That’s how long it took for a Washington County dispatcher to locate an emergency call in 2018 where three bodies had been found in a home near Watauga Road.
Confusing addresses, misplaced numbers and duplicate street names can cause first-responders to lose valuable time when answering emergency calls, according to Kelly Miller, the GIS (geographic information system) coordinator in the city of Bristol, Virginia. When discussing plans to change thousands of addresses in Bristol to comply with Next Generation 911 requirements, Miller uses a call from July 21, 2018, as an example of why this is a life-and-death situation.
“What is your emergency?” a man at Washington County central dispatch said.
“I’m at Breckenridge Circle, and I stopped to see my niece,” the caller said. “There’s people here, and they have been murdered. There’s blood everywhere.”
“Where are you at?” the dispatcher said.
“I’m on Breckenridge Circle.”
“Breckenridge Circle?” the dispatcher replied.
“Yes,” the woman said.
The dispatcher, attempting to locate the caller so he could send first-responders, asked how to spell the street.
“B-R-E-C-K-E-N-R-I-D-G-E Circle,” she said. “Oh God. What happened?”
The dispatcher tried to get more details from the caller, asking about the address number.
“I don’t see any numbers,” the caller said. “They’re laying here, and they’re dead.”
“I need you to find some house numbers,” the dispatcher said, “Because I don’t know where to send them.”
Finally, after 4.5 minutes, the dispatcher finally had an address to send to emergency responders. The three bodies were actually found at a home on Brekenridge Court, not Breckenridge Circle.
While the call occurred in Washington County, Miller said he’s encountered similar situations in Bristol, where addresses led to confusion.
The advent of the Next Generation 911 system — which transitions emergency services into the 21st century — is resulting in major changes in the city of Bristol, Virginia. More than 7,000 addresses, or a vast majority of the city’s addresses, will change. And the names of more than 150 streets in the city will also get new names, including some heavily traveled thoroughfares in the city.
When 911 systems, including the one in Bristol, were originally built, they used analog technologies. Now, Next Generation 911 is transitioning public safety answering points across the country to a digital or Internet Protocal-based 911 system.
The popularity of cell phones has led to the need to implement digital 911 systems. For the digital 911 systems to work, they must be compliant. Precise and accurate addressing is an important component of the system.
Miller has been working on the project in Bristol for more than four years.
“I’ve done a lot of research, essentially learning why things break down in 911,” Miller said.
He said he’s traveled along every street in the city and identified every address. What he’s learned can be considered mindboggling and confusing.
Early in Bristol’s development, the city was laid out in a grid, and street names were acceptable. Nothing appeared to have been duplicated.
But over time, as the city grew, streets names began to duplicate, meandering subdivisions developed and names became confusing.
Long ago, before Euclid Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue developed, Lawrence Avenue crossed the city from west to east. It was a long narrow roadway.
Miller said development over the years heavily changed Lawrence Avenue. Residential, commercial and industrial growth began to slice up the road. Now, five separate sections of the roadway can be found in Bristol.
So if someone calls 911 from a cell phone and says they’ve wrecked on Lawrence Avenue, where does dispatch send emergency responders? The analog 911 system allows dispatchers to pinpoint a landline, but it becomes more difficult to locate a cell phone.
In the case of a wreck on Lawrence Avenue, dispatchers could send emergency personnel to the portion east of Commonwealth Avenue, or the two separate portions near Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, or the tiny portion of Lawrence Avenue that splits off of another portion of Lawrence Avenue near Long Crescent Road.
Then, there are now eight streets in the city that use the word “spring.” Highland, Fairmount and Lee also have multiple street names. And a faulty bridge has resulted in the division of Oak Street, resulting in two separate streets.
Streets that go by the same name can cause serious problems when it comes to emergency response times.
Earlier this year, the Bristol Virginia Police Department received a call about a domestic situation on Harmeling Street. Miller noted that domestic calls are often the most dangerous types of calls for police.
The police officer went to Harmeling Street, not knowing that there is a second Harmeling Street in the city. Miller said the officer lost valuable time trying to find the correct address due to the street name.
Another major issue with current addressing is numbering. The numbering system currently doesn’t comply with 911 requirements.
Floyd Street is a “poster child” for bad numbering, Miller said.
Drivers who turn onto Floyd Street from Randolph Street will first encounter the 500 block. One would typically expect to then see the 600 block and 700 block, but that’s not the case on Floyd. Today, drivers pass the 500 block, 400 block, 700 block and then the 600 block.
While no problems have ever been reported on Floyd, Miller said the street is a “disaster waiting to happen.”
