Don't rely on landline phones

DOWNEY - Living in Southern California, some of us take certain things for granted.For many of us, the weather is something we don't spend too much time worrying about. It is generally cool in the winter and warm in the summer. Another thing we sometimes take for granted is the delivery of our utilities. Most of us count on clean drinking water, natural gas, electricity and phone service delivered to our homes 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We also count on our appliances working properly at all times. Earlier this week a resident called to advise they were having phone problems in their neighborhood. Shortly before receiving the call, I read a news report about some families in the LA area who suffered greatly because of home heater malfunctions. The two utility problems are the subject matter for this week's article on emergency preparedness. I am sorry some of our community members already know, first-hand, about the phone line problem. The community member who called earlier this week reported she had lost her landline dial-tone in December after the rain storms. The service provider advised her it may take as long as several weeks to remedy the problem due to the many storm-related service requests. The community member also expressed concern regarding her neighbors. She knew they relied on their landline phones, as many people do, for their primary connection with the rest of the world. When a landline phone malfunctions, it can create problems for home alarm systems, emergency reporting systems and most importantly for the 911 system. When I contacted the service provider I expressed the above mentioned concerns. They advised a service request order would be re-submitted. Hopefully, persistent follow up on this problem will speed the repair work along. However, the important thing to remember here is to have a back-up plan for our communications. Thankfully, the caller had a cell phone to report the problem. However, not everyone has a cell phone (but it sure seems like they do, sometimes). Relying on a single means of communication can be problematic. One disrupted connection can cause a delay in reporting an emergency. Community members should have a back up plan to notify others of emergency situations. In some cases a cell phone is the obvious choice. But what if the coverage is poor? I work in a building that gives some cell phone users 'fits'. They have to go outside to talk on their phones. In some families sending someone to alert a neighbor to call for help is another option. Please keep in mind, the Downey police and fire departments receive nearly all of their requests for service from a phone (landline or cell). But what if someone lives alone and is without a phone? Perhaps a neighbor could be alerted to this situation before a problem occurred and could then check-in occasionally. Neighbors helping neighbors and being vigilant about neighborhood matters is the foundation of a good block. When problems of any kind occur in our neighborhood, let's think of our families first and get things remedied. But immediately after we settle things at home, let's consider how the problem impacted the rest of those who live near us. Often times it takes very little effort to really help someone who needs a hand. Tragedies occur each year due to poorly performing heating units, inadequate venting, the misuse of household appliances like kitchen ovens or improperly used heating equipment. Unfortunately, people have also made make the mistake of using a barbeque for a heating unit. In these types of situations there are often serious consequences. Fires, carbon monoxide gas and low oxygen levels are all lethal results of the above mentioned heating problems. To avoid a potential tragedy, please consider using a free resource to check out your home heating system, the Southern California Gas Company. Residents can also contact a licensed, qualified professional to ensure their appliances and heating equipment are operating properly. The Gas Company can be contacted at (800) 427-2200 or (800) 342-4545 (Spanish). The Gas Company can also be found at If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to Mark Sauter is a deputy city manager with the city of Downey. He is in charge of emergency preparedness.

********** Published: January 13, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 39