Culture

Puerto Rico Shuts Down 911 Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Lead Photo: Photo by xavierarnau/Getty Images.
Photo by xavierarnau/Getty Images.

In case of an emergency in Puerto Rico, do not dial 9-1-1, because it’s literally not functioning. Last night (Oct. 21), officials announced both of the island’s emergency call centers closed due to a A COVID-19 outbreak among employees.

Public Safety Secretary Pedro Janer announced that all emergency calls should be directed to 787-724-0124, the number for the Bureau for Emergency and Disaster Management (NMEAD in Spanish). From there, callers will be dispatched to the appropriate service. Puerto Ricans are also encouraged to contact the police directly at 787-343-2020 if necessary.

[AVISO] Por el momento. ¿Llamada de emergencia? Comunícate a los siguientes números. ⬇️ 911PR Departamento de Seguridad Pública de Puerto Rico

Posted by La Fortaleza de PR on Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Associated Press correspondent Dánica Coto noted that the NMEAD number doesn’t connect callers with an actual person. “If you call that number you get a recording telling people to call 911 if it’s an emergency. Then it provides you with a directory,” she tweeted.

The lines were flooded following the evening announcement, according to many on Twitter. CBS correspondent David Begnaud relayed the message for people to stop dialing NMEAD to test functionality: “The lines are being swamped right now,” he wrote.

Some Puerto Rico municipalities are also sharing their own, direct numbers.

The shutdown is temporary, Janer notes in an official release, though no set date for resuming operations is offered. According to Begnaud, it could be a few days from now.

In the meantime, the affected employees will isolate, others will be tested for COVID-19 and the call center buildings will be decontaminated.