SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — During last week’s base-closing snowstorm, the new Contingency Information Line here was flooded with calls, showing how an inexpensive innovation can help a large number of people.

More than 1,000 base residents called the hot line, the phone system showed, checking weather forecasts, school openings, shuttle bus operations and whether they should come to work.

The cost: “Probably less than $300,” said line creator Chief Petty Officer Brian J. Davis from the Public Affairs Department, which maintains the system and ensures the information is current.

“What we want to emphasize is that this is a contingency line, not an everyday information line people can call to see if Taco Bell is having a lunch special,” he explained from his office Tuesday afternoon.

“By ‘contingency,’ we’re referring to other-than-normal conditions on base, such as the snowstorm last week, a typhoon or maybe a situation where sailors are being recalled from liberty because of an unplanned ship movement,” he said.

All this, Davis said, is made possible by just three telephones with answering machines; “I think each one costs less than $100.”

During the recent snowfall, many of the information updates, particularly in the human resources area, also were provided in Japanese.

The hot line was started because more than 1,000 people, including singles and families, live off Sasebo Naval Base, said a housing official.

“We have the information on AFN television stations, posted on the Command Channel and on AFN radio,” he said. “However, the radio has a very limited range and people in town are likely not to have access to the AFN channels and Command Channel on TV. This caters to those people.”

Already, Davis said, he and base Public Affairs Officer Charles Howard are giving serious consideration to upgrading to a fully automated system that can handle more calls.

During serious weather events or other unusual base conditions the Contingency Information Line can be reached at DSN 252-3034.

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