Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles concerning an effort to offer countywide 911 service in Saline County.
It's to be expected that whenever somebody dials 911, they are under some stress -- whether it's a motor vehicle mishap, fire or something needing law enforcement.
But there's also stress for those on the other end of the call, especially when they have difficulty in locating the party who called for help.
Joe Blodgett, supervisor for Saline County Ambulance District No. 3 based in Marshall, said many people appear to be under the mistaken impression that emergency personnel will simply automatically locate them whenever they call.
But if a person calls from a cell phone, or only knows their route and box numbers, not what county road they reside on, or panics and has a hard time relaying directions, it can be extremely frustrating for emergency personnel.
While not a daily occurrence, such calls happen too often, Blodgett said, and stick in the memory of all emergency responders. "We need to find you quickly," he said. "Time is ticking, time that we don't get back."
A uniform addressing system -- assigning road names or numbers as well as house numbers to all residences in the county -- would go a long way toward enabling ambulance, fire and law enforcement to quickly track down where a call for help comes from, he said. The cost of getting such a system, a crucial first step for a countywide 911 system, in place for the county is estimated at $100,000.
"Until you need us, you don't think about EMS finding you," said Blodgett.
He advises people living in rural areas to write down directions by every phone in their home, but that isn't always a help in cases where an individual panics when calling or the time of day or weather conditions hamper visibility.
"We're getting stressed," Blodgett said of crews on an emergency call when unable to locate the caller, "because our job is to help you. … If they know where they're going, they can get there quicker and safer."
With more homes going up in unincorporated parts of the county, Blodgett said the need for countywide 911 is only increasing. He also points out that all the counties surrounding Saline County -- including some with much smaller populations -- already have countywide 911 in place.
"As a county, we can do so much more if everyone chips in their pennies," he said. "We're all working together now, and the (improved) communications would make it easier."
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