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By the Way: Do you know where you live?


Towns and their boundaries are something to consider when it comes to seeking emergency help. Pinpointing your location is important.

The older I get the more I realize most things are not carved in stone, and even scarier, nothing is as simple as one thinks. It takes brains, or maybe knowledge is a better word, to survive in this complicated world.

I thought about this the other day when I was asked, “Well, you live in Kintnersville?”

I answered, “Actually, I live in Durham Township, but Kintnersville is the nearest village, and it’s only my mailing address.”

Too much information? Trivia? Not really.

Where you live is where you pay your taxes.

Remember this. This is the easiest way to determine and communicate where you actually live.

People who physically live in Durham but have a Kintnersville or Riegelsville postal address are taxed by Durham Township.

Knowing exactly where you live can save critical minutes in an emergency situation – and it’s a battle fought constantly by the people who man the phones at the Bucks County 9-1-1 Center.

The fact that most people think of their mailing address as their “real” address can create havoc with emergency responders. It’s especially important in an old county such as Bucks where simple Early American road names show up in many municipalities and can also cause confusion.

How many Main streets? Maple streets? Big Oak roads? how many SawMill roads? Delaware roads? Creamery roads in Bucks County? And how many villages, towns and townships does Durham Road run through? It’s long and it basically bisects the county. And all this boggles the mind.

The Durham Road problem is what took Audrey Kenny, Bucks County’s director of emergency communications and 9-1-1-coordinator, to a meeting with Riegelsville and Durham officials. Each of those municipalities has a thoroughfare named Durham – in Durham Township, it’s Durham Road, in Riegelsville Borough, it’s Durham Street. But some of the Durham Road residents, although they live in the township, have a Riegelsville mailing address. If they make a 9-1-1 call and provide their mailing address, an emergency crew may respond to Durham Street in the borough, perhaps causing life-threatening delay.

The powers-that-be considered changing the name of one of the roads, but scrapped that idea. Instead, they want 9-1-1-callers to know it is critically important to indicate the correct municipality. It’s not just that there are so many similar or even similar-sounding road names in this sprawling Bucks County, but also the fact that people provide incorrect information.

Some of that confusion comes from the heat of emergency, but some is just ignorance.

If you live in Bucks, along the river, it’s equally important for you to say you’re calling from Bucks County in case your wireless call is picked up by the Hunterdon County tower or by one of the other towers in New Jersey or even possibly in another state.

The same can happen if you live in a fringe area, a neighborhood adjacent to another county, especially if it’s in a region as rural as Durham, which is bordered on the north by Williams Township in Northampton County, part of the Greater Lehigh Valley. A number of calls from Durham and Riegelsville tend to be intercepted by Northampton County Radio.

Rural areas have fewer towers and it takes extra time to transfer the call from Northampton to Bucks.

Tourists, too, need to heed this warning. We have so many of them, especially in the summer, when river, lakes, hills and parks draw visitors like magnets. It’s not enough to tell someone manning the phone that you’re “in the park.” You need to know what park and roughly where in that park you are.

It would be truly helpful if local hotels and beds-and-breakfasts would inform their guests where they actually are and also tell them to be sure they know where they are when they’re participating in outdoor recreation.

A 9-1-1 call can be effective only if you can be found.