Where’s the Fire?

Twenty-five years after Maine voted for Enhanced 911, the system remains a work in progress.

By Rob Sneddon

Consider the situation in which a citizen discovers his neighbor’s house on fire. He may very systematically look up the number for the fire department and give very precise information as to the location. Take the same person suddenly finding his own home on fire; he panics.
— report from the State of Maine 911 
Study Commission, March 1987

In Maine, as everywhere else, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But at least in Maine the road is clearly marked. It is mapped and plotted with impeccable logic, numbered end to end at precise fifty-foot intervals. It is, in other words, in full compliance with the standards of Enhanced 911, the system that Maine has spent twenty-five years and tens of millions of dollars to put in place statewide.

So, should you live at the far end of the road, down hell way, and should a rogue gust send a shower of embers onto your roof and set it ablaze, don’t despair. Just call 911. Even if you’re in such a state of spluttering panic that the dispatcher can’t decipher your desperate plea, the system will instantly capture your address. And, thanks to this cutting-edge technology, the fire trucks will come to your rescue as fast as humanly possible.

Just as long as you call on a landline and not a cell phone.

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Rob Sneddon is a contributing editor to Down East magazine.

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