South side 911 problems solved
Appeal Staff Writer
Longtime problems accessing 911 for emergency assistance are over for about 100 residents on Carson City’s south side.
People living in Schulz Ranch can now dial 911 and reach Carson City emergency services, not Douglas County, as had been the case.
The city pays roughly $100,000 a year to AT&T to make its emergency- call system work. Schulz Ranch residents near Racetrack Road and Mexican Dam, however, receive their telephone service from a different provider, Verizon.
Resident Juli McKean, a mother of four, was frustrated when she sought emergency assistance because she’d end up talking to Douglas-area dispatchers, who were confused about where to send help. One time, she was even left on hold, she said.
McKean described her experiences dealing with the perplexed out-of-county emergency operators as “fights.”
When a neighbor’s front door was found ajar, no one came to investigate. Another time, her youngest daughter, then a toddler, had an accident that lopped off part of her finger. Though the child’s finger was successfully reattached at the hospital, the experience was harrowing, especially when McKean’s call wasn’t transferred to Carson, she said.
These incidents prompted McKean to make calls, write letters, and “threaten to sue,” she said.
At one point, she and other residents were advised to call regular seven-digit numbers to request emergency services from Carson City sheriff’s deputies and firefighters. This contact method also left callers with the likely possibility of being put on hold, Fire Chief Stacey Giomi said.
Further complicating matters was that Saddlehorn Road, where the McKeans live, is a street name that could be found in both Carson City and Douglas County, she said.
McKean finally took her plight to city supervisors last year, and Giomi was asked to see what could alleviate the problem.
As a result, “I learned a lot of the communications business,” he said.
The calls for assistance from the area now take a circuitous route, though the electronic trip only takes “milliseconds,” he said.
When a caller dials 911, the call goes to Verizon in Minden, gets recognized as coming from Carson City, is routed to Reno, then back into Carson City. The dispatch center operator can then see the name, address and telephone number the same way he or she can when AT&T customers call for service.
Verizon initially sought $50,000 to do the job. The easier fix turned out to be less costly, at no more than $4,000 a year, Giomi said.
“It actually worked out to be an elegant solution, though it’s not something we’d implement on a regular basis,” said Kurt Rasmussen, Verizon’s director of regulatory affairs.
Schulz Ranch is expected to grow by another 500 homes. Rasmussen said the solution should continue to work as the population increases.
And McKean will have to retrain her four daughters, ranging from ages 7 to 14, about what to do when they call 911.
“I trained the girls to say to the dispatcher ‘call Carson City dispatch,'” McKean said. “And I told them to yell it at them.”
Carson City has had 911 service since the mid-1980s, Giomi said.
Approximately 96 percent of the geographic United States offers some type of 911 service. Having a universal number for people to call for help – when they needed firefighters – was first conceived of during the 1950s, according to the National Emergency Number Association.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at harbor @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.