Key Peninsula News has confirmed sweeping address changes are in the works for the entire Key Peninsula, Anderson Island and Fox Island communities to comply with the national standard required for the Next Generation 911 (NG911) emergency response system.
“Up to 10,000 addresses will be affected by these changes due for implementation by mid-2018, changes all but certain to include dropping the familiar references of KPN, KPS, AI and FI in favor of cardinal directions such as north and south,” said Ray Clark, the data and geographic information services manager for Pierce County Planning and Land Services (PALS).
“We are in the earliest stages of determining address changes to bring us into compliance,” Clark said. In a county that includes multiple islands and twin peninsulas, he explained, “the current address system was established in the early 1980s as a solution to clear up address confusion, but has instead become a relic that doesn’t fit very well in a digitally integrated world.
“Frankly, we’re still trying to figure out the right square peg for the round hole,” he said. “The AI used at the end of street addresses on Anderson Island, and similarly the FI for Fox Island, could conceivably be dropped altogether. KPN and KPS, however, clearly serve a purpose for residents but simply don’t conform to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) standards adopted by the NG911 directive.
“There is a need for reliance upon a common national standard in order for the expanded 911 program to function as intended,” Clark said.
Text-to-911 service has been running live in seven Washington counties since April 21, 2016, including neighboring Kitsap and Thurston counties. Technological upgrades in NG911 will allow callers to text and add pictures or video as the program continues to expand.
Pierce County Councilman Derek Young (District 7) has fielded address-related complaints from constituents. “I get calls from people saying they dialed 911, but the fire department couldn’t find their property. I get calls from people who live on the Key Peninsula, but have Gig Harbor addresses,” he said. “With over 70 percent of calls to 911 coming from cell phones, we lose the advantage of landlines, which let us know where the calls originated.”
“We understand people feel attached to their addresses, and we want to include the communities in this process,” Clark said. “As we explore these broader address changes, we’ll also review current residences whose addresses we already know are in need of correction. We plan to dovetail the two projects to limit the number and impact of address changes.”
Both Clark and Young stated independently to KP News that all options are being considered, including the possibility of petitioning the USPS to consider changes for the Key Peninsula.
“We could seek, for example, a single Key Peninsula address solution for everyone living on the Key Peninsula,” Clark said.
“Affected communities can anticipate a robust outreach program as we consider the best path forward,” Young said. “It’s a project so new, the county council has only had one informative study session with PALS on the subject to date.”
“We know that KPN and KPS are going to be replaced by something, but at this preliminary stage we don’t know exactly what that will look like, nor have we determined the overall cost of the project,” Clark said.
Before receiving this mandate for NG911, major address changes were not on PALS’ radar. “It may not be what we were looking for, but eventually we will need to comply with the new standards to make a hugely expanded 911 available for everyone,” Clark said.