Safety first, second and last


Yet another sign that I’m still thinking like an outsider.

I just don’t get the resistance to 911 addressing efforts throughout the county. Well, let me rephrase: I do understand some of the negatives, but I don’t see how they even remotely compare with the positives. Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me give you a little re-cap of the situation.

State officials have required that every residence or business has a five-digit street address. The mandate requires that all three counties reach a 95-percent “match rate” where Verizon phone records and physical addresses line up accordingly. As of the last calculation by Verizon, in late January, the figure for Sussex County was at about 55 percent.

Not so good.

To accelerate the match rate, county officials are mounting a campaign where residents can go online to match their address with their phone records (www.sussexcountyde.gov) as well as go directly to county offices. They are also trying to provide information to residents and business owners through a public service announcement on television, a possible mass-mailing campaign and frenzied phone calls to various dashing bald editors along the coast.

They’re trying. You have to give them that.

And they should, in my opinion. If someone in your home has an accident, and barely makes it to the phone to call for help before collapsing, wouldn’t you want the 911 operator to be able to match your caller information with a physical address to send help? Wouldn’t it be easier to get a pizza delivered or a package from FedEx if you had a designated address, rather than directions that include, “Turn where that possum got hit by a Volkswagen van back in 1973, then hang a right when you get past Mrs. Jones’ house. Remember her? She died in 1982, but just turn after you pass that house.”

I’ve heard the argument raised that people don’t want to get on board because they’re wary of providing the county with more information about themselves. Well, I can understand fears about “Big Brother.” Every now and then, a little sarcasm drips into my column, and I wonder just how many watch lists I’ve gotten my own name on ... particularly up in Sussex County Council chambers, where many of the members would prefer to see me attached to a rocket firing off into orbit — or at least Kent County.

But I digress.

Are we really worried about supplying Sussex County our addresses? I live in unincorporated Sussex County. I get a property tax bill from them. Don’t they have information on me already? Doesn’t your phone company have some basic information on you?

There is also the argument from businesses that new addresses mean new expenses. They’ll have to change letterhead, business cards, phone book listings, etc. That objection makes sense to me. It is a hardship, particularly for small businesses — which is a big part of the pride and joy of this community.

However, sometimes we have to make sacrifices as individuals for the betterment of the community as a whole.

“This is a public safety issue,” said Sussex County Public Information Officer Chip Guy. “This is all about making it as efficient and easy as possible for emergency responders to get to you quickly.”

Yeah, that sounds pretty sinister, alright.

Look, I grew up a city boy. We had a street address, and this situation never came up to my family in my hometown. So, yes, I admit that I don’t know what it’s like to have one address all my life and be forced to change it. To be honest, it would probably tick me off a little bit.

However, we all have to buckle down sometimes and do things we don’t like. We have to work with people we don’t care for (yeah, I’m looking at you, Saxton), we’re often related to people we normally wouldn’t spit on if they were on fire and we sometimes have to conform to laws and regulations that we might find not-so-fun — especially if it involves public safety.

My God, I just channeled my father. If I start smelling like Aramis and telling stories about butcher shops to get my point across, smack me. Please.

In all seriousness, there is no question that there is a small bit of a hassle to change your address. No arguments there.

But isn’t even the possibility of a speedier response to your family’s medical emergencies worth a small hassle? Wouldn’t you consider an ambulance an important thing?

Not to mention that pizza.