The city also has various issues with subdivisions, apartment and condominium complexes and other areas where addresses do not comply with the block system. In many cases, Miller said these types of neighborhoods use 1-99 address numbers. Addresses are required to begin with the 100 block, he noted.
Lee Garden Apartments, near the intersection of Lee Highway and Euclid Avenue, use Euclid Avenue addresses. The problem: Most of the apartments are not on Euclid Avenue, Miller said. People looking for a Lee Garden apartment must travel on other roadways to reach their destination, rather than directly from Euclid Avenue.
Major streets, like Mary Street and Valley Drive, also have issues. Both Mary and Valley are split into west and east portions. Numbering for both streets begins where the west and east sections split and increase in value as they head west and east. So there are duplicate numbers on both streets, but it depends on whether they are on the western portion or the eastern portion. Often, 911 callers don’t say east or west, just Mary or Valley, Miller said.
Now, the city is working to correct the problems to comply with Next Generation 911. The city is required to comply by the fourth quarter of 2022. Instead, Bristol will likely comply in 2021, Miller said, as he will soon send letters to affected residents and business owners about the changes.
Miller said he knows that an address change can be an inconvenience. He’s been working with the United States Postal Service, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the BVU Authority, Google Maps and other organizations about the changes to assist residents.
“We’ve created an addressing standard,” Miller said.
New street numbers will be based on which side of the street a structure is located. Odd numbers will be on the right and evens on the left, in increasing order. Block changes will be made at intersections. The numbers will also be based on the 5.28 standard, a distance-based method of assigning addresses every 5.28 feet, so that approximately 1,000 addresses are available per mile of road. This measure is used in several Mountain Empire jurisdictions.
For example, Floyd Street, which currently has a rollercoaster of numbers, will be in numerical order beginning at Randolph. Mary and Valley will lose the west and east portions of their names and numbers will start from one end and end at the other, instead of splitting in the middle.
In addition to numbers, confusing street names are changing. Streets within Lee Garden Apartments are getting their own names, rather than the Euclid Avenue address. Other residential complexes, such as Carriage Hill, are also getting new street names as are four of the five sections of Lawrence Avenue and portions of Fairmount, Harmeling and Highland.
Other streets receiving new names include Commonwealth Avenue Extension, Bristol View Drive and Woodland Drive.
Many streets, such as the one that passes behind the Bristol Public Library, will be named for the first time. Visitors looking to check out a book can soon cruise down Library Drive.
Another noticeable change will occur at The Falls development off Lee Highway near Interstate 81’s Exit 5. When Cabela’s moved into the development in 2015, the street in front of the retailer was named Cabela Drive. The retailer closed earlier this year so the city will soon rename it, although Miller said city administrators have not yet determined the new name.
As a result of such issues, Miller said the city will no longer name streets after businesses, like Tinseltown Drive, at the former Tinseltown Theater. Legacy Theaters, which recently announced it will open in the former Tinseltown building, will be located on Penny Lane — the street’s new name.
After receiving approval from City Council in July, Miller is now putting into motion the process of making the changes. He’s working with the Public Works Department on street signs.
“On the sign installation, we will start in one area or block and move across the city and change as we go,” said G. Wallace McCulloch, the city’s public works director. “We will recycle the signs by removing and replacing text where possible.”
Many street signs in Bristol currently feature block numbers. McCulloch said the block numbers will be changed where required. He added that the city has not yet done a count of the number of new signs needed.
Susan Wright, a USPS spokeswoman, said the Postal Service is pleased to cooperate with the various government agencies involved in implementing a 911 emergency response system. The agency works closely with local officials to ensure a smooth transition during such conversions.
When the Bristol post office receives the official changes, the information will be sent to the address management office to update the files electronically, Wright said. USPS internal programs and sort plans can accommodate the changes almost immediately.
When a change in address occurs because of such a conversion, the Postal Service normally provides, as a courtesy, free forwarding of the mail for one year to allow customers and their correspondents sufficient time to update address mailing lists, Wright said. The agency requests that customers be proactive in notifying their mailers of any changes to avoid issues after this one-year period.
The Department of Motor Vehicles is working with the city of Bristol to coordinate a mobile visit this fall to assist drivers in changing their addresses, according to DMV spokeswoman Jessica Cowardin.
These changes also affect the city’s ISO rating, which, in turn, affects homeowners’ insurance premiums. The faster the fire department can reach a property, the lower premiums will be set, Miller said.
Surrounding communities are currently compliant with GIS standards for Next Generation 911.
