Carson City neighborhood with Douglas phone numbers struggles with 911 service | NevadaAppeal.com

Carson City neighborhood with Douglas phone numbers struggles with 911 service

Cory McConnell
Appeal Staff Writer

For as long as anyone can remember, South Carson City residents living near the Douglas County line have been in a kind of no-man’s land of telephone service, caught in limbo between conflicting boundaries of local phone companies and county governments.

Although homes near Racetrack Road and Mexican Dam are in Carson City, their phone service is supplied by Verizon rather than SBC, the phone company that serves the rest of Carson City. And their phone numbers have the Douglas County 267 prefix.

To many, it’s not a big deal at first. Not until there is an emergency.

The only thing Saddlehorn Road resident Juli McKean noticed about the different phone number when she moved to the neighborhood eight years ago was that Reno is long distance. Then one day McKean noticed her neighbor’s door was wide open but nobody was home.

Not knowing what to make of the situation, McKean called police, who said they’d be right over. And when no one showed, she called back. The dispatcher said officers were looking for her house. There is another Saddlehorn Road, she learned, in Douglas County.

Because she has a Douglas County prefix, emergency calls from Mckean’s and her neighbors’ homes, go directly to the Douglas County dispatch center – a situation Carson City officials call “unacceptable.”

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“You expect to dial 911 and get immediate help,” said Carson City Fire Chief Stacey Giomi.

McKean got a little bit of a run-around trying to get from Douglas County to Carson City dispatch a couple other times over the years when she called 911, she said. But she wasn’t too concerned until the day her 2-year-old daughter’s fingertip was cut off in a doorjam.

McKean dreaded the call, thinking of the convincing she might have to do to get Carson City personnel, or of another address mix-up, and all the time either would take while the tip of her child’s blood-spurting finger dangled by a thin strip of skin.

It went smoothly. An anxious McKean was transferred to Carson City dispatchers quickly and the finger was ultimately sewed back on.

Carson City residents who have the Douglas County number can also call the seven-digit dispatch numbers – 882-1661 for fire and 882-3451 for police – but those don’t ring on emergency lines and would receive lower priority.

That’s not good enough for the residents or for city emergency personnel.

“My 3-year-old daughter can remember 911,” McKean said.

Giomi began calling Verizon to fix the problem when he learned of it earlier this month.

At a city supervisors meeting last week, McKean brought the situation up as a reason 500 new homes should not be built in the area.

“It’s bad enough that the 60 or 70 that are there now have to deal with this,” Giomi said.

When Mayor Marv Teixeira asked how long it had been like this, the answer was a collective shrug from the audience. The word “forever” coming from the back of the room.

Giomi said Verizon wasn’t aware the area wasn’t Douglas County when he first talked to the company.

Verizon spokesman Jon Davies said it shouldn’t be difficult to make sure Carson City residents go directly to Carson City dispatch, no matter their phone number’s prefix.

But Giomi said because the small Verizon service area is run with an older technology, the fix might involve Douglas County dispatchers manually transferring calls to Carson City.

“That would be the least desirable (fix),” Giomi said.

The best idea, he said, is for Verizon and SBC to change their service boundaries to follow the county line. That would involve the Nevada Public Utilities Commission, various agreements and negotiations for SBC to purchase part of Verizon’s service area.

In the meantime, Giomi said he has Verizon’s assurance they’ll be working on a more immediate solution, although they have set no timetable.

“We are not going to accept a long delay,” said Giomi.

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at cmcconnell@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.

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