Town Plans Address Reminder To Help With Emergencies

BERLIN – Homeowners need to make sure their houses clearly show the number address to allow emergency services to locate the property, one Berlin elected official said this week.

The address of a lot of houses in Berlin is not properly identified from the street, which can cause problems for emergency vehicles called out to a home, said Councilwoman Paula Lynch this week.

At Monday night’s Berlin Town Council meeting, Lynch asked town staff to include some kind of reminder to number houses clearly in the monthly electric bills or in the next town newsletter as a reminder.

“We’ve done that periodically,” said staffer Mary Bohlen.

“Maybe that period is up again,” said Lynch.

Berlin Planning and Zoning Director Chuck Ward said that he thinks the town building code includes fines to be levied on town homeowners who do not clearly show the number address on the property.

The town of Berlin does not have a code enforcement officer as such, Lynch pointed out.

“You’re looking at him,” Ward said.

The lack of numbers on houses is a persistent problem, according to Ward. “I’ve seen that in files from years [back],” he said.

“It’s a real safety issue, particularly at night,” said Lynch. “At night, if a vehicle is trying to find a house, those two minutes are critical.”

Ward said he would write a reminder to go out in the next Berlin electric bills.

“To me it’s more not saying you’re breaking the law, it puts yourself at risk,” Lynch said.

“It all comes back to personal health and safety,” Ward said.

The occasional lack of a house number is not the only emergency services problem Berlin has experienced, according to Ward. Some Berlin addresses in the county emergency services database are just not correct.

“It’s a very few instances of addresses being created years ago that conflict with other addresses, when the county dispatch process was not part of the process of naming streets,” said Ward.

Addressing on new streets and houses is methodical in Worcester County, with certain numbers used on north-south streets, for example.

A problem persisting from a less careful time might concern two streets with essentially the same name, but one is in Berlin and the other in West Ocean City.

GPS coordinates are critical, letting emergency services reach the exact position they are looking for, according to Ward.

Issues with bad addresses are often not found out until an emergency situation occurs at a misrecorded or confused address.

“There has been some real big ones. Those big ones have been resolved. We’re hacking away at the little ones,” Ward said.

These days the issue is most likely to persist at commercial locations. Ward said an example would be a strip mall, which when built had six separate spaces and therefore six addresses, but perhaps since then one space has been divided, so there are seven tenants.

There have even been instances when the correct address is on the door of the business, Ward recalled, but the emergency services database had that address wrong.

“I am working with the county director of emergency services to correct incorrect information in out county addressing system for emergency responders,” he said.

Emergency services staff also check on the addresses in person, looking at the “ground truth.”

Berlin residents and businesses should not be worried about getting emergency help at their addresses, though.

“It’s not a huge issue at all,” Ward said.