Monday, January 14, 2008

911 is for Emergencies only

A week ago today, an unusual January tornado outbreak struck Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas and Wisconsin. So far, the total number of tornadoes reported is up to 71! Obviously, this outbreak of tornadoes so early in the year caught many people off guard. Check out this link to a recording of the 911 system in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. Many of the "emergency" calls to 911 were simple inquires to why the sirens were going off.

This recording should be an example of what NOT to do during severe weather. I understand that in January, most people are not thinking tornadoes. However, one should NEVER call 911 to ask the emergency dispatcher a simple weather question. If the sirens go off, folks must turn on the TV, radio or weather radio (or some other form of communications) to get their critical weather information. Please reserve 911 for what it's intended for: emergencies only!

This event is also an important reminder that we must always keep our guard up when dealing with Mother Nature. If you hear us talking about severe weather chances for the viewing area, it should be your cue to check back with us, either on the air or online. This will become increasingly important as the Spring months draw near.

On a side note, it was very odd to see some of the damage photos afterwards from Wisconsin and Illinois. In some cases, melting piles of snow (cleared from the pavement from earlier weather events) are seen along with the debris!


Jon said...

Very informative and just goes to show how much extra work it creates for 911 dispatchers/operators.

Ty said...

Good Morning,

I understand your point Rodney, but here in Sedgwick County we do not have an emergency and non-emergency phone number to dial. Many counties have an alternate number to dial in case of a non-emergency situations when someone might need to get in touch with law enforcement. Sometimes people can contact a WPD sub-station if they are within the Wichita city limits, but for those in Sedgwick County, they would call the Sheriff's Office and many of those calls had to diverted to 911 for asssistance.

After working at the Sheriff's Office for a couple years, I know we used to get calls during severe weather, especially on third shift and sometimes we relied on the deputies to get us that information since they are out in the field and know what areas were flooded, snow falls, icy road conditions, and other severe weather conditions. We did our best to assist, but sometimes we just weren't able to help. We even had one lady wanting us to give her directions from McPherson to Clearwater during a heavy rainstorm so she could avoid flooded roads, which took some coordinating, but we mananged to give her our best educated guesses through Sedgwick County after talking with several deputies on several different beats.

This isn't to say that 911 should be abused, because there are some that definately do abuse it. We don't want all the lines tied up should an emergency occur and all the operators are on the other line with a non-emergency situation. Just know they are available if needed, but keep the call short if at all possible.

Have a great day!

Rodney Price said...

Ty, thanks for the comments from the emergency side of the fence. As I stated in my post, if the sirens are going off, everyone needs to know how to get emergency information..but not by calling 911 and tying up the phone lines for actual emergencies.

Now, I'm obviously not what you would consider "the norm" since I work with the weather daily. However, at my house, I have a TV and a NOAA All-Hazards radio (with a battery backup) on my dresser. I keep my pager on my nightstand. My wife's alarm clock has a radio. The family computer is in the rooom across the hall from the bedroom. My point is, if we're home and the weather turns bad, I have multiple sources of weather information at my disposal. I encourage everyone to have, at the very least, an all-hazards radio with a battery backup.