No quick fix for emergency-call conflict in South Carson City
August 23, 2005
Three months after a telephone service anomaly that sends some Carson City 911 calls to Douglas County dispatchers was brought to the attention of local officials, there is still no immediate fix lined up, but a couple long-term solutions have been found.
The problem lies in a schism between corporate and government boundaries, where county lines don’t match the borders of phone service providers.
Pockets of homes near Mexican Dam and Racetrack Road, while in Carson City, are served by Douglas County’s telephone provider Verizon, and have a Douglas County 267 prefix. When those residents call 911, they get patched into Douglas County’s emergency call system, even though their homes are outside that jurisdiction.
The dispatcher can put the caller through to Carson City if it’s apparent the address isn’t in Douglas, but there have been incidents where police have searched Douglas County in response to a call that actually came from Carson City.
It’s been that way as long as any of the current residents have been there, but Carson City supervisors learned of it in May, when a Racetrack Road-area resident mentioned the situation in a board meeting.
The problem has proved more complicated than city officials could have imagined when they directed Carson City Fire Chief Stacey Giomi to find a quick solution.
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Verizon, which serves a rural and less profitable part of Northern Nevada, does not have the expensive equipment to automatically send emergency calls from the South Carson neighborhoods to Carson City responders. And SBC, which does have the spendy router, cannot simply take over the area of phone-service-limbo without years of negotiations that would include regulators from Nevada and possible California.
Giomi said officials from Carson City, Douglas County and the two telecommunications companies have laid out two possible solutions.
Douglas County could help Verizon buy the multi-million dollar router system, or Douglas County phone lines could be rewired so all or a quarter of Douglas County calls go through SBC’s router in Reno before being sent back to Douglas or Carson, all in milliseconds.
Both solutions would be costly, however. A new router would likely have to be funded partially by Douglas County, which doesn’t have problems with its current system, and SBC would charge as much as $40,000 to $50,000 a year to take on Verizon’s calls. Since it’s up to local governments and not phone companies to pay for emergency call service, Carson City would have to foot that entire bill.
The city hasn’t yet pushed for SBC to take on the extra calls, Giomi said, because it’s still possible Verizon could wind up purchasing the new routing system.
“We don’t want to go down the wrong path only to learn in six months there’s a better solution that costs less too,” Giomi said.
In the meantime, all the Carson City residents with Douglas County phone numbers have been sent letters explaining the situation, along with stickers stating the seven-digit phone numbers for local dispatchers so the 911 confusion can be avoided.
n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at email@example.com or 881-1217.