911 is an emergency number, or so we are told. But too many people throughout the land are getting a busy signal.

An estimated 180,000 calls went unanswered last year in Los Angeles, according to a new city audit. And New York City installed a $156-million state-of-the-art 911 system, only to be embarrassed by 1996 reports of callers being put on hold for as long as eight minutes. The system has problems in big cities across America, like too

few operators and not enough training for any of them. But it seems the system's biggest problem is the fact that millions of folks don't really understand what 911 is for, in the first place.

According to Los Angeles police Commander Carlo Cuido: "Some people think it's a number you can use for any type of service." And to quote Los Angeles 911 supervisor Barbara Pakenham: "You wouldn't believe the calls we get. People don't have a clue. Someone doesn't like that their neighbor's stereo is really loud. So they call 911."

Such is the national 911 mess. But we sadly suspect the Northeast Kingdom will have a problem of its own in the future. After area towns go through all the trouble of adapting to 911, after historic addresses are changed to accommodate the system - yes, after we do it all - the system will probably no longer exist.

Copyright 1997

The Caledonian-Record



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