Luckily, last week's earthquake didn't cause a great deal of physical damage. But it did wreak havoc at the local 911 call center, where they received around 20 times more calls than usual -- most of which weren't of an emergency nature. And that's troubling.
911 is supposed to be used to report a situation that requires immediate police, fire or other emergency assistance. It's not a number to call for information you could just as easily get by turning on your TV.
Having said that, I'm also concerned about reports that this sudden influx of non-essential calls nearly shut down the system entirely.
If true, that's not good. Because had this been a real widespread disaster, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume a twenty-fold increase in legitimate calls. And if that volume really could shut the system down, it seems to me we might need to rethink its capacity.
We can't be prepared for everything. But 911 - by its very nature - should never operate under the assumption it's going to be a normal day. It should always be ready for the moment when a lot of people need big time help.
We need to do our part by not using 911 unless absolutely necessary. And the city needs to hold up its end by having adequate manpower and equipment in place when it is.
I'm Bill Lamb, and that's my...Point of View.