The city of Bristol, Tennessee went through the process in 2015, according to David Metzger, the city’s transportation engineer. Very few changes were made at the time because the city had already met requirements set out by the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board. Metzger said districts were required to have databases that were compatible with the state. If one 911 district went down, another 911 district could take over, Metzger said.
In Sullivan County, Tennessee, the government generally uses the 5.28 standard.
“We do maintain legacy addressing that was created before such standards were common, which employed a variety of addressing methods, but ensure these are complaint within our dataset keeping them usable in NG911 architecture,” said Chris Hager, Sullivan County’s GIS/ addressing coordinator.
Hager said there is no need to make adjustments to the county’s addresses, and there are no plans to do so.
“We strive to maintain accuracy and correct problems when they arise.” Hager said.
Addressing in Washington County, Virginia, is also already compliant with Next Generation 911 requirements, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Theresa Kinsley-Varble. The county has not had to make any adjustments.
|New street name||Current street name|
|Carriage Circle||At Carriage Hill|
|Hayes Path||Off Trail Road|
|Haverhill Road||Lawndale Drive|
|Crossway Road||Wendover Road|
|Valley Drive||West Valley, East Valley|
|Sablewood Drive||Oakview Drive|
|Hawthorn lane||Grandview Circle|
|Trevor Place||Off Long Crescent Road|
|Crockett Ridge||Off Long Crescent Road|
|Edgewood Lane||North Pinecrest Lane|
|Brownstone Lane||Off Island Road near Pittstown|
|Boxwood Lane||Nininger Road|
|Arrowhead Lane||Commonwealth Avenue Extension between Pittstown Road and Island Road|
|Pittstown Road||Commonwealth Avenue Extension until Pittstown Road|
|Berrywood Lane||Off Spurgeon Lane|
|Bear Ridge Lane||Near Spurgeon Lane|
|Bellemeade Drive||Montrose Drive off Wagner Road|
|Ventura Circle||Portion of Montrose Drive|
|Magnolia Drive||Portion of Beech Street|
|Hill Park Drive||Portion of Beech Street|
|Beech Street||Off Beech Street|
|Barberry Lane||Off Ventura Circle|
|Cedar Hill Place||Off Carter Street|
|Ivy Lane||Off Carter Street|
|Opal Lane||Off Amy Street|
|Emerald Drive||Off Amy Street|
|Winterberry Drive||Kay Street|
|Crestview Lane||Off Bristol View Drive near Wagner Road|
|Skyline Ridge||Bristol View Drive off Gate City Highway|
|Cornerstone Drive||Off Island Road|
|Pippen Lane||Near old Bristol Mall|
|Bradley Street||Adjacent to Wendy's, Kroger|
|Statline Center||Behind Wendy's|
|Monroe Street||Wagner Street|
|Franklin Street||21st Street|
|Moorland Avenue||Lawrence Avenue/ 19th Street|
|Hemlock Drive||Lawrence Avenue/ 21st Street|
|Hemlock Drive||Lee Court|
|Tyler Avenue||Fairmount Avenue off Bob Morrison Boulevard|
|Sparrow Alley||Wagners Alley off Commonwealth Avenue|
|Cades Alley||Wagners Alley between Prince/Pearl|
|Corner Alley||Wagners Alley between Prince/Fairmount|
|Midland Circle||Prince Street/ Pearl Street|
|Avalon Drive||Oak Street, north of abandoned bridge|
|Hope Lane||Edmond Street, behind Crisis Center|
|Mary Street||West Mary, East Mary|
|Wavery Lane||In Rice Terrace neighborhood|
|Buckner Street||Fairmount Avenue behind middle school|
|Clinton Avenue||Highland Avenue at Mary Street|
|Azalea Lane||Off Clinton Avenue|
|Orchid Place||Off Clinton Avenue|
|Adams Alley||Off Mary Street near Moore Street|
|Parkland Drive||Woodland Drive|
|United Avenue||At the United Company|
|Foundation Place||At the United Company|
|Primrose Lane||Off Commonwealth Avenue|
|Boulder Street||Harmeling Street near Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.|
|Saint Anne's Place||At St. Anne's Church|
|Bentley Lane||Lawrence Avenue near Long Crescent Road|
