Having personal bodyguards isn't one of the perks of being the mayor of Albuquerque. Nevertheless, Jim Baca was understandably concerned when he activated the emergency alarm system in his City Hall office and it failed to bring any assistance.

During office remodeling a couple of years ago, remote-control panic buttons were installed to allow the mayor and some of his lieutenants to be able to summon security and the police. The mayor's office tends to attract some "hell raisers," as Baca puts it, and his 11th floor suite is a long way from help.

Toward the end of one recent working day, Baca decided to see whether the system actually worked. After pressing the button and waiting about 15 minutes with an assistant for a response, Baca finally decided to go home. On the way out of the building, he ran into some security officers in the hall and asked them where they'd been. They said they'd been sent to another part of City Hall, then went looking for a key to the mayor's office. The police, who were supposed to be summoned by the security force, didn't arrive until nearly an hour later.

Although Baca's safety still does not rate as a "priority one" call, the term for situations such as life-threatening incidents that the police drop everything to handle, Baca spokesman Brian Morris says that the bugs in the system have been worked out since the mayor's failed experiment.

"When the mayor tried the alarm, it was the first time it had been used," Morris notes. "That was part of the confusion. There really wasn't a protocol for its use."