Alarmed about 911 emergencies at Annapolis County council

Same address in two places, council told

Published on July 18, 2014

<p>When 911 is called, responders expect there is only one civic address by that number. It turns out, there could be two -- or even more.</p>

©Lawrence Powell

Councillors told of province-wide flaw in the 911 civic address numbering systems that could delay emergency response.

Annapolis County councillors were told by an ad hoc committee of the council last week of a potentially serious, province-wide flaw in the 911 civic address numbering systems that could delay emergency response.

The ad hoc committee was established to look at possible conflicts in civic addresses along roadways that cross municipal boundaries. They discovered that it is possible to have identical civic addresses for two separate locations along roadways that extend between counties. For example, there is a 6601 Highway 1 in Belleisle, Annapolis County and another in Cambridge, Kings County. There may be others in West Hants, East Hants, Digby, Halifax, Clare, and Yarmouth counties.

Potential problems arise when identical civic addresses are in close geographic proximity but separated by a municipal boundary. These conflicts may not present problems for local emergency responders as they usually know where most people live and are aware of the potential for confusion. The problem can become more serious when the first responder is not familiar with the local geography.

When a 911 caller requires emergency medical assistance, Emergency Health Services dispatches the closest, available ambulance. If an ambulance normally based several hundred kilometers away happened to be passing near the emergency, it could be redirected.  If it went to the right civic address in the wrong county, medical assistance could be delayed for a short period. The issue can be further complicated if the identical addresses are in a community that crosses municipal boundaries.

The ad hoc committee told the council that the problem is very complicated and requires provincial intervention. The council will be asking the province to address the issue.

Composed of councillors Martha Roberts and Frank Chipman, the committee was struck earlier this year in response to a complaint from a resident who experienced a delay due to identical civic addresses in close proximity but separated by a municipal boundary. The ad hoc committee was dissolved because it is unable to correct the issue.