PARIS, IL. (ECWd) -
Letter to the Editor:
Let us leave the Sheriff race for a few and talk about 911.
As I mentioned, previously, most of the time, there is only one dispatcher on duty (16 of 24 hours). The Sheriff would like to change that, but there is no money in his budget to make that happen so lets talk about what you can do to help.
911 is for emergency calls only.
An emergency is when you need an immediate response from police, fire, and or ambulance. The key word here is IMMEDIATE. Now, if one is calling for a fire truck or an ambulance chances are extremely good that the need is immediate. For law enforcement assistance.....mmmm maybe not so much.
Here is an example for your consideration: the only dispatcher on duty has just taken a call from a frantic parent whose small child has fallen. The child is unconscious and his breathing is irregular. You have just been in a fender bender in the Kroger parking lot. There are no injuries as the accident happened at about 2 mph. Do you: a) call 911 or b) call the Paris PD on their business line number?. The correct answer is, of course, b. Here's why a is not the correct answer: by calling 911 you have distracted the dispatcher from paging emergency personnel to the call and/or have interrupted the instructions that the dispatcher is trying to provide to the parent until the ambulance arrives. I know that because you are a considerate, caring person, you do not not want to interfere with a call when a child's life may hang in the balance.
Here is a second scenario for your consideration: It is 2am your neighbors dog has been barking for thirty minutes, you are fed up, this is the third time this week and you have to be up early to go to work. Do you: a) call the Paris PD on their business line or b) call 911. The correct answer is a. Here is what you may not know, because the Sheriffs dispatcher is the dispatcher for the entire county, a family's house may be burning far from Paris or even on the other side of Paris.
You have now interfered with the paging of the call and/or radio traffic from the firefighters to dispatch. The firefighters may be asking the dispatcher (the one and only) to call the power company to shut off gas and electric, they may be asking dispatch to contact other fire departments for additional firefighters and equipment, they may be asking for another ambulance. Although, the dispatcher may not be at the scene, their work with the call is not finished until the last firefighter is back at the firehouse. I for one am, also, spending every free moment praying for the safety of the responding personnel and the victims of the call.
So what is the solution to this problem? Right now, while you have a moment, look up the non-emergency number for the Paris PD, and the Edgar County SO. I'll wait......while we are waiting, for those of you who are my age (not of the techno generation) here are the numbers: Edgar County SO 465-4166, Paris PD 465-6351. Some of you may ask why can't you just give me the number when I call 911. A) It makes us (and when I say us, I mean me) cross. Remember the definition of an emergency and what the possible outcome of your interference may be. B) I know you are capable, since you are in a non-emergency situation, of finding that number. I know that you know how to use that phone to find your favorite restaurant, check the business hours at your favorite boutique, and find out where the movie you want to see is playing, among many other things.
If you are capable of all that, you can find the business line for the law enforcement agency that serves you. I know you can. But, you say, it is just as easy to give me the number as to say call on the business line. Okay, but here's the thing, I want you to stand on your own. I want you to be independent. I know you can do this. I believe in you. And I know that you know when you don't have an emergency, because its, generally, the first statement out of your mouth.
Here is the other big thing you can do to help. Stop letting your young children play with the phone. The adorable little things are interfering with emergency calls. We get hundreds of calls per year from children playing with the phone. Most of them from old cell phones that have been disconnected. Even though the phone has been disconnected, as long as there is a battery in the phone it will call 911. Yes, your children are cute and yes they are unaware of what they are doing, but now, you are not. Put the phone out of their reach or take the battery out of it. We want children to learn to use 911. Lives have been saved by very young children who called 911. But, please for everyone's sake, teach them to use it properly. 911 is not a toy and it is not your personal link to 411.
In the past, I have gone to 911 board meetings and begged the 911 coordinator to raise public awareness of these issues. I have taken stacks of calls, at her request, to show that there is a problem. My pleadings have been in vain. The only person on the board who was interested in the issue was Paris Fire Chief Brian Gates. Chief Gates offered to pass out information at last year's county fair. The 911 coordinator declined.
One more thought, you may hear that Douglas County is our back up for 911. This is true. And in the reverse, we are the back up system for Douglas County. However, Douglas County cannot page a single ambulance, fire truck, or law enforcement officer in this county. If a 911 call "rolls over" to Douglas County, their only option is to take the information and call the Sheriffs office on the business line. It works the same in the reverse.
So please remember when you call 911 with a call that you know, in your heart, is not truly an emergency, most of the time there is only one dispatcher, that one dispatcher may be involved in a life or death emergency call, that one dispatcher may be handling multiple emergency calls (not uncommon at all), and that one dispatcher has no back up. Stay tuned for part 3