9-1-1 Education Month: Duplicate street names a public safety hazard

Duplicate and similar sounding street names are a problem everywhere for emergency responders. Just a simple Google search for “duplicate street names” brings up articles of many different regions trying their best to rid their communities of this public safety issue. One article that popped up titled “Toronto Paramedics Delayed by Duplicate Street Names” explains how paramedics responding to a fatal fire in west Toronto were delayed a half an hour because two streets had the same name on opposite ends of the city.

We don’t even have to go that far to feel the effects of duplicate street names. In 2002 emergency responders were delayed 48 minutes to an Eagle River address, where a fatal shooting occurred, because of similar sounding street names within a subdivision. This became a high profile incident that made national news and prompted both the Municipality of Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula Borough to upgrade their 9-1-1 systems.

Do we really need to have an incident like this occur in our community to realize the importance of changing these duplicate street names? They are an accident waiting to happen and the only reason it has not happened yet is due to the dedication and integrity of our call-takers doing their very best to confirm the location of the emergency.

Many public employees for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, like me, are lifelong residents of this community. We live and work in this community, our children go to school together and are on the same sports teams, we personally know and are friends with local business owners; in short we care for and have a stake in this community’s success. I find real intrinsic value in the work I do and I am so grateful that I get to work alongside friends and neighbors that have dedicated their lives to protecting the life and property of our citizens. They are the true heroes — the 9-1-1 call takers/dispatchers, the fire/EMS responders, and the public safety officers. I feel that I work for them, trying to make their job easier by ensuring that locations are easy to find with uniform addresses along streets that are easily identifiable and not confusing to pinpoint. I understand that every second counts in an emergency situation. When someone is in crisis changing their address on forms and documents or whether their street name has historical significance is not even a thought in their mind, all they are doing is counting the seconds until help arrives.

For those of you that live on streets with similar names to Salmon, Great Land, Strawberry, Forest, Pine, or Spruce, the street you live on may cause a delay in emergency response because of its name. I care about you, your family, and your neighbors, and I want to ensure that an incident like what happened in Toronto or Eagle River never happens to you. I hope you will support me in my efforts to assure efficient and timely emergency response to all Kenai Peninsula Borough residents.

This information is provided by Carrie Henson, E9-1-1 Addressing Officer, Kenai Peninsula Borough. April is National 9-1-1 Education Month.

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