San Jose Totally Dependent on 911 : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I had a rude awakening today. On our morning walk, my wife and I spotted a small fire that had been set under a food bridge near our home. It was on a creek bed near a dry grassy gully, not a good situation. We returned home and called the local fire station. The gent who answered the phone told me that he could not respond to my call, even though the fire was only four blocks from the fire house. He informed me that I would have to call 911 and report the fire, and then they would dispatch him.

I did call 911 and after several minutes of being switched from Main, to Fire, to San Jose, fire.... I reported the fire.

If 911 goes down. We are toast. The emergency teams will NOT respond with out cental control!!!! I wonder what would have happened if I had walked into the fire station, would they make me use the pay phone to call 911 to report the fire?

It is systemic.

-- helium (, July 17, 1999


Haven't posted for a while but this thread reminded me about an experience I had with 911 a couple of weeks ago. I found a womens purse in a parking lot and being the good samaritan I decided to take it down to the local police dept. and turn it in. Talked to the women behind the bullet proof glass and her comment was go to the red phone and call 911. 911 said they would send someone out from that station to pick it up. Waited about 20 minutes and no officer so I left it there on the desk and went about my way, shaking my head. Then it dawned on me that 911 was the dispatcher for all the small towns in the county. So much for emergencies! If 911 goes down, a lot of police departments are going to be in big trouble.

-- Martin Thompson (, July 17, 1999.

You are making two assumptions here. The first assumption is that 922 won't work. What evidence do you have for this?

Second, and more significant, you are assuming that our present 911 system is the *only* way that things can possibly work. That emergency organizations (health, fire, etc.) won't lift a finger even if 911 is not working. This is exactly the same as assuming that if a road you usually take to work is under construction, you'll just *sit* there until the construction is complete -- and it would never cross your mind to try another route.

Your claim is entirely and transparently false. 911 is useful for several reasons -- it provides a single number to call, and it permits statistics to be kept, and it allows dispatches to be centralized, so that one and only one suitable response will be made. Now without 911, efficiency is lost, I agree. Two reports of the same fire to different fire houses might result in duplicated responses, for example.

But it's important to recognize that an inability to see any flexibility in the system, any system, simply because that isn't the best way to do things *now*, underlies a whole lot of the y2k doomerism. There is a deep-seated assumption going on here that the way things are done today is the only way they can possibly be done, and if any one of those ways fails, there is NO substitute. Nonsense.

-- Flint (, July 17, 1999.

Thats why I dont post much here anymore. Just reciting an incident.

I do believe that 922 should work great.

Regards Martin

-- Martin Thompson (Martin @, July 17, 1999.

Yes Flint the point is that "if 911 is down" there will be more than inefficencies. The comment is directed to the concept that communications have been centeralized, as on an earlier thread today the whole phone system in a Canadian city.

Caused massive disruptions. Speculation: if 911 is down, the phone system is down will San Jose be able to cope? In an other earlier thread it was pointed out that San Jose is one of the least prepared cities in the country. This may not bother you, but I live here and how San Jose will respond to any real Y2K problems is an issue for me. If protocal dictates that Fire equipment can not roll with out a call from 911, my question is, has San Jose developed a contingency plan if 911 does experience difficulties.

This may not even be a Y2K problem in the 911 system. What if there are lots of little problems, alarm systems going off, fender benders, elevators stuck, so on and so on, and the 911 system gets overloaded? Does San Jose have a back up plan? I do not know, but I plan to find out.

This is not a simple problem. You may try to pooh pooh it, but if you just happen to need help at the roll over, will the services be there?

-- helium (, July 17, 1999.

i don,t know what,s to think'i never trust 911 anyway,s

-- doggie.,, (, July 17, 1999.

Flint: You obviously think that the bureacratic pukes are human, and have the initiative and mental abilility to expeditiously forge a new path if the one outlined by "procedure" is blocked. Are you one of them?

-- A (, July 17, 1999.


Please make an attempt to understand here, we'd all be better off. I am *not* trying to pooh-pooh the problem. It's real. What I'm trying to do is put practical, real-life bounds around the problem.

