911 strikeout

He was outside with his dogs about a week ago—during the thunderstorm that started several fires in the valley—when Mark Johnson saw lightning strike on Peavine Mountain. “My backyard has an unobstructed view of the mountain,” Johnson said. “And I saw a plume of smoke.”

So Johnson, who lives in the north valleys, did what he said he hopes any good citizen would do. He called to report a fire. He dialed 911 and told the operator what he’d seen. She said she’d connect him to the right place for reporting fires.

“Instead, she connected me to a dial tone,” Johnson said. So he tried calling the Division of Forestry and the Reno Police Department. One operator told him he could leave a voice mail or send an e-mail. “What if a person had a gun pointed to his head?” Johnson wanted to know.

The Reno emergency dispatch is lately overwhelmed with calls that it handles for more than a dozen agencies. The center is understaffed. It gets tons of accidental 911 calls, about 200 per day from cell phone users who unknowingly dial 911 “by sitting on their phones or bumping into [phones] in their purse or pocket,” reported Anjeanette Damon in the Reno Gazette-Journal last week.

Sitting on their phones.

Johnson said his call was finally returned in about an hour. He was told that when an operator gets a ton of calls to one division, some calls are let go.

“I felt, ‘Why are they letting go of an emergency call?’ “ Johnson said. “That strikes me as being wrong. And he was just joking about it. To me, it’s not a laughing matter.”

Johnson is especially frustrated, he said, because about 10 years ago, he tried to report another fire on Diamond Peak. After three or four calls, he finally got a response.

“By that time, it was out of hand,” he said. “I must have bad luck with emergency calls.”

My family’s power bill has gone up by about $70 monthly. (See story at right.) That’s not so bad for a middle-income family like us. It’s about half a week’s groceries, or my daughter’s swimming team fee, or our monthly cable bill. Wait, that’s right—we don’t have cable. Can’t afford it.

I’d really like to hear your woeful tales of escalating power bills. How are you conserving energy? And what will your family have to do without to pay Sierra Pacific? If you’d like to rant, give me a call at 324-4440, ext. 3522, e-mail deidrep@newsreview.com or write me at 708 N. Center St., Reno, NV 89501.The gargantuan combined ReTRAC stakeholders’ meeting has been rescheduled. You, too, can review the collective concerns of business owners and residents from the east, west and downtown part of the proposed railroad trench project 6-9 p.m. July 30 in Harrah’s, on the third floor of the convention center. During the next week, the three stakeholder groups will meet individually to finalize their priorities to be considered as a bid is drafted for the Big Dig. Call Gail Conners at 326-6315 or see www.retrac.org.