When an emergency situation arises, having one's address properly labeled can save crucial time.
But some areas in the community aren't in compliance with Columbia County's address ordinance.
"This (addresses) is truly what these services use to find you and, normally, if somebody calls 911, and one of those services is coming to your house, it's life-threatening," said Pam Tucker, county Emergency and Operations director. "They need to be able to get straight to you without riding by your house to look for the next address just to see if yours is right."
The topic was brought up at the most recent Columbia County Fire and EMS Advisory Board meeting.
The commercial addressing mishap arose after Evans Town Center Boulevard was created and North Belair Road and Industrial Park Drive addresses were changed in 2006.
"The problem is if someone calls in one of those old addresses, once we've loaded the new and current data, the old address doesn't exist," Columbia-Martinez Fire Rescue Internet Technology Manager Jeremy Wallen said. "It isn't valid."
County Geographic Information Systems Manager Mary Howard said that some residents living in corner lots in older subdivisions aren't in compliance with the county's address ordinance and might not even know it.
"The address is determined by where the driveway hits the road," she said. "If your house faces a road, but there's no access from that, your address is from where the access is."
When a street name is officially changed, Howard said, road signs are immediately changed, but a letter is sent out to property owners, who have as long as a year to change their address.
The problem has declined drastically since 2005, Wallen said. During that year, the county's GIS department was formed and the data on county addresses became centralized.
The fire department, Wallen said, receives fewer than 10 cases of this nature a year, and the issue is resolved at the dispatch level. Though the incorrect information can result in a time lapse, no drastic consequences have occurred thus far, he said.
Upon receiving reports of incorrect addresses from emergency agencies, both Howard and Wallen edit the correct data.
"If there's a street sign out there, we try to have it," she said, "whether there's an address or not, just as a reference spot."
If a reasonable attempt has been made to contact a property owner about the inaccurate address and no change has been made, Howard said a code enforcer will be sent out.
"If you're not practicing with that address, if you're not putting it on everything you do, you're not going to use it when there's an emergency, and you don't have time to think," Wallen said.
Columbia County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said his department has experienced few problems with address inconsistencies, partly because the computers in patrol cars are equipped with Global Positioning Systems.
Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service Director of Operations Vince Brogdon said residential addressing errors in rural parts of the county pose a greater problem than that of businesses.
"The dispatcher generally knows which business it is and the crew... is generally familiar with that business," he said.
The issue, he said, hasn't yet caused any life-threatening situations for his department.
For information about the county's GIS department or address ordinance, visit its Web site at www.columbiacountyga.gov.
- For street line posting: The assigned number must be displayed on a post, fence, wall, mailbox, or on some other structure with a height of at least 4 feet at the property line next to the driveway. The posted numbers need to be visible from both directions on the road.
- For structure posting: The assigned number must be displayed on the front of the structure within 5 feet of the front door where practical. Numbers must be visible from the road.
- For residential properties , posted numbers must be at least 3 inches high. For residential properties in subdivisions, numbers must be posted using street line posting requirements.
- For commercial properties , posted numbers must be at least 4 inches high, and numbers must be posted using both street line and structure posting requirements.
- If a residence is located on a private drive where more than one residence is located , the assigned number must be posted on the main road. It must also be posted next to the property's driveway using the street line posting requirements.
- If a property is located on a private drive and has more than one structure or a structure with more than one principle use or occupancy , numbers need to be posted using the structure posting requirements in addition to the requirements in the section listed directly above.
All numbers need to contain a contrasting color from their background. Any number aside from the assigned number needs to be removed from the structure, mailbox, post or stanchion, to prevent confusion.
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