Friday, February 5, 2010

Ice Storm Exposes Problem With Use Of 911 System

   The recent ice storm that swept through the area, downing power lines and leaving many without electricity, has brought to light a distinct problem regarding the use of the 911 system by area residents.

   While the 911 system was established to provide emergency police, fire and medical assistance to area residents, 911 Director Johnny Cheatwood points out that the system was overwhelmed by misuse during the ice storm, thus hindering any real emergency efforts.

   Cheatwood explains that during the first twelve hours of the ice storm Lawrence Central Dispatch answered 854 calls; an average of 71 per hour. During the thirty-six hour period of noon on the 29th through midnight on the 30th, Cheatwood indicates that 1,728 calls were received; an average of 48 per hour.

The sheer volume of non-emergency calls received effectively paralyzed the entire 911 system, preventing them from handling real emergencies. The majority of callers, Cheatwood said, telephoned during that period in order to inquire about when their electric service would be restored.

   Cheatwood used one period as an example. Of the 241 calls received on 911 lines during that time period, he explains that only 28 were actual emergency calls.

   “I realize that a power outage is an inconvenience,” Cheatwood explained, “But it is not life threatening.”

   Cheatwood said he felt that some callers may have become confused when they telephoned Lawrenceburg Utility Systems to report power outages.

The recording points out that if the caller is in the midst of a true emergency (such as power lines down atop a vehicle), they should hang up and dial 911. “If they will continue to listen, they are informed to leave their name and telephone number so that someone can contact them about their power outage,” he explains.

   “The power system has a great system in place,” Cheatwood continues, “You leave your name and number and they will call you back.”

   In the future, Cheatwood urges residents who are not in an emergency situation to contact Central Dispatch through their non-emergency number – 762-0450.


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