The Emergency Communications Department of East Hampton Village put out a press release and began a brochure campaign this week to alert the public that when calling 911 for help, providing certain details can prove critical: the name of the cross street, and as specific an address as possible.
The department answers 911 calls from Montauk Point to Bridgehampton. As the release pointed out, “there are six separate fire and ambulance departments and three police departments” in that coverage area.
The call for greater public awareness of how the 911 system works comes in the context of the death of Lanny Ross, a former Amagansett fire chief, in November. He had a heart attack, and his wife, Sherri, called 911 and gave her exact address, 419 Montauk Highway in Wainscott; dispatchers; however, routed emergency personnel to a duplicate street address in East Hampton. It was not until 13 minutes after her initial call that help arrived.
In that case, the address information provided was indeed quite precise, though the tape of the 911 call reveals that it was not until dispatchers asked Ms. Ross for a cross street that they realized their mistake. Mr. Ross was pronounced dead at the hospital. Sherri and Lanny Ross’s estate has filed a notice of claim against East Hampton Village and the various departments and entities (including the village police) involved in the incident, leaving open a window of opportunity to sue for damages.
The village’s press release also assured readers that, “Help is being sent while we are on the phone with you; answering our questions will not delay help!”
A spokesperson for the Village Emergency Communications Department, reached by phone yesterday, said no particular incident inspired the public-relations push, and insisted this was simply an education campaign conducted in light of the massive annual influx of out-of-towners that will commence in earnest this week and accelerate over the summer.