New number should unjam 911 line

January 13, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Howard County has a new nonemergency telephone number that county officials hope will free up an overwhelmed 911 line that sometimes has left callers listening to recordings.

The change, a return to an earlier policy of using 911 for only true emergencies, follows complaints from people who said they couldn't get through to report emergencies.

County residents now should call 313-2200 when reporting abandoned vehicles, stolen bicycles or other nonemergency situations, said Raquel Sanudo, the county's chief administrative officer.

To publicize the new number, the county will air an announcement on Cable 15, advertise the number in newspapers and mail postcards to county residents, officials said.

Meanwhile, operators at the county's Bureau of Central Communications will divide their duties, with some assigned to handle 911 calls and others assigned to the nonemergency line, said Cecil Bray, the county's chief deputy administrator.

Callers dialing 911 should get recordings only in unusual circum

stances, such as in a disaster, officials said. Callers using the nonemergency line will receive a busy signal if the line reaches capacity but can always dial again.

The new nonemergency number, which went into operation Friday, is the latest change at the communications center that opened in September 1991 with fire and police dispatchers in the same building.

In October, the center's director, Paul N. Hajek, was fired and the center was shifted from the Department of General Services to the control of the county administrator. A new director has not been named.

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