Attention county residents: change your 911 address

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For the past couple of years, Switzerland County has been methodically changing the addresses of residents because of the 911 system, and now that all residents who will get a new address have gotten it, county emergency officials have just one request:

Change your address.

Although the new numbers are in place, some residents have not yet converted to their new address, and are continuing to use the old one. This confusion has emergency workers here in the county worried that there could be serious consequences when an emergency occurs.

Kevin Hayes, 911 Coordinator for the county, said that it’s easy for a person to change their address. Simply update the address on their phone bill, and it will automatically be updated in the county’s 911 system.

“On the portion of your phone bill that you return with your payment there is a place to update your address,” Kevin Hayes said. “People just have to fill that in with their new address, and when the phone company updates its records, it will also automatically update our records.”

Kevin Hayes said that 911 has been around for several years here in Switzerland County, and what the new program has done is readdress the county.

“All the houses got new numbers here in the county,” Kevin Hayes said. “There weren’t really any changes made to the existing 911 system.”

Kevin Hayes said that many people believe that the new numbers had something to do with planning and zoning, but it had nothing to do with that – but a need to have more numbers as neighborhoods grew in the county.

“The need for new numbers was done for two main reasons,” Kevin Hayes said. “First was to assist 911 in locating people in the event of an emergency; and also because the old addressing system, which had worked for us for years and years; unfortunately had just literally ran out of numbers in some locations.”

Kevin Hayes said that there were some roads in the county that were very rural and lined with farms when the 911 system came into being, and the first property was given a “one” and the second a couple of miles down the road was given a “two”.

“Now those farms have been sold, and someone has put in a 50-house subdivision,” Kevin Hayes said. “Where do you find numbers for all of those? That was the main reason the county decided to do readdressing.”

Under the new system, Kevin Hayes says that there’s a new number generated every five feet along a roadway, meaning that the county will literally never run into this problem again, so once residents get their house number changed this time, it should be the last time.

When the new numbers began to be implemented, the new addressing was done in phases, dividing it by various post offices. People on the west end of the county have had their new number for a couple of years, while addresses coming through the Vevay Post Office were the last to get their numbers, because Vevay is the biggest post office in the county.

Addresses coming through the Vevay Post Office were switched last summer, and the post office send out letter notifying customers that they had a new number and that it was time to switch. The town of Vevay was not affected by the switch and did not get new numbers. With Vevay residents now with new numbers, the entire county has been converted.

So what’s the problem?

“The problem is that now we’re kind of in a transition period,” Kevin Hayes said. “Where we have a mixture of old and new addresses, and everything is laid out now with new addresses, so it makes it confusing if people haven’t updated their address yet with the phone company.”

Without updating the address with the phone company, if a resident does have to call 911 with an emergency, it will come up on the dispatcher’s screen with the old address. With a system containing new addresses and an emergency call reporting the old address, it is possible that emergency personnel could end up in the wrong location in the county, losing precious minutes while attempting to answer the emergency call.

Minutes lost that could be critical to a person’s survival or the saving of a person’s home in the event of a fire.

“When a call comes in and the address of the caller matches an address in our 911 database, then a map comes up on the dispatcher’s screen that shows the exact location,” Kevin Hayes said. “If the old address is used, the map that comes up could be somewhere in another part of the county.”

Kevin Hayes said that once the person has updated their address with the phone company, it is not necessary to call the 911 office in the sheriff’s office, but people are welcome to call and confirm that the correct address is in place, and he will be more than happy to check out all of the information for them.

The change from “Highway” to “State Road” that many residents are seeing is so that emergency personnel and others can differentiate between old and new address, so property owners should get used to seeing “State Road” used now and in the future.

With today’s technology, some residents don’t get an actual paper bill, but instead pay their bill over the Internet and get an email bill. Kevin Hayes said that if those people will go to their email bill, there is also a place on it where the address can be updated electronically.

So what’s the easiest way to protect yourself and your family in the event of an emergency?

Simply update your address on your phone bill. It will update your address in the county’s emergency 911 database and will allow emergency personnel to arrive more quickly.

And that time could save your life.

For questions or more information, contact Kevin Hayes at the Switzerland County Sheriff’s office, 427-3636.

- Pat Lanman