Don’t be locked out during an emergency. Here at the sheriff’s office we staff the 9-1-1 emergency phones for Atascosa County. We receive calls on a frequent basis for various types of emergencies where we have to dispatch Fire, EMS or law enforcement to provide services for the caller. Outside of San Antonio, we are the busiest 9-1-1 center in the Alamo Area Region. I am very much a proponent of security and protecting your home, property and family but sometimes our security measures we use could hamper emergency assistance from getting to you when it’s needed the most. In the past we had a Medical Alarm call for EMS at a rural address and when EMS arrived they could not get past the automatic gate at the entrance to the property. To make matters worse, the Alarm Company did not have the gate code and dispatchers could not get anyone to answer the phone at the residence. Our dispatchers were finally able to reach a family member and determined it was a false alarm. On another incident, a fire inside a home was reported and a locked gate prevented the fire department from quickly getting to the fire. A while back an elderly person with medical issues lived at the end of a private easement which had gates and each resident had a different pad lock. In cases like this I would recommend using a combination lock and providing that combination to our 9-1-1 Center. Another option would be for the different residents to go together and purchase an automatic gate. As Sheriff, I want our county residents to continue to do all they can to protect themselves and their property from criminals, but if you have a locked gate you need to take the time to address the issue of first-responders getting through it in an emergency. What some folks may forget is that the person making the 9-1-1 call may not always be a person with the gate code or have the ability to unlock a gate. In some cases, the 9-1-1 caller may be alone and may be physically unable to provide the dispatcher with the gate code or combination. What I have done here at the sheriff’s office to help with this, is create a computerized file in our Dispatch Communications Center where we will record your gate code, lock combination or key location in an easily accessible file in the event of an emergency at your residence. If you live behind a locked gate please consider calling the sheriff’s office at 830-769- 3434 and push # 1 when you hear the recording. Tell the dispatcher you want to provide gate entry information and they will take it down and put it in our filing system. In the event of an emergency, we will be able to get help to you. We will do this for anyone in the county regardless whether you live in a city or in a rural area. Remember, in an emergency things are frantic, stress level is high and your mind is distracted. Our goal is to get you help as fast as possible. Until next time, take care, be vigilant and be safe. I can be reached by email at David.email@example.com or by calling 830-769-3434.
DAVID SOWARD is the elected Sheriff of Atascosa County, has been with the sheriff’s office for 42 years and he is in his 7th year as Sheriff. Sheriff Soward holds a Master Jailer’s License as well as a Master Peace Officer’s License from the State of Texas. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 830-769-3434.