|Aberdeen Circle||Off Arlington Avenue|
|Sierra Place||Lee Garden apartments|
|Mesa Lane||Lee Garden apartments|
|Fairview Place||Lee Garden apartments|
|Alpine Drive||Lee Garden apartments|
|Birch Street||At Lee Highway/Moore Street/ MLK Blvd.|
|Harvey Lane||Oakview Circle|
|Janie Hammitt Drive||Between Valley Drive and Janie Hammitt|
|Millard Street||Grand Street|
|Briar Alley||Dogwood Alley|
|Copper Lane||Cherry Street|
|Whitt Street||Madison Street between Luttrell and Elm|
|Sharrett Alley||Off Elm Street|
|Massachusetts Avenue||Hillside between King Mill and Massachusetts|
|Mill Brook Lane||King Mill Pike off Hillside Avenue|
|Dunlap Street||Meadow Street|
|Lockwood Drive||Off King Mill Pike|
|Second Street||2nd Street|
|Woodstone Lane||At Second Street apartments|
|Foothill Drive||At Second Street apartments|
|Arbor Place||At Second Street apartments|
|Shady Lane||At Second Street apartments|
|Booher Springs Road||Booher Road to state line|
|Landfill Road||At landfill|
|Valley Drive||Shakesville Road from King Mill to landfill|
|Transit Way||Off Shakesville Road|
|Worley Trail||Off Shakesville Road|
|Colt Lane||Off Shakesville Road|
|Mimosa Lane||Off Shakesville Road|
|Broadleaf Trail||Off Pendergrass Road|
|Silver Drop Lane||Off Shakesville Road|
|Northwinds Drive||Off Old Airport Road near King Mill Pike|
|April Lane||Sue Avenue|
|Summerleaf Trail||Off Old Airport Road|
|Maple Grove Lane||Off Old Airport Road|
|Warehouse Lane||At VDOT Bristol property|
|Bridge Way||At VDOT Bristol property|
|Backlot Circle||At VDOT Bristol property|
|VDOT Drive||At VDOT Bristol property|
|Fuel Drive||At VDOT Bristol property|
|Shop Drive||At VDOT Bristol property|
|Scenic Park Place||Off Old Airport Road|
|Kentucky Street||Circle Drive|
|Darak Place||Off Georgia Street|
|Millstone Drive||Spring Circle|
|Forsythe Road||Lee Highway to Bristol East Road|
|Merchant Trace||Near Chick-fil-A|
|Stanton Lane||Lee Lane|
|Colonial Drive||Near Chick-fil-A|
|Resting Tree Drive||Alpha Place|
|Pavillion Circle||At Sugar Hollow Park|
|Evergreen Circle||Across from The Falls|
|Tower Drive||Off Wallace Pike|
|Amberwood Drive||Off Wallace Pike|
|King Mountain Alley||Off State Street|
|Lansing Drive||Off State Street|
|Composite way||Off Commonwealth Avenue|
|Fiberglass Place||Off Commonwealth Avenue|
|King Street||Sullins Alley off Goode Street|
|Library Drive||Behind Bristol Public Library|
|Ridgeview Lane||Solar Street Extension|
|Country Music Way||Birthplace of Country Music Way|
|Sedgefield Street||Virginia Street, between State and Mary|
|Fleetwood Lane||Edmund Street off Virginia Street|
|Portsmouth Avenue||South of Mary Street|
|Galley Trail||Off Mary Street|
|Eastridge Road||At Eastridge apartments|
|New Haven Lane||At Eastridge apartments|
|Harbor Landing||At Harbor Landing apartments|
|Andover Drive||Pine Circle Drive|
|Juniper Drive||Buchanan Street near Mary|
|Chaseland Trail||Off Heather Road|
|Cheyenne Road||Portion of Sioux Road|
|Heathland Drive||Pebble Drive|
|Timber Oak Drive||Portion of Chippewa Drive|
|Farmstead Lane||Portion of Chester Hill Road|
|Woodland Circle||Sunrise Avenu|
|Canterbury Lane||Terrance Circle and Winding Way Road|
|Bellehaven Drive||High Oak Drive|
|High Oak Drive||Bellehaven Drive|
|Quail Run||Windmere Heights Road|
|Spring Lake Road||Quail Way|
|Creekside Trail||Spring Lake Road|
|Ridgecrest Circle||Off Heritage Drive|
|Tradition Place||Off Heritage Drive|
|Pleasantview Road||Highland Road|
|Beaver Creek Trail||Off Hilltop Drive|
|Old Lee Highway||Off Travelite Road|
|Penny Lane||Tinseltown Drive|
|Bristol Commons||Off Linden Drive|
|Salem Drive||Off Old Airport Road|
|Wagon Wheel Drive||Off Stage Coach Road|
|Dominion Place||At Walmart|
|Market Center||At Walmart|
|Unknown name||Cabela Drive|
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