I was sitting on the lawn today, having a delicious lunch from Sree's truck, when the parking garage alarm starts to go off. And keeps going off. (In case you're wondering, I got tarimand chicken, spinach potato, and grape leaf curry. The grape leaf curry is amazing.)
The fire department gets summoned every time a building's alarm goes off without warning. But I'd guess fewer than 1/3 of these are real, summonable issues. The other 2/3 could be cancelled within a minute (which is probably under the amount of time it takes the fire trucks to leave the station).
So how do we avoid summoning trucks in these cases? I propose a way for a phone system to integrate with the alarm system - during an alarm a person could pick up the phone, hit a special key (let's say #), and immediately get either the station or the dispatcher. The station or dispatcher get the context when the call's coming in - there's an alarm going off where the call is coming from. It's alrady their primary mental focus - getting to the scene of the disaster.
Why this is cool: It's easier than remembering the dispatcher's phone number, and it instantly, without much effort, gets you in contact with the people who are on their way. It could be even intelligent enough to dispatch to the exact station that's coming, if you might have trucks from one of several stations.
Why this is better than 911: 911 doesn't immediately associate the incoming phone number with the alarm, and even if they do, they're focused on other things too. So it requires a mental switch, and them to contact either the station or the dispatcher. Too much time explaining to prevent the firemen from actually having to leave.
Policy issues: Who can cancel the call? An arsonist might try to cancel the trucks - but we could either allow only certain phones (like the lobby-person's phone, or a secure phone), or require security personnel to cancel it by entering a PIN.