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Berkeley 911 addresses soon to go into use

March 10, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The first new Berkeley County 911 addresses will go into effect in Falling Waters next week, 911 Director Mary Kackley said Thursday.

Delmar Barrett, the postmaster in Falling Waters, said about 2,400 letters will be sent to postal patrons on March 17.

The letters will explain that patrons can start using their new addresses immediately. It will also let residents know they are guaranteed to receive mail sent to the old addresses for one year, Barrett said.

Residents should already know their new addresses, which were sent out in packets. People were asked to return the yellow cards in the packets to confirm they had received them.

Barrett said only about 70 percent of the cards had been returned by Thursday.

Addresses in Hedgesville will be sent out next, probably in April, Kackley said. She said it hasn't been determined when the rest of the county's residents will receive their addresses.

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It also is uncertain when the signs indicating the new street names will be installed.

The county has a $240,000 contract with Korman Signs Inc. of Richmond, Va., to make about 2,000 signs, Kackley said. The contract calls for the signs to be installed all at once, but the county may choose to have them put up one region at a time, she said.

"It would be bad to put signs up everywhere if addresses aren't done in some parts," Berkeley County Commission President D. Wayne Dunham said during Thursday's commission meeting.

Even without the signs, emergency crews have the means to find buildings and roads faster. The county is distributing 200 map books containing all of the updates to police, fire and ambulance organizations.

Bedington Volunteer Fire Department Chief Robert Robinson said there will be a training session on the maps next week and they will go into use the following week.

Berkeley County's 911 changeover has been in the works for years.

A citizens group has criticized how the county has changed more than 450 road names. The county has faced two lawsuits and won both.

Project proponents, such as Kackley, fire officials, and the County Commission, say it will help emergency services workers by eliminating confusion over road names and addresses.

"It's better than the old way - 'Go to the old oak tree and make a left,'" said Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Company Chief Dee Young.

What's worse, he said, is that rescue workers are sometimes instructed to look for "twin oaks" - but the two trees are gone.

Younger firefighters won't recognize, for example, the old blacksmith shop on Greensburg Road as a landmark because the shop has been gone for 15 years, Robinson said.

He said there are 12 subdivisions in the north end of the county that begin with the word Potomac, and each had a road to match. Now, only one of the developments will be allowed to have Potomac as the first word, he said.

Young said there used to be five Saw Mill Roads in the county. Only the oldest one retained the name.

The need for clearly labeled roads and houses is becoming more important, Robinson said, because development is greatly increasing the number of mutual aid calls.

House numbers will be determined by their exact distance from an intersection. Odd numbers will be on the left side of the street and even numbers on the right, Kackley said.

Kackley wouldn't comment when asked if street name mix-ups have contributed to any deaths or serious injuries in Berkeley County. But she said there have been problems.

In one instance, Kackley said, a woman in Inwood found out her mother needed an ambulance. She called 911 and asked a crew to go to Sulphur Spring Road, then went to help her mother, but she meant to say Sulphur Spring School Road, which is in Hedgesville, W.Va., Kackley said.

"Ultimately, the ambulance got there," she said. "But (from) 12 to 15 miles (away), they'd have to have jet propulsion to get there in the 4- to 6-minute time frame when brain cells will start to die."

Another problem that eventually will be corrected, according to Kackley, is the information that shows up when a 911 call comes in to a dispatcher. The location shown now is not where the call is coming from, but where the phone bill is sent, she said.

Robinson said the county will start notifying fire departments of new subdivisions, which hadn't been done before. Instead, they have relied on word of mouth so they could add to their hand-drawn maps, he said.

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