Out of curiosity, I dialed 911 from my cell phone while standing on the deck of my house at number 4 North Roger Road. After several rings, the call was answered by a person at the Middleboro communications center. I explained that I am the captain of the Chappy Station of the Edgartown fire department and operator of the Chappy Ferry, both of which are essential in providing emergency services to a small island off Martha’s Vineyard. I explained that I was calling to find out what happens when a person dials 911 from a cell phone. She nearly correctly told me where I was calling from and that in an actual emergency she would have gotten my information from me and then transferred me to my local communications center up at the Martha’s Vineyard airport. My house is on a corner lot. She said that I was at a certain number on Narragansett avenue, which is technically true but not my house address. If you typed that address into Google earth it would have led you to me but the address would not have sounded familiar to responding emergency personnel as my house.

I know that the hand-off from Middleboro to Martha’s Vineyard takes time. In an emergency that can be precious time. For years I have been telling folks to dial 508-693-1212 for emergencies on Chappaquiddick when calling from a cell phone and to use 911 when calling from a land line. Calling 911 from a land line immediately connects you to a person on the Island with knowledge of the services available to you and how to get them to you quickly. You can dial 911 from your land line house phone, simply yell “help” and seconds later a police officer will be on the way to your house. It will of course help to tell them more about your specific needs. But you can conk out after yelling “help” and they are still coming. If somebody dials 911 and hangs up, the police will come to your house to make sure everything is okay. Even when it’s a curious child experimenting or a speed dial error, they are still going to pay you a visit. It’s comforting to know that help is on the way so immediately. The problem is that more and more folks are giving up their land lines and just depending on their cell phones.

So what happens when you dial 508-693-1212 from a cell phone or a landline? A person right here on the Vineyard answers but gets no information about where you are unless you can tell them. So for the time being I am sticking with what I have been saying ever since cell phones came on the scene. But now I’m going to add a little more criteria to that advice: Using a land line phone, always dial 911. Using a cell phone, if you don’t know exactly where you are, dial 911: if you know exactly where you are and can give an exact location dial 508-693-1212.

I first learned about the Christmas bird count years back when a couple of Chappy friends got interested. They were dedicated to the event, heading out in the bitter cold at 4 a.m. to find owls and roaming around their assigned area counting birds until well after dark. There is still a hard core group of birders who participate yearly. Newcomers are encouraged. Unfortunately the count is scheduled for this Friday, which is a work day for some. I heard that Luanne Johnson is coordinating the count on Martha’s Vineyard this year. I found biodiversityworksmv.org by googling MV BiodiversityWorks. Lots of information there including an invitation to assist with the bird count right from your kitchen table. She provides instructions and a check-off list for you to report the birds that you see at your feeder during the day of the count. It all helps to figure out what’s going on with the birds these days.

The Chappy Community Center potlucks will return to the usual schedule of first and third Wednesdays of each month. The next potluck will be hosted by Allyson and Peter Getsinger on Jan. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. Please bring a dish to serve six. While you’re there, you can sign up to host a future potluck or call Lynn at 508-627-8222.

Send Chappy news to peterchappyferry@gmail.com.