Change of address coming this spring
Nine years after the county passed its 911 mapping and addressing ordinance, Pocahontas County residents are changing addresses this spring.
Most everyone–both in the towns and the county–is being assigned new addresses as part of the county's conversion to a 911 address system.
Shawn Dunbrack, Pocahontas County Emergency Management and 911 director, said the address conversion is coming down to the final stages.
"Our main concern with identifying structures has been those with telephones–locations that can actually dial 911," said Dunbrack. "There were over 4,800 locations in that category."
The U.S. Postal Service has entered the addresses into its database that is used by bulk mail companies, according to Dunbrack.
"The big thing we want to get word out about is that the Postal Service will let you know when you can start using your new address," Dunbrack said. "If residents have any questions about the address listed in the letter, they should call the E-911 office. We are the addressing agent for the entire county."
Those notices from the Postal Service should begin showing up in mailboxes in February or March, said Dunbrack.
Notices to post office box customers, which were the responsibility of the 911 center, began going in the mail last week.
As soon as people are notified of their address change, they should begin contacting friends and family, and agencies that need their correct address, Dunbrack said.
The post office is expected to deliver mail to the rural route addresses for a year after the change, but staff at other agencies may not be as generous.
Residents will need to make prompt address changes for items like insurance companies, voter registration, banks and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Residents should also post their address on the building in three-inch, durable reflective material, Dunbrack said. Residents are encouraged to post the new numbers on both sides of their mail boxes. The location of residents' mailboxes will still be determined by the postal service. If the mailbox is not in front of the home, the homeowner will need to have a post at the front of the driveway or home displaying the 911 address.
Dunbrack reminds residents that the 911 addresses must be assigned by the 911 office. A person cannot assume what their address will be based upon their neighbor’s address.
Engineering contractor GeoWeb, LLC of Summersville, has been working since January 2012 to assign new 911 addresses to every structure in Pocahontas County, said Dunbrack. The engineering agency then double-checked the addresses and provided them to the post office.
"Thanks to good weather last winter, the project progressed very quickly, allowing GeoWeb to complete mapping of the roadways in the county by April 2012," Dunbrack said.
Once all the addresses have been verified, the 911 dispatch center will have access to the address of each person who calls the center from a land-line phone, Dunbrack explained.
Right now, a person calling 911 has to be able to give directions to emergency personnel to get them to the scene of a call—a situation the county's first-responders have long described as inadequate. The current rural route addressing system does not provide enough information on its own to direct emergency responders.
When the 911 address system is complete, the phone number will be attached to information about the caller's location. The new numbers are more meaningful, said Dunbrack. For example, an address of 3613 Brownsburg Road tells emergency responders that the location is 3.6 miles down Brownsburg Road on the left side of the road.
In addition to improving response times and clearing confusion about the location of emergency calls, the system will have some practical benefits, too, said Dunbrack.
"Anyone who has been to the DMV to renew their operator's license has learned, they now require a physical "city style" address, these addresses will meet that requirement," Dunbrack explained. "Also, online ordering and shipping will now be simpler with a physical address."
The reliability of navigation using GPS devices will also be improved.
"As soon as the GPS navigation companies update their database, the physical street addresses in Pocahontas County will now be discoverable by those devices as well–hopefully correcting problems some drivers have found in our area," Dunbrack said.
The change is a long time coming, with the original ordinance that started the new addressing project now nearly a decade old.
"When I was hired as 911 Director in October 2011, I was given a mandate by the County Commission to have 'a plan in place' to complete 911 mapping and addressing in Pocahontas County. Here we are just a little over a year after that mandate, and the addressing not only has a plan, but is complete."
Dunbrack encourages those needing more information about the new addresses to call Pocahontas County 911 at 304-799-6537, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Calls with questions outside of these hours cannot be answered, said Dunbrack.