OUR OPINION: An ounce of notification can prevent alarm

Published 4:00 am Friday, March 18, 2022

On Wednesday, a call rang in to 911 that someone was hanging from the Old Mississippi River Bridge.

Alarm — and shock — ensued in the newsroom and elsewhere as people tried to wrap their minds around a potentially horrific event. It wasn’t long after the initial call came out that the Vicksburg Fire Department dispelled rumors of tragedy.

The “hanging man” was actually a mannequin in a harness that was lowered as part of a bridge rescue training course conducted by E3 Environmental, a private company, in partnership with the Vicksburg Fire Department and the Vicksburg Bridge Commission.

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It was lowered in a controlled training environment and no one was in danger. Still, the caller did the right thing.

Once the situation was resolved, the question remained: Why was the public not notified about this event? With mental health issues at an all-time high and suicide rates climbing every day, it is not outlandish that the caller thought the worst. They did what they were supposed to. They made a good intent call to 911.

The problem here lies in the lack of public notification. Some kind of notice would have saved all involved a good bit of grief.

A simple announcement that bridge rescue training was taking place, via a bulletin in the newspaper, radio or even a blinking road sign, could have saved resources and time on the part of all involved. At a minimum, notifying 911 dispatchers that the training was taking place could have avoided some level of panic.

What happened Wednesday was a repeat of a similar incident that took place in June 2020. At least then, a Facebook post from Vicksburg Warren 911 was circulated to notify the public.

Certainly, frustration is due following this incident; not with the individual who called 911, but with the people who felt it wasn’t necessary to issue a public notice in the first place.