If you see a cat stuck in a tree outside your house and you want to call the fire department to the scene, call 911.
It may not be an emergency, but a new county 911 service invites any problem-related call, no matter how small.
"You can call us on 911 to tell us that your son's bicycle was stolen, and we'll gladly take the call and be able to process it quickly," said Paul Hajek, chief of the county's Bureau of Central Communications.
The new service, scheduled to begin Wednesday, enables county 911 operators to answer non-emergency calls that formerly would have been referred back to the police or fire department's general information number.
Under the new plan, any incident that requires a police officer, sheriff, firefighter or paramedic is routed through the 911 line, no matter if the problem is a minor burglary or a child who has stopped breathing.
County 911 operators, who usually work 10 to a shift, will have visual readouts at the central communications bureau enabling them to give priority to the incoming 911 calls, Hajek said.
"If we have available operators, we'll run the stolen bicycle through as an emergency," Hajek said. "If we have an overload where every operator is busy with more serious calls, the stolen bicycle will take its place on the pecking order."
The new system was devised not only to quicken response time to minor incidents such as stolen property and small fires, but also to relieve some of the strain on the police department's 313-2200 line, Hajek said.
After Wednesday, that number will become an automated line that will list a brief directory of police department phone numbers.
For persons not requiring immediate assistance, such as those who are inquiring about whether a burglary was committed in their neighborhood, the general information number is still 313-2266.
The new system also marks thefirst time that communications services for both fire and police have operated under the same roof.
"It's essentially a form of triage," said Battalion Chief Donald R. Howell, a county fire and rescue services spokesman.
"The idea is to filter out the calls of lesser significance, so that you can proceed with the more serious emergencies," Howell said.