Child’s call points up limitations of 911 emergency system

Child's call points up limitations of 911 system


LACONIA _ A boy's call to 911 helped save his father's life but also pointed up limitations of emergency systems.

Wanda Bowers, a spokeswoman for the state's Bureau of Emergency Communications, said the Laconia child was using an old cell phone that no longer had an account associated with it. Such phones can be used to call 911, but emergency dispatchers are unable to get a home address that would be associated with an account.

The best dispatchers can do in that case is determine a caller's general location based on the 911 towers being used.

That was the situation with the little boy who called 911 on Jan. 19. He managed to indicate his father had diabetes and could not be awakened, but he couldn't articulate his apartment's address.

A local officer happened to be familiar with the man involved and knew where to send the ambulance, otherwise the incident might have had a bad ending.

Bowers said this case points up the fact that unlike landlines, the address does not immediately pop up on dispatchers' screens when a cell phone is used to call 911.

People should be ready to provide their location whenever they use a cell to call in an emergency.

Those with permanent medical conditions can get on a supplemental database that will immediately provide dispatchers with medical information and a home address. People with land lines and registered cell phones can be added to this database _ called Supplemental ALI, or Automatic Location Identification _ by filling out a form available online at or by calling the 911 business office at 603-271-6911 and asking for the form.

Bowers said this database becomes increasingly important as an increasing percentage of people only use cell phones and do not have land lines.

"About 85 percent of the calls we get are placed from cell phones," Bowers said. "It's a night and day difference from when I started 20 years ago."

The ALI database once helped save a woman whose trained dog knocked the phone off the hook when the alarm sounded on her breathing machine. The dog pawed a speed dial where all the buttons were set up to dial 911.

As soon as the call went through, dispatchers quickly realized this number was associated with a woman with respiratory problems and promptly sent medical help.

Still, the best advice is to know where you are at all times and be able to communicate this important information.

"Sometimes hikers go out with cell phones and want to use them in an emergency, but they don't know their exact location, or the phone may have lost its electrical charge," Bowers said.

For people who are unable or afraid to speak into a phone during an emergency, such as a home break-in, 911 can also accept text messages. Such a text should include the location of the caller and the nature of the emergency.   

Belknap House opens at last for homeless families

03-11 Belknap House now open

Belknap House opened at the end of February to offer shelter to homeless families in Laconia and neighboring communities. (Courtesy photo)


LACONIA — After eight months of renovations, capped by several weeks of fits and starts, Belknap House, the emergency cold weather shelter for homeless families, opened at the tail end of February and is already fielding requests and inquiries from people seeking a roof over their heads.

The building at 200 Court St. has been completely renovated. The wiring and plumbing, along with the furnace and water tank, have been replaced. A sprinkler system, together with the water main supplying it, has been installed together with fire alarm and security systems. A kitchen and laundry were added to the building, which now has new doors, windows , flooring and carpeting. The kitchen is fitted with two stoves, microwaves, refrigerators and ample secured cupboards.

The shelter will have space to house six families, up to as many as 19 individuals. Only families referred by the welfare director of either the city of Laconia or one of the 10 towns in Belknap County will be housed at the shelter, which will be a "dry" facility, allowing no alcohol or drugs. The originating municipality will be responsible for any costs or services associated with sheltering the families.
Belknap House will operate as a shelter in the cold weather months from Oct. 15 to May 15 and as a hostel during the remainder of the year. The shelter will operate around the clock — 24 hours a day, seven days a week – on an estimated operating budget of between $110,000 and $120,000. Fees from operating the hostel are projected to contribute some $40,000 towards the operating budget.
Karen Welford of Laconia, who was among the founders of Better Together, serves as executive director with responsibility for overseeing and managing all aspects of the operation of Belknap House as well as for pursuing partnerships with local businesses, governments and civic organizations. Tammy Emery serves as family support coordinator, responsible for assisting families overcome the challenge of homelessness and placing them in transitional or permanent housing.
With four part-time members of staff managing the shelter, Belknap House is relying on volunteers to fill five shifts seven days a week. Volunteers working in the shelter must undergo a background check and complete at least two hours of training. Volunteers are also needed to assist with landscaping as well as making the the transition from shelter to hostel. Anyone wishing to volunteer should sign up on the Facebook page — house — or call Belknap House at 527-8097. For more information, to volunteer or to donate visit the Belknap House website at
Belknap House plans to celebrate its opening by inviting the public to tour the facility sometime in May, when the facility is transitioning from a shelter to a hostel.

03-11 Belknap House kitchen

The building at 200 Court St. that has become Belknap House had no kitchen. Now it does. (Courtesy photo)

CORRECTION: Mr. GHS pageant will be held on March 15

An article that appeared in Thursday's Daily Sun listed an incorrect date for the Mr. GHS pageant. The humorous and entertaining event, which raises funds to provide flag boxes for residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home, will be held on Wednesday, March 15, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Gilford High School. Tickets cost $5 for students and $7 for the general public.