OTTAWA -- Confusion and allegation surround a La Salle County emergency telephone system number change that may have left a rural woman pressing her Life Alert device and getting no help from emergency personnel.
An anonymous source alleges an elderly woman activated her Life Alert device last weekend and the only person to respond was the designated family member or friend. That prompted the designee to contact the local fire department and at that point, emergency personnel were paged to respond to the call for help.
The source asked the NewsTribune for anonymity for fear of job loss.
When emergency personnel investigated the problem, they found the La Salle County Emergency Telephone System Board had changed the emergency telephone number for all rural life line and alarm calls the day before without notifying rural fire and police agencies until Wednesday via e-mail.
According to the source, that means emergency numbers connected to such devices will no longer work until they are reprogrammed.
"The problem is that old number could still be connected to the Life Alerts little old ladies are wearing, emergency telephones in elevators, and panic buttons at banks and other businesses," the anonymous source said.
"So since last weekend we and other departments have been scrambling to contact banks, schools, businesses and as many people as we can to get their emergency numbers reprogrammed."
The anonymous source provided the NewsTribune with an e-mail written by La Salle County 911 director Curt Yasm that confirms the telephone number for life lines and alarm calls had been changed.
However, the e-mail gives no indication that life lines and alarm call activations in rural areas would go to a non-working number.
Tonica fire chief Todd Anderson quickly dispelled the anonymous source's recollection of details, but did confirm the emergency number had been changed. He added that Life Alert and alarm calls will be responded to despite the emergency number change.
"There was not a problem with that person getting a hold of us using the Life Alert device," Anderson said.
Yasm could not be reached Friday for comment.
Rural residents can expect to be contacted soon about the changes, said Lostant fire chief Andy Forrest, who added that it is his understanding Life Alert devices and alarm calls are still connected to La Salle County telecommunicators.
"We don't have too much more information other than the e-mail the county sent out," Forrest said. "We're not sure what the process is for facilitating the change, but to our knowledge, the Life Alert devices and alarm calls are unaffected."
Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or email@example.com.