What I described as "inefficiency" you clarified, and thank you. Iniefficiency means multiple reponses to the same alarms, no responses to others, responders going to the wrong place, or showing up too late, etc. And maybe later, incorrect bills being sent to the wrong addresses, on and on.

At some point, I think it's important to distinguish between "San Jose" and being able to deal properly with an emergency. The details are life-and-death. If you called the local fire department directly, would they respond if 911 was not working? If you weren't the first caller about a specific fire, would they be able to know this? If the computers were down, is there someone at that fire department with enough sense to know who's been dispatched where?

Talking in vague terms about the readiness (whatever that is) of the "City of San Jose" (whatever that means) doesn't address the question very well of how specific emergencies will be handled. Responsiveness right not surely isn't perfect. Very likely it will degrade. Even with the very best contingency plans, people will have to make decisions they don't ordinarily make. Even the best plans won't guarantee that these decisions will always be correct. Ultimately you depend on competent people. Do you have them? If the system doesn't work right, you must rely on people acting intelligently on their own initiative. Smoothly-running systems train this ability *out* of people, or else replaces them with rule-followers.

The problem may be systemic, but emergency reacions may need to be completely decentralized. No amount of drilling will substitute for common sense.

-- Flint (, July 17, 1999.

Congrats!! al-d managed to post something without mentioning Jesus. The meds must be kicking in.

-- amazed (, July 17, 1999.

When we moved, I was informed by the auto license dept. to contact 911 to make my requested change of address. The police and highway patrol all call into 911 to get an ID on a license plate. My husband who had been the public works director (as well as director of maintenance)in our last town was refused the 'phone number' to the police station. He was expected to go through 911 each time he needed to speak with the city cops. Same with the fire dept and city EMTs.

It's an efficiency thingie. Impressive, eh?

-- Will continue (, July 17, 1999.

amazed are yu,s afarid of the name JESUS/ yu,s a COWARD

-- i did (, July 17, 1999.


A few years ago in a large neighboring county, our we had several dispatch centers dealing with different agencies. It was a crazy quilt to coordinate.

Now all the emergency calls are supposed to go through 911 to a centralized county communications center. It depends a bit on your locale, if you stumble down the steps at the police station, they're not going to wait to call it in before giving aid.

I've been 'where it all goes down' already. Those folks are LIFESAVERS, trained and ready during every average day. These were the guys & gals that went out under gunfire during the LA riots. Now is the time to get to know your red cross, fire & other public agencies in your area. They coordinate the volunteer Neighborhood Emergency Response Team in your area, helium.

I spoke with a first responder about this system before I made this post. They said if the 911 system goes down & the call comes, of course they'll respond. Unfortunately, I feel we may have bigger fish to fry.


The idea to decentralize is a good one in theory, but open to multiple flaws in practice. Imagine all the agencies working to locate the Kennedy plane, it works much better if you have a coordinated plan and communications. They've learned through past incidents, and are constantly training.

We're in for a challenging spell, folks. Increase your own knowledge and skills.

I've seen these people perform heroically, they are not going to leave you in trouble if they can help it. They are human too.

-- flora (***@__._), July 17, 1999.


I just wanted to add that our neighbor Santa Cruz county has had 11 disasters in the last 10 years. If it's not one thing, it's another.

-- flora (***@__._), July 17, 1999.

The problem is the bureacrats behind the "procedures" - IF and ONLY IF - they are trained to think of alternatives, to do something out of the ordinary, and to "get the job done at all costs" - will your opinion of them (the bureacrats) being able to recover become vaild.

Otherwise, they will only "follow procedures" - as was done in each of the above examples. Let's face it - the regular bureacrat has been trained to only do the requirements, and most both punish those who step past the bounds, or have seen such over-achievers get punished - by direct criticism and by indirect stigmatism among the other workers.

And emergencies don't count - unless they already have a procedure to deal with the emergency! For example - immediately before the Olympic Park bombing that killed one and hurt many - the bomber called the bomb threat in. This is a "park" an open space, and so has no address - even though 250,000 people per day were thre, and a police station is across the street from the park - it technically has no "address".

So the operator got the call, tried to enter the call into the computer to get it forwarded to an officer or patrol car. BUT the 911 computer would NOT accept any call without a street address - and so the operator couldn't enter the call.

