Address changes cause delays in emergency response for Oliver

Officials are asking Oliver area residents to be aware of their new civic addresses, as recent changes have led to confusion

  • Aug. 28, 2012 7:00 a.m.

Officials are asking Oliver area residents to be aware of their new civic addresses, as recent changes to both the urban and rural street names have led to confusion and potentially serious delays in emergency services.

Oliver’s former civic addressing system was one that received constant complaints, with large street and avenue numbers, separate streets across town having the same name, and many streets actually having dual names.

With the announcement that Canada Post would be eliminating all rural routes in the area, Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen Area C Director Allan Patton said the time was right to change the civic addresses as well.

“People are getting used to it, and most of the people like it,” said Patton. “A lot of them don’t, but they’re getting used to it, and once they get used to this situation they’re going to find it’s much better than the original. “

However, the community is experiencing difficulties in the transition, most notably in its emergency services.

“We were experiencing some delays to calls because people were having a hard time coming up with an address,” said Joy Peterson, B.C. Ambulance Service’s local unit lead for Oliver. “Typically they were providing their old number with their new street rather than all new. When they’re a little bit panicked they tend to refer back to old numbers.

“It’s always helpful when we can have a prompt emergency response without a delay,” she added. “It depends on the nature of the problem, but if it’s a life-threatening emergency, every minute — every second — counts.”

To this end, Peterson and other paramedics have been dropping off fridge magnets with people’s addresses listed on it, giving them a reference for the correct address.

“The goal is we’d like every fridge in Oliver to have a magnet on it, so whether it’s a resident or a visitor, if they need to call 911 they can look at the fridge, see the magnet and call,” said Peterson.

Less serious than delayed emergency services, the Oliver Canada Post office is also experiencing some issues, as people are changing their mailing addresses to the new numbers before Canada Post staff have implemented the changes, said Darren Smith, the Oliver Canada Post office’s superintendent.

Rural residents are asked to register their new addresses with their old addresses to help make the transition easier. These residents can do so at the Oliver Canada Post office, or by filling out the forms the post office has sent out.

The switch to the new mailing addresses will not be able to happen until a significant portion of residents provide their new and old addresses to the post office. Due to a poor return rate of the forms the post office mailed out requesting this information, it’s projected the switch won’t happen until November.

In regards to the emergency situation, both Patton and Peterson urged residents to take down their old house numbers and put up their new ones, as the confusion around house numbers could create a potentially fatal delay.