911 Cell Calls

How reliable is 911 in an emergency?

911 Cell Calls

In an emergency situation a 911 operator can be a true lifeline. We teach our children that if help is needed quickly dial 911 and the operator will provide assistance. But are the 911 services as effective and reliable as we’ve been led to believe?

On the way home from a trip to Merced on Monday, April 28, 2008, as we turned onto the street where we lived, we were shocked to find a neighbors truck on fire. The flames were shooting high into the sky. Fortunately, the truck had been parked in front of the post office, in an area clear of trees and brush or our entire neighborhood may have went up in flames.

My husband immediately dialed 911 from his cell phone. I was flabbergasted when I heard a recording being played on the line. A short while later an operator finally came on the line. My husband informed the operator that a truck was on fire in front of the post office in Twain Harte, CA and that a fire truck was needed.

The operator informed him that unless he knew the cross street, she couldn’t take the report. I couldn’t believe my ears, my husband was literal dumbfounded – especially since the fire department was literally two blocks away. Anyone in Twain Harte knows exactly where the post office is. It’s a tiny community.

My husband expressed his disbelief to the operator. She told him she would try to pass the information along. Instead of waiting to see if someone would respond, we drove the two blocks to the fire department. I frantically rang the bell, and yelled fire. After what seemed like forever (probably only a couple minutes) a fireman came out on the balcony and asked if something was wrong. I explained that a truck was on fire in front of the post office.

911 Cell Calls

It took 15-minutes from the time we dialed 911, until someone actually showed up at the scene. Finally, a lone firefighter arrived to put out the still shooting flames.

I used to feel secure in knowing that if a fire ever broke out near our home that we were well protected. After all, we have three fire departments in very close proximity to this area. But now I’m not so confident.

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  • Shawn K. Hall says:

    The saddest part of the thing is that the fire was literally within two blocks of not one, but two separate fire departments!I find that truly sad.Really though, what I don’t understand is why the operator refused to cooperate because I didn’t know the cross-street. Who cares what the cross-street is when there’s a fire burning down the center of the town? Did she really think her ability to document the instance was more important than even trying to contact the fire department?Playing devil’s advocate, I can fully understand the need to be able to identify the correct fire department to report the fire to.Even so, “downtown Twain Harte, in front of the post office” is pretty clear – and no matter what software she’s using, it’s not even remotely difficult to obtain the address based on that statement alone – Google returns the physical address in 0.38 seconds!The next time someone from the county sheriff’s office calls and tells you how they need your “support” and donation to finance their local efforts – because they’re not making enough and their technology is too far behind, tell them they ought to spend $15 for a DSL connection so they can access the internet – obviously it’s more efficient than whatever they’re using now.