Squirrels might have been calling for help
By NANCY PARADIS
Published July 14, 2005
The sheriff's office has responded to my home seven times in the past week-and-a-half that I am aware of, with the deputies reporting that Verizon alerted them that there was a 911 hang-up from the residence.
We have been in the home about 10 years and initially had our phone service with Verizon. However, about five years ago we discontinued it and now have cell phones. There is no land line active in the house. The first deputy to arrive at my home searched it and found nothing, so he told me to report this call to Verizon. I did not call the phone company until the third time this happened. I had hoped the problem would stop and simply go away.
A sheriff's deputy responded to my home around 6 p.m. July 2, and again at approximately 2 a.m. July 3. Being awakened in the middle of the night by a law enforcement visit makes it difficult to go back to sleep. The week before, it was at 1 a.m.
I called Verizon's customer service department again later in the morning of July 3, and after telling the woman representative what was going on, she asked if I thought that Verizon had some kind of vendetta against me. I told her I thought the wires were crossed somewhere. She became angrier with me than I was at Verizon.
I spoke to another Verizon representative who told me to go to the back of my house and open the telephone box and check to see if a jack was still connected. She said this happens a lot. When I got home that evening it was raining but nevertheless I went outside and opened the box with a screwdriver and disconnected the three wires that were attached to screws located inside the box. I saw no jacks still plugged in.
I hoped this would solve the problem; however, it did not as the deputies have been back to my home twice.
I have tried to resolve this with Verizon to no avail. I don't want to retain a lawyer but if this continues I don't know what else to do.
- Charles Mills
I can well relate to how unsettling it can be to be wrenched from sleep at night by the police pounding on the door in the middle of the night in response to a 911 call from my home that I did not make. I cannot remember what made this problem go away, but in your case, a quick call to Verizon's director of external affairs, Cris Coffin, who in turn checked in with Jim Hannaford, manager of outside installers in the St. Petersburg district, took care of it.
Hannaford immediately knew what the problem was and explained it as follows: Even though you discontinued your telephone service with Verizon, the phone line remained active for two types of calls. One is EDT (express dial tone), which allows a call to be made to Verizon's business office so that service can be turned on without a "truck roll" or someone coming to your premises. New buildings and homes are now often prewired with EDT capability, he said, to simplify establishing service with Verizon in the future.
The other type of call that can be placed is 911, for obvious safety reasons. On rare occasions, he said a severe ground fault can develop that can cause 911 to be dialed. The heavy rain before the onset of these calls likely caused the severe ground fault on your line, he said.
There is one other possible cause of such phantom 911 calls. We know them as squirrels or rats that gnaw away at the cables - Hannaford said there's something about copper wiring that seems to attract them. In addition, a tree limb rubbing against the cables can also cause the problem.
Once he was made aware of your problem, Hannaford said he called the phone company's central office and had your line physically disconnected from the switching center. In addition, a technician was sent to disconnect the drop from the pole, but discovered you had already done so. You should have no further unexpected visits from law enforcement that are the results of calls from your line. You also can no longer call Verizon's business office or 911 from the land line coming into your house.
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[Last modified July 13, 2005, 09:55:02]
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