A community emergency telephone service is scheduled to begin June 15 to warn Carroll residents when an oil spill pollutes drinking water or tell them what roads to use if an area is evacuated.
The new service, sponsored by the Carroll County Local Emergency Planning Committee, will have two telephone numbers: 857-1818 for all areas except South Carroll, and 795-1717 from the southern section of the county.
The service will be a local call from anywhere in the county except for about 700 telephones on the 831 exchange in Mount Airy, Micki Smith, county government public information officer, reported.
Ms. Smith said legal barriers stopped the county from crossing telephone service area lines to provide local emergency calling service for the Mount Airy residents.
The county did not get a toll-free 800 number for the service because phone service charges would be based on the number of calls, Ms. Smith said. The prospect of too many calls, "was a concern because everyone would want to find out what they're going to hear, and we could have had a rash of calls," she said.
When the new line is in service during minor emergencies, callers will hear a recording that might say, for example, "Route 140 will be closed between Finksburg and Sandymount until 1 p.m. because of an oil spill."
In a major emergency, such as the gas explosion in Autumn Ridge subdivision in Westminster on Jan. 19, the telephone service would "go live," Ms. Smith said. Representatives from agencies such as the Red Cross, health department or county public works department would staff a phone bank to answer questions.
When no emergency exists, callers will hear recordings offering general information, such as how to prepare for a hurricane or tornado.
People who need fire, ambulance or police help will continue to dial 911.
Ms. Smith said the community emergency number was not prompted by the gas explosion.
She said the local emergency planning committee is trying to reach as many county residents as possible with emergency information, including those who may not have access to radio, television or newspapers.
To reach people who don't have home telephones, she hopes to get permission to post the community emergency number on pay telephones in the county.