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State government offices must take care of contact information

Paul Newman

October 22, 2014

Archive

Address verification should be a key priority with any organization that looks after people's contact information. Whenever you have a list of people's addresses and other similar info that can used to contact people, it's important to follow up on a regular basis and verify data quality not just now, but continually moving forward.

This is perhaps most important for local governments, who have the resources on hand to potentially save lives in times of crisis. When emergencies happen that threaten people's health or safety, local authorities need to know where people are located so they can act quickly. When this mechanism breaks down, though, the results can be catastrophic - not to mention legally messy.

For example, a dispute over 911 phone services in Alaska recently landed in a state court after a lengthy struggle with a federal judge. According to Alaska Dispatch News, the controversy was between the Fairbanks North Star Borough and Alaska Communications Systems, as the two parties battled over the state's failure to update phone and address listings for relocating citizens.

The borough's lawsuit alleged that the telecom company has failed to keep the emergency system up to date with current subscriber information, which has led numerous 911 calls to be directed to the wrong addresses in recent months. Having current contact information is essential for 911 calls, especially in situations where the caller is unable to speak on the phone.

"Every one of those situations is a potential health or safety disaster waiting to happen," the lawsuit stated, according to the Dispatch News. "The problem gets worse every day. Lives and property are at risk."

The added difficulty is that as Alaska's residents continue to move all the time, the list of wrong addresses continues to grow - by about 1,000 a month, the borough claims. Address verification is a way to nip a growing problem in the bud.

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