Public Safety Services On Duty 24/7

By Mike Barhorst


I recently visited an elderly acquaintance who was recovering his health.  He had suffered a near fatal heart attack.  As I spoke with him, I learned that he actually began having chest pains in the wee hours of the night, but waited to call for assistance in the morning because he didn’t want to “wake the chaps up – they work hard and need their sleep.”

Just days later, an email was sent to City Clerk Kari Egbert at 5:44 p.m. detailing drug activity at a location in Sidney.  The individual sending the email described the individuals involved – the clothing they were wearing, their tattoos and their whereabouts within the building.  The email concluded with “Please get them!”  The same individual sent a follow-up email just minutes later (5:48 p.m.) in which additional details were provided.

Unless she stays late because of an evening meeting, the city clerk normally leaves the office at 5:00 p.m., and arrives in the morning at 8:00 a.m.  As a result, the email messages were not received until she checked her messages the following morning – obviously long after the suspected drug activity had concluded.

These are but two examples out of many I could provide of individuals who should have called 9-1-1 and didn’t do so.  Inasmuch as I have been writing the Local Government series and will be writing about the police and fire departments next, I thought it might be a good opportunity to take a moment to simply state the obvious – when you see a crime being committed, call 9-1-1!  When you need emergency assistance due to a fall, severe pain, difficulty breathing, bleeding that will not stop, chest pain, choking, or a host of other health issues, call 9-1-1!!

City police officers, the public safety telcommunicators, the firefighters are on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  While it is true that the firefighters work a twenty-four hour shift and do sleep when not answering calls, they, like the police and public safety telcommunicators who work eight-hour shifts, are always on duty, ready to respond when they get the call.

While they are tremendous public servants and perform their duties valiantly, they are not clairvoyant.  They cannot assist you unless you let them know you need help.  I know from my conversations with them that they would much rather respond to a call and their services not be needed than to not be called at all.

There are, of course, reasons not to call 9-1-1.  You should not call 9-1-1 for information, to report a power outage at your home (unless, of course, there are downed power lines), when your water pipes are leaking, to request a ride for doctor’s appointment, to request information about paying traffic tickets, for information about your pet’s  health, or as a prank.

In fact, there are stories involving public safety telecommunicators (9-1-1 operators) that are the stuff of legend.   One of the strangest 9-1-1 calls recorded was in England, where the caller reported that the family’s snowman had been stolen.   Another example is a caller complained about the placement of the toppings on their ice cream cone.  Fortunately, the operators are trained to determine whether calls really represent an emergency.

There are cases where the caller may be in danger, but can’t indicate that is the case.  Public safety telecommunicators are trained to recognize the difference.

An example of that very difference was a woman who called 9-1-1 to order a pizza.  As she detailed the toppings being requested, the operator asked specific questions, and the caller was able to convey the fact that her life was in danger and that she needed immediate police assistance.  The alert operator took the pizza “order”, dispatched police, and saved the caller from the danger in which she found herself.

Remember that 9-1-1 is to be used ONLY in emergency situations.  An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police and/or the fire department.  If you are ever in doubt as to whether a situation is an emergency you should call 9-1-1.  It’s better to be safe and let the 9-1-1 operator determine if you need emergency assistance.

Certainly medical emergencies including heart attacks and strokes, fires, vehicular accidents, suspicious activity (including possible drug transactions, as noted above), burglary, a theft in progress – in fact, anything that seems like an emergency should trigger a 9-1-1 call.

For calls that are not of an emergency nature, use the listed business line.  For the Sidney Police Department, callers should call 937.498.2351.  The business line for the Sidney Fire Department is 937.498.2346.

The City of Sidney is fortunate to have fine individuals who have dedicated their lives to public safety.  Appreciate them and the service they provide and use them.  They are here to serve – 24 hours a day!