from calling 911 when it is appropriate to do so would probably constitute obstruction of justice or something similar.

Private Security

There are a variety of tasks normally performed by private security in a business.

  • Routine patrol to make sure that nothing is amiss and that only authorized people are in the building;
  • excluding trespassers with non-deadly force if necessary;
  • maintaining awareness of neighborhood security threats (e.g. protest marches, repeated crime incidents where employees go)
  • investigating property crimes on the property after reporting the to law enforcement for insurance purposes (which usually has a policy of not investigating small dollar crimes reported to them themselves);
  • maintenance and monitoring of security cameras;
  • organizing fire wardens, scheduling fire drills and scheduling real fire department inspections of the premises when required;
  • response to disturbances (if necessary notifying police);
  • confirming that doors that should be locked are locked;
  • alerting emergency services of fires and crimes in progress or observed;
  • greeting legitimate employees and guests;
  • supervising outside maintenance people; and
  • providing minor first aid, and getting someone to health care when an ambulance is not necessary and calling for one when it is not.

Their objective is to serve the company's needs, but often, those heavily overlap with the public's need in the area of security and safety.

Fire Wardens

A "fire warden" in an office building is responsible for:

  • passing on information from the fire department that employees in the fire warden's unit need to know;
  • to be alert to identify and remedy fire code violations that are identified in inspections (e.g. fire extinguishers that are no longer certified, alarm signals that are broken or need new batteries);
  • to understand and communicate how to respond to a fire alarm and to distinguish between scheduled tests of the equipment and true drills;
  • to supervise the conduct of fire drills and non-drill evacuations;
  • to make sure that everyone knows the meet up location following a true fire; and
  • to keep track of who gets out, who was never at work in the first place when there was an evacuation, and who was unable to escape.

A "fire warden" is basically a responsible civilian who coordinates with the fire department which does real inspections and responds to real fires.

In contrast, any competent person calls the fire department when there is a real fire that requires response and/or rescue.

Any competent person might put out a fire in progress, but a fire warden would be told standard operating procedure for follow up response after an emergency fire or incident is dealt with as a putting out a visible fire in a complex urban or commercial environment is often not sufficient to know that the threat is gone.

Often a fire warden would insist that the fire department be called even though there was no visible ongoing threat. This is particularly important in high rises, commercial kitchens and industrial buildings.

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    All you did was define what a firewarden and security is. I'm asking if a company can insist they are notified before or instead of calling 911? – smartman2 May 4 '17 at 6:43
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    @smartman2 That is what the second heading discusses before either of those sections. "Usually there would be a law prohibiting employment retaliation against someone making a legitimate report to law enforcement, but an employer might reasonably suggest when it is and is not appropriate to do so. Outright stopping someone from calling 911 when it is appropriate to do so would probably constitute obstruction of justice or something similar." – ohwilleke May 4 '17 at 20:18
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Considering that there would be good reasons for such a policy, it's unlikely that there's a specific law agaisnt it.

An in-house security/fire department is the appropriate organization to coordinate with external responders. It wouldn't be useful if the public Fire department arrives at a closed gate, for instance. The police department might find the company offices, but not know which building is building #7.

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