What’s the Number for 911?

The advent of 911 for calling emergency services has to be one of the best tools created for the general public. Significantly more efficient than having to remember a 10 digit number in order to call for help and that’s assuming you have the ability and/or time to dial all ten digits.

I am writing about 911 because in the past year or so a private ambulance company charted by the local hospital chain has started advertising pretty heavily in our area. Which is fine by me, but the problem lies in the fact that part of their advertisement encourages people to not call 911 but to call their number instead. There is a litany of problems with this, but I’ll try and curtail it to a couple of key ones.

911 operations centers have multiple operators available around the clock even on holidays and if the local 911 center is overwhelmed for some reason the neighboring one can normally pick up some of the overload. As for the private ambulance company I don’t know if it’s just going to one person or multiple people. It is also unknown as to what their “call centers” hours/days of operation are.

911 also has a priority system built based on geographic location and time of day and day of week. (Not all towns have round the clock paid duty crews in my area.) This is so that if the 1st due for an area is out of service because they are already responding to a call, unable to fully crew their ambulance, or might be having their rescue vehicle serviced the next best option can be sent to the call for help.

Now I’m sure the ambulance company has some sort of priority system in place where they do know who is or isn’t responding to a request for services and which vehicles are crewed and operational and which aren’t, but what happens if a call comes in and there aren’t any available units. Is the person told they’ll have to wait? I know they aren’t going to be calling a competitor and asking for backup and I also doubt they’ll be calling 911 for said person either.

Please understand that I am not involved in FIRE/EMS services in any way, but I also know how to use common sense. I have talked with friends that are part of ambulance companies and have done some of my own personal research. I know the private ambulance company is trying to drum up business, but they are going about it the wrong way. There is an established and mostly efficient system in place in which people can call and get emergency help. Although I can appreciate competition, creating a separate entity along side 911 is not the way to break into the market.

There are lots of private ambulance and fire companies for that offered their services to other 911 response centers and started as backups in the priority chains and moved their up to first call. That makes sense to. Again, I get it, they are a business and trying to survive, but you don’t get to use a business tactic that could cost someone their life.

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