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The Overburdened 911 System

October 23, 2002

"Calls for Assistance Hung Up in Overburdened 911 System" (Oct. 19) misses the point of the 911 service. The 911 number is only for life-threatening emergencies or any time life or property is in immediate danger, such as in a fire or a burglary in progress. While I empathize with the gentleman who is frustrated about the dirt bike riders, I sympathize with people who cannot get a 911 operator to help them with their life-threatening medical condition or violent crime in progress because that gentleman and others are jamming the 911 lines with nonemergencies.

Nowhere does the article explain to the readers when the appropriate times are to call 911. It is not a 911 operator's responsibility to counsel people when they don't know whom to call for a nonemergency situation, and it is completely unacceptable that people continue to call 911 even after they know it is the wrong number to call. If people only called 911 for appropriate situations, the 911 system would be less overburdened and response times would be faster because the callers would not have to wait as long to get an operator.

Scott Scheffler

Los Angeles

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We recently had an incident trying to reach 911. Several ladies and I were leaving a friend's house in Brentwood. One of our ladies is quite elderly and she happened to leave first. When the rest of us opened the front door to leave, she was sprawled on the flagstone walkway bleeding profusely from her head and not moving. We quickly called 911 and it rang and rang for many minutes with no answer. We then called an operator on another line and, although she tried, she could not get through. We decided that I would get into my car and drive to the nearest fire station, which fortunately was only a couple of blocks away. They responded immediately and transported our friend to the UCLA emergency room. This situation could have been a matter of life and death.

It is not just the LAPD that does not respond. What happens if you need paramedics and you do not live near a fire station? It's a sad commentary when you have to drive yourself to get help in an emergency.

Gloria Lanfeld

Beverly Hills

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