Monday, January 23, 2006


911 is a joke in chocolate town

UPDATE - 7:31 AM 1/25 - The report that was on television mentioned that the problems with the 911 system were due to the fact that calls were being made on cellphones. While there were neighbors calling on cellphones, there were others using cordless phones on landlines, others dialing the non-emergency police number, so that doesn't make any sense at all. I do believe we need to know that if we call 911 on a cellphone, should we not expect to get through? What about the parts of town that BellSouth has not restored landline service to, and that doesn't expect to get service for months? Are they without emergency services?

UPDATE - This was written on a few hours of sleep and a few hours of standing around outside, so it's probably a little raw. Regardless, the lack of 911 response is the real issue here. If our house had been on fire, 10 minutes could have saved lives.

There was a massive traffic accident on our street last night, enough to wake us up and all of our neighbors on the block. A truck (turns out to be stolen) totalled two other vehilcles, and did a little damage to two other cars (one of them our civic) on our block. The driver and passenger ran away, through some of our neighbors' yards.

Anyway, none of that has to do with the title of my post here. After hearing the crash and looking out of our window to see the cars scattered about, we ran downstairs with cellphones and cordless phones to check things out. We first tried to call 911 at 3:11 AM. It rang. Then again at 3:13 AM. Just ringing, no answer. I ask my wife to call 411 to see if information can connect us to the fire department, and I give the non-emergency number to another neighbor to have them try that line. Just ringing, no answer on the non-emergency line, and the 411 operator tells my wife that that they have been having the same problem getting through to emergency services in New Orleans. Other neighbors get the district direct line to try that number. I have been holding on to the cellphone as it rings over and over, and finally a police operator picks up, and we are able to report the accident (around 3:20 AM.) The police showed up at 3:46 AM, and were wonderful once they arrived. Multiple units showed up, patrolled the neighborhood looking for the now missing driver and passenger, and took reports from us and prepared the paperwork for us to file insurance claims.

All things considered, this wasn't a huge deal, nobody was hurt (that we know of), and we'll all go on with our lives, just on short sleep for today. But to know that it took us almost 10 minutes to get a call answered by 911, with several people dialing, is a huge, huge concern. I've been trying to find other information about the emergency system in New Orleans Post-Katrina, and haven't been able to find anything just yet. This is pretty serious though. If somebody had been breaking in to our house, we wouldn't have had 10 minutes. If somebody had been having a herat attack, we wouldn't have had 10 minutes. No answer.

You should report this to this 911 issue to the police again today, and maybe tell the good folks at the TP as well. No excuse -- though I've heard previous gripes in other jurisdictions about problems when calling 911 from a cell phone.
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