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Emergency crews must have a better handle on contact information

Rachel Wheeler Archive

All organizations have an obligation to have strong address management practices in place. If they don't have a good handle on people's contact information, they could be in trouble. Retail organizations could make mistakes in marketing, and transportation authorities could lead people astray.

But perhaps nowhere is it more important to have precise address information than in emergency response services. If a police station or fire department doesn't have accurate knowledge about where to find people - and quickly - the effects could be catastrophic.

Seacoast Online recently publicized one locality where address information is lacking in this area. In Kennebunk, Maine, technical difficulties have led to hiccups in communication between the rescue squad and the Sanford Regional Communication Center, and as a result, emergency services personnel have been sent on many occasions to the wrong addresses. Sometimes, they're even ending up in the wrong towns entirely. The news source reported that in least one instance, a firefighter was unable to communicate effectively from an accident scene.

Stephen Nichols, fire chief in the area, told the news source that there have been internal situations recently within the department that have "caused some problems."

"A couple of times, we've been sent to the wrong addresses," Nichols said. "A couple of times, we were dispatched to addresses in Old Orchard."

Some of the difficulties in emergency response can be attributed to workflow mishaps, while technical difficulties are also to blame.

"The way radio systems are set up, if they are transmitting to another town, or another town is transmitting to them, it locks out the other town's frequency so they can only hear one town at a time," Nichols said. "There's a dilemma there that needs to be addressed. We're working on that, too."

There are a lot of logistics for cities and towns to be aware of, but it's absolutely essential that they do so. In some situations, managing contact information effectively can even save lives.