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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I read the letter from "Ruth Daigen in Wantagh, N.Y." about her experience with 911. As a 911 operator, I'm proud that with your help her life was saved. I wholeheartedly agree with you that 911 should be used for emergencies only. Unfortunately, it is often abused.

Please, Abby, advise your readers to think before they dial. If we are responding to a call about a barking dog, the weather or someone who needs a ride, we may be unable to handle a life-threatening emergency. This could mean the difference between life and death. In the front of every phone book is a listing of non-emergency numbers for every local agency.

Do not use 911 as a "game." A prank call can cause someone to lose his or her life, and the penalty is a large fine. Children should be taught to use 911, but only in extreme circumstances. As parents, we don't think about getting hurt or becoming seriously ill, but it happens. With proper training, your 4-year-old could save your life.

We are here to help 24 hours a day. But remember: You are our hands and eyes. Give as many details as possible -- address, directions for getting there, and precisely what the situation is. Then be prepared to listen carefully. With the operator's help, you may save a life.

If you are unable to talk, keep the line open. We will listen, try to determine what kind of help you need and dispatch it immediately. If you have a serious medical condition, contact the office of your local 911 center and inform them in advance, making sure to give them the name of a contact person who has access to your home and can help us enter to reach you.

If you are on the road and use your cell phone to report an accident, be prepared to describe your location. Try to remember mile markers, exits, route numbers, road names, businesses that are close by -- anything that will help us determine where you are.

911 is many people working together: trained professionals, volunteers and the public. When we all cooperate, it works beautifully. If you need help, give me a call. You know my number! -- 911 OPERATORS EVERYWHERE

DEAR 911 OPERATOR: You have written an important letter. I'm printing it because everyone should be familiar with 911 and treat its lifesaving services with the respect they deserve.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I no longer love each other. He's a workaholic and refuses to talk anything out. He said that if I don't like it, I can leave.

He's been this way since day one. I haven't left because we have a 5-year-old son.

Abby, is it better to remain in a loveless marriage for the sake of our son, or would getting on with my life be better? We both want full custody, and I hate to put our son through a nasty legal battle. Neither will I give up my child.


DEAR MISERABLE: Offer your husband the option of marriage counseling in order to improve your relationship. If he refuses, then see a lawyer and get on with your life. The atmosphere you describe is not a healthy one in which to raise a child.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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