Officials hope musical memory will improve emergency communications

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Frank Schultz
Tuesday, March 11, 2014

JANESVILLE—There's something about music that sticks in the memory, and local officials hope that connection will solve a problem with the public's memory.

Problem: Too many people call 911 when they don't really have an emergency. About 34 percent of Rock County 911 calls end up being non-emergencies.

“We only have so many lines for 911,” said Kathy Sukus, Rock County communications director. “When you get car accidents on the Interstate or something, they all light up.”

“If we're tied up talking about a barking dog and someone needs emergency help, they won't get through,” Sukus said. “… It could delay things for someone who has a life-or-death emergency.”

But lots of people don't know the non-emergency number, especially in an age when cellphones dominate and phone books, which list the number, are rarely consulted.

Solution: A music video, with a twangy country-pop melody that is hard to get out of your head.

“If there's too much noise and you're sleepin' real poor, dial 757-22-44,” …” goes the song. “When the neighbor's dog keeps barkin' next door, dial 757-22-44!”

The Rock County Communications Center, which answers calls for all the county's jurisdictions, has produced a video that officials hope will ingrain the number in everyone's memories.

Or at least, it will get then to add it to their cellphone contacts list, Sukus said.

The idea for the video was not original. A friend of Sukus sent her a link to a video produced by her counterparts in Franklin, Tenn., who were experiencing the same problems.

Sukus emailed Franklin and got an immediate response: Go ahead, borrow our song.

Jamie Campbell, the leader of Beloit-based Jamie Campbell & The Redneck Romeos, was recruited to be the lead singer.

Campbell and his musician pal Jim Carrapp took the Tennessee tune and wrote new lyrics to go with the local non-emergency number.

The video was recorded Feb. 25 at the Town of Beloit Fire Department.

Rock County dispatchers became backup singers, and most county jurisdictions sent squads and officers to provide atmosphere.

“It's kind of catchy, and I think that's what we were wanting,” Campbell said. “Hopefully, it gets the message out and the number gets stuck in everybody's heads.”

Also volunteering their time and expertise were Janesville videographer Tony Huml and WJVL radio deejay Mike Austin.

The video is available on YouTube and will be used as a radio public-service announcement. It also will be shown during the pre-movie advertisements at theaters in Janesville and Beloit.

Money to run the ads came from the communication center's advertising budget, which in previous years was spent on community-awareness billboards, Sukus said.

And, Campbell said he might add the ditty to the repertoire of the Redneck Romeos.

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