Fortunately, the 911 operator knew was the problem - troubleshooting could have taken a long time - and spent the next ten miutes - while the bomb went off - trying to find the street address of the park.

Now, if I were there, it would appear to have taken 10 seconds to enter a "fake" address to allow the call to get recorded, or a real address (line CNN that is nearby) - but she didn't do this. So the bomb exploded in the park with no public warning - twenty minutes after the phone call.

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, July 17, 1999.

Ya gotta love Doomer logic. For the last year, all we heard from said Doomers was how bad it was going to be in April and July. The stock market will crash - people will start to panic, no one will be able to ignore it. Specific and definitive dates and actions were postulated. When nothing happened, these same Doomers have backped aled so fast they got whiplash. Are there no Doomers who will step forward and admit they were wrong? Anyone? April 1, 1999. On this date, Canada, Japan, and the State of New York begin their fiscal year. This will, of course, include dates beyond Y2K. As a result, planning systems, especially budgets that have not been repaired will fail as they attempt to process Y2K dates. Since New York City is the media capitol of the world, problems there will grab headlines worldwide. Problems in Japan will remind everyone again of how interconnected our world is. The Japanese will also be forced to admit that there systems might not make it. I expect the stock market to react and begin (or continue) its downward spiral. Public confidence will continue to wane and the number of Y2K optimists will continue to dwindle.

July 1, 1999. On this date, forty-four U.S. states begin their fiscal years. The problems that began in New York will now spread exponentially across the country and around the world. The public will feel the global and pervasive nature of the Y2K Problem for the first time. This will be further exacerbated by the fact that many states have not had the resources to adequately address their Millennium Bug problems. Consequently, the failures will be real and widespread.

From the 12 Oct 1998 issue of Westergaard - Michael Hyatt

-- Y2K Pro (, July 17, 1999.


When you look at what the system has facing it, it's terrifying. My dear old Mom sits atop a grassy hillside outside LA. They have a fabulous view, the back yard slopes down towards an onshore breeze. It has always been an accident waiting to happen.

Some of my nearest and dearest are emergency service people. I know how thin they are spread.

We can scare ourselves into a catatonic fit, or we can take positive action. I have fortunate enough to have been forced into emergency situations where I have seen plans in action.

I'd like to recommend a book I found at the library: "The Complete Disaster Survival Manual" by Ted Wright. I believe he was 12 when London was bombed, it cast him into a life's work of teaching about disaster survival.

-- flora (***@__._), July 17, 1999.


Good point. Only a small minority of people refuse to do what's clearly necessary, on the grounds that it violates "procedures" which aren't working.

What we have here is a variant of the Cook Principle. How do we know things will be awful? Well, first let's select one case out of many thousands where things didn't work well. Next, let's assume the current system will fail. Finally, let's extrapolate this ONE exception out to be the norm. Presto, we have awful!

Now, how probable is this sequence of assumptions? Ah, that's another secret of the Cook Principle -- he doesn't say. Now if we see a whole lot of worst case scenarios being created (however unlikely), and never see anything else, what sort of impression will we come away with?

The Cook Principle encapsulates the essence of this forum. If I flip a coin while you are blindfolded, and only announce the heads (and when it's tails, I didn't even tell you I flipped it), what conclusion would you likely come to about that coin? On this forum, only the heads are announced, and the blindfolds are voluntary!

-- Flint (, July 17, 1999.

Flint --- Go have a brew and chill out for the weekend. I honestly have NO idea what you just said except that you sound very overheated.

-- BigDog (, July 17, 1999.

The situation in San Jose has me worried. My daughter and her family live down there. My grandaughter will come up here the day after Christmas and stay until it is safe to go home. My son-in-law get's good money playing in a band on New Years eve. He does not want to give that up and come up here where it is safer. We are afraid that there will be roadblocks between here and there and he will not be able to get up here. We live 200 miles away from San Jose.

Also, in our small town, the volenteer firemen give out stickers to put on the phones with the phone number of the firehouse. They say it is quicker then 911.

-- Homeschooling Grandma (, July 18, 1999.

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