911 Concern Resolved!

Have you ever called the office of your city council member to complain? Did you get results? I’m not especially fond my CM, but I have to give his staff a compliment. I called with a concern and I got an answer! 

You might recall that a couple of months ago, we had an unpleasant experience with a fellow traveler on Seattle’s First Hill Streetcar. We had walked downtown, then to Pioneer Square, then got on the streetcar to head home (“masks required”). A passenger near us had his mask under his chin. I gestured to him to cover his face (because sometimes people forget and happily pull up their mask), and he responded by vociferously berating me for the rest of the trip. “Free people don’ wear no masks!” Later he started poking my husband, at which point I called 911 on my cell phone, not sure what was coming next. 

When 911 answered, I explained where I was: “I’m on the First Hill Streetcar, on Broadway, by Swedish Hospital.” I repeated the information, then was told by the dispatcher that she wasn’t in Seattle and didn’t know where that was. WTF??? I know that when I’m not calling from a landline, 911 doesn’t get an address for me when I call, but “not in Seattle, doesn’t know where that is” was not helpful. I hung up. 

I sent an email to my council member’s office asking where our 911 operators are located, wondering if we had offshored this service. I was assured they were answered by people in Seattle. Think again, I said, and gave them the information about my call. It took several reminders, but a staff person did eventually track down my call and talked to enough people to figure out that when I said the word “streetcar” my call was immediately transferred to the county 911 because our buses are “King County Metro,” therefore King County 911. However streetcars are all in Seattle and ought to be handled by Seattle 911. This was a training issue, and would be addressed. 

When I hung up in frustration, I was immediately called back by a Seattle 911 operator, but by that time, the problem person was leaving the streetcar. Meanwhile, the streetcar operator (who hangs out in a nice safe enclosure protected by a locked door) had stopped the streetcar. Once there’s an incident like this, the streetcar doesn’t move until a supervisor has arrived and decides it’s safe to continue. The supervisor did arrive, the streetcar did resume its journey. The police never did show up, but I’m sure they were handling greater emergencies, so that’s OK. 

It was a crummy ending to a decent day, but I’m relieved to know that our 911 calls are not being answered by someone in Albuquerque, or India, for that matter. But word to the wise: a sign saying “masks required” actually means “masks requested,” and I don’t recommend asking anyone to pull up a mask. Duh. 

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