"911. This line is recorded. What is your emergency?"
These are the first words a citizen in our town hears when they dial 911. Said with confidence, presence and authority, they are the words that let you know you have reached help. With ... whatever it is you need help with.
Reverse 911 is the flip side. You won't hear "911. This line is recorded ..." because you are not dialing. We are. We are dialing your number from a data base of phone numbers on an automated dialing system.
Your phone rings and you ... answer it.
Your phone rings and you ... ignore it.
Your phone rings and you check caller ID, see it is 'The Town of ____" and ignore it.
Your phone rings and you check caller ID, see it is 'The Town of ____" and you shrug and wonder why. Still, you don't answer the call.
Your phone rings and the call goes to voice mail where the automated dialer leaves a message. You may or may not check your voice mail.
"This is So & So of Such & Such Department with an important message."
The messages are varied and many. Road closings & detours, school closings, missing children, missing elderly folks. Name it, it's been put out there on auto dial by one agency or another in many cities and towns.
Last night while having dinner at a bit of a late hour, I heard the office phone ring. I Let it go, because I knew it would go to voice mail. Then the house phone rang. By the time I got there after just two rings, no one was there. I checked the caller ID and saw that it was The Town of ____ calling. I dialed back.
"_____ Police. Line recorded. Can you hold?" Sure. Why not. I work there. I know how hellish things can get.
"Hello? Can I help you?" Yeah, Hi J! It's Kathy. Did you call me?
"No. The Lt. sent out a reverse 911 about the road closings tomorrow and now every one is calling wondering why we called!" "I gotta go."
I waited a couple of hours and then called back.
Hey J. This is Kathy. I called you earlier because I thought you might need my help with a busy shift or a major call. And then I wondered if I forgot to show up for work. Sorry about that.
"No problem. The reverse 911 calls had 'everyone' calling in to see why we were calling! You'd think people would answer their phone or you know, check their voice mail."
Yeah, you'd think.
There's good and bad in everything. No system is totally perfect.
The good part of reverse 911 calls is that an important or urgent message can get to the citizens of town very quickly.
The bad part of reverse 911 calls is when folks don't answer the call or check their voice mail, but call back based on caller ID ... they swamp the dispatch center lines and the lonely dispatcher with calls ... which pulls the dispatcher away from real work.