Many Entities Scrambling for Ways To Cope With Address Changes
By Rick Hiduk
Since the US Postal Service and emergency management officials began implementing a new address system in Bradford County last year, businesses, fire and ambulance companies, school districts, and even postal clerks are struggling to make sense of it all while providing their constituents with adequate services. Despite their calls for a more efficient transition to the new system, the word from the top is that the new guidelines have been set, and it is the job of business and civic leaders to find a way to make things work for the benefit of all area residents.
“Everyone who lives in Bradford County shares the responsibility for making the transition to the new numbering system,” stated Bradford County Emergency Management director Robert Barnes. “County dispatchers have standard operating procedures in place for the transition. In addition, every emergency response organization has been issued to assist them during the transition. Given the development we are experiencing and the number of new installations in the county, the numbering system is the only efficient way available to the county to be responsive to emergency situations that may occur.”
“They gave us books to look it up but, when you’re short on manpower, that doesn’t work very well,” said Wyalusing Valley Volunteer Fire Department chief Adam Dietz. He indicated that the transition to the new system was conducted one township at a time, which has made it difficult to keep up. Luckily, he added, most of the volunteer first responders know most of the names of local residents, which allows them to narrow down most addresses by using family names associated with farms and other landmarks. Dietz acknowledged that, as new families move into the area and new recruits lend their assistance to the company, finding addresses by name only would not be sufficient in the long run.
“It wasn’t all done at once. They did it periodically in different phases,” Laceyville postmaster Bill Clark concurred. He has received numerous calls from emergency responders asking for assistance in finding homes to which they had been summoned for an emergency.
Barnes maintains that the numbering change has already made it easier for Bradford County 911 to dispatch EMS units and firefighters to the proper location because the system is based on individual municipalities and not by post office.
Clark suggested that one of the more confusing elements of the new system is that, in any case where there are two or more structures on a lane leading off a major roadway or if the structure is a certain distance away from the main road, the lanes were given names and residents and businesses on the lanes given new addresses based on that new name. In most cases, the coordinators of the new system worked with homeowners to choose the names of the lanes, but not always. People can and have contested the names given to their lanes and requested new addresses. In a limited number of cases, Clark explained, he has as many as three addresses on file for a single residence.
Post offices, too, are still relying on the familiarity of delivery personnel with local residents to make the new system work, but the addition of lanes as addresses has nearly double the number of delivery points in the Laceyville postal system alone.
“For me to train somebody new, they won’t be able to do it by (family) lane because they don’t know where these people live,” Clark offered, adding that he would feel more confident about the new system if it was coordinated with GPS, but it is not as of yet.
Barnes noted that home and business owners can make the transition easier by clearly posting their new 911 address so that emergency responders and delivery services can find them more easily. “Obviously, the need to quickly, consistently, and accurately respond to emergency situations when needed is essential for the well-being of our residents.
The Wyalusing school district issued bulletins over the summer in an effort to update its address data bank in order to coordinate new bus routes brought about by the consolidation of its elementary school system. The changes have impacted many other local entities, as well.
Dennis Maloney, manager of Towanda Gun Club, noted that the organization absorbed significant charges from the post office when bi-monthly newsletters starting coming back to the organization due to insufficient address information. The postal service now charges full first-class rate for the return of each parcel, which amounted to as much as $30 per mailing for the Gun Club during the first few months of the change. Maloney related that he initiated a campaign to request that all members provide their new 911 address to alleviate the problems he was facing. The return charges have dropped in recent months to about $7 per mailing.
At the Rocket-Courier, the database for newspapers that are mailed to subscribers sorts by rural route (RR) numbers, so more than a few readers have reported that delivery of their newspapers has been disrupted.
“It has really created extra work,” said general manager Nancy Keeler, who noted that she too has to call the post office, especially when a customer is not familiar with their home’s former RR address. “We don’t really have any other way around that at this point.”
Maloney regards the new system as an inconvenience, but asserted that he supports the changes.
“Personally, I think it’s a great thing to get everybody on a street address, and it’s long overdue,” he remarked. “But it’s a massive undertaking.”
While Clark is not a big fan of the changes, he is hopeful that the situation will iron itself out. “If GPS catches up with all of these lanes and back roads, things might be OK,” he stated. If it doesn’t, however, Clark expressed concern that somebody may not receive emergency services in a timely manner. His advice in the meantime: “Accept the address that you are given. Trying to change it could make it worse.”
Acceptance, Barnes suggested, is the first step toward making the new addressing system work.
“It is a difficult transition which we are working through,” he conceded. “It is imperative that we have participation and endorsement by all of the residents living and working in Bradford County to ensure public safety.”