Our most important lifeline isn't always there when you need it
TheVerge.com – On a June morning in Washington, William Leneweaver, the state’s E911 IT projects and operations manager, was alerted to a call. A man had been attempting to dial emergency responders, but he couldn't get through. He was left listening to a "fast busy" — a pre-recorded tone.
Eventually, he made contact by borrowing someone else's phone. The staff of the state's Vancouver call center, where the call was received, began investigating what might have prevented the call from going through. They made test calls with Sprint phones, the same provider the man had. No 911 service. They had someone in another location make more calls. Same problem.
About 100 miles north, in another county, emergency responders began getting similar reports. The Vancouver center sent a message to call centers in other counties, and out of seven that responded, five reported back: no 911 service on Sprint. Leneweaver attempted to track down Sprint employees about the outage, but couldn't reach anyone at the company. The outage, which also affected Verizon customers and callers in Oregon, ended hours later without a response.
Leneweaver was angry — couldn't Sprint alert emergency responders if there was an outage?
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The Boston Globe – It was 3:30 one cold morning last March when the smoke detectors went off. Kelly Burgo, asleep in the first-floor bedroom of his New Bedford home, at first figured it was a false alarm; someone must be taking a steamy shower or cooking. But when he got up to check, he found his wife, Lorraine, already at the kitchen sink filling a blender jar with water — the first container that had come to hand — and his son, Jayden, just a week short of his 9th birthday, shouting, “There’s smoke coming out of Izzy’s room!”
Before Burgo could react, his wife was running up the stairs to empty the blender onto the fire. He took a moment to fill a pan with water, but by the time he got to the second-floor bedroom across from Jayden’s, the smoke was overwhelming and his wife disoriented inside the room; 22-year-old Isidoro Navedo, his stepson, was still asleep.
“So now I’m in a panic,” Burgo says. “I’m not even thinking of calling 911. I’m just worried about getting my wife and stepson out of the bedroom.” Burgo was running up and down the stairs, alternately shouting to his wife to follow his voice and catching his breath away from the choking air. Luckily, Jayden remained composed, calmly dialing the emergency number and giving the dispatcher his address.
Within a few minutes, first responders were on the scene, where it was later determined the fire had started when a cigarette that Izzy thought he had put out fell into the waste basket. (Smoking is the number one cause of fatal fires.) Police and firefighters got Navedo and Lorraine Burgo out of the house, but both suffered third-degree burns and spent months in the hospital recovering. Damages to the home came to somewhere around $50,000.
Nonetheless, Burgo knows his family was lucky. “There’s not even a question,” he says. “Jayden saved everyone’s life.”