In June, 2012, the Fairfax County, Virginia, 911 system failed.
The failure followed a historic, albeit short-lived storm, which is known as a derecho. Essentially, the region experienced a 3 hour period of hurricane force winds, which caught the region by surprise. The expected power issues were experienced, compounded by the failure of 2 generators to start up, creating a cascading effect that resulted in 911 not functioning. At all.
Which brings us to today’s topic: What To Do When 911 Fails? I don’t mean the first responders. I mean what do you do if you need 911, and nobody answers? Let’s leave alone, for our purposes, the folks who call 911 for “non emergencies”. These non emergencies (calls this responder has been dispatched for) include, “I’ve had loose bowels for 5 days,” “My leg won’t sop shaking,” and “The doctor advised at 2am that he wanted to see this patient as soon as possible, so we called as soon as the morning shift came in,” among others. Yes, that really happens.
For the purposes of this article, let’s assume we have a true, life threatening (or property threatening or traumatic injury) type of an emergency. Your loose bowels were dealt with for 5 days, so cool your jets. You’ve called 911, and the line went dead. Or was busy. Or just keeps ringing. At some point, we need a Plan B.
Plan B will be somewhat dependent on the actual situation, your location, and other factors. However, prior to having the emergency, consider the following options:
PLAN A: 911
* Call the direct non emergency number for Police/Fire (do you know it?)
* Call the direct number for your local Fire Station
* Get in your car and drive to your local Fire Station (if possible)
* Determine if you can handle the situation, even if only temporarily, yourself. Can you stop the bleeding? Can it wait? Have you taken a First Aid Class?
* If there are trees down, driveways blocked, etc, begin working with your neighbors and others to clear the way. It is likely that you are not the only ones in this situation, and it could take local authorities quite a while to get everything cleared. You might be last. After all, somebody is going to be last.
* Other ideas?
The moral to the story is preparation. While 911 is very reliable, it is always recommended that you prepare for a contingency. You might not be able to wait for rescue. Consider the folks who decide to “ride out the hurricane”. Some of these folks are the same ones that we see sitting on their roofs waiting for a rescue boat. Perhaps they didn’t have the ability to leave (debatable, to be sure), perhaps they weren’t prepared, or perhaps there was something else that came into play, entirely. But you’ll have your best chance, if properly prepared, of NOT being the guy “stuck on the roof”.