Area code slip? 919, not 911
Apr 06, 2012 (The News & Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Nearly a week after 10-digit dialing hit the Triangle, it's receiving mixed reviews from local businesses and emergency communication centers.
Avaya, a local phone system provider, has more than 4,000 customers in the affected area. With locations in both Charlotte and Greensboro, Avaya has gone through this kind of change before, as areas had to make the switch because of a shortage of available numbers.
"We didn't have nearly as many problems this time," said David Finch, solutions director for the company.
In fact, he called it "miraculous" that out of all the customers, only two had viable issues caused by the dialing change.
To ensure that medical facilities would avoid any life-threatening hiccups caused by a possible human error, Avaya prioritized its medical customers and checked their systems well in advance.
Nurses from North Raleigh Pediatrics and the Call-A-Nurse agency, which is used for after-hours medical calls, also said they have not experienced problems.
But Barry Furey, director of the Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center, said some initial problems caused by the new dialing have yet to be solved. Mainly, people are dialing 911 instead of 919, so they are automatically being transferred to the emergency line.
"When you hear a nine and a one, it's almost an automatic response to put another one after it -- people are getting confused and frustrated," Furey said. "It's not as much an issue of our lines being blocked up, it's more that our resources are being tapped. We had four and six times the amount of hang-ups on Saturday and Monday that we had to dispatch."
Though the center can usually get in touch with a caller by dialing back, they have to send an officer out to investigate about 20 percent of the time. On Monday, one officer was dispatched every seven minutes, largely because of the dialing change confusion.
"When our operators are taking calls by frustrated people who don't understand why they have to dial an area code to call their neighbor, they're not able to answer the next call that could be an actual emergency," Furey said. "The same can be said for the officers who are out investigating hang-ups."
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