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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 17 September, 2014

Emergency services call for postcodes to help them reach people in need

Fire and ambulance personnel are being delayed from attending callouts, as addresses in some areas are so vague.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

EMERGENCY SERVICE WORKERS have called on the Government to prioritise the introduction of postcodes, saying that there are frequently problems finding addresses for callouts.

Staffers in the fire and ambulance services said the pace of development in boomtime Ireland means houses and estates are often poorly marked, while rural addresses might only give a location within a few miles.

“The introduction of postcodes would be great,” a spokesperson for the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) told TheJournal.ie. He said there was often confusion over the exact location of addresses, for example with the names of townlands duplicated in different areas.

“On a day to day level, we use the good old-fashioned paper map,” he said. “But half the time people are using their iPhones and so on. That’s just the way it is.”

Michael Dineen, chairman of the Association of Ambulance Personnel, echoed these concerns, saying postcodes would be “an advantage”.

“We don’t have GPS on the vehicles as yet,” he told TheJournal.ie.

There could be a townland three or four miles in radius. You’d know that you’re within half a mile of the address, but that’s all. It’s an emergency call, so you want to be there as quickly as you can. A minute or two could make all the difference.

There is also a problem with homeowners not clearly marking house numbers, and new estates which do not have name plates at the entrance, emergency workers said.

The spokesperson for IFESA suggested the government could introduce legislation meaning all houses would have to display a name or number visible from the road.

“You’d be amazed at the number of people without numbers on their doors,” he said. “Most of the time in Dublin you’d be using the bins. Looking out for the bins, because sometimes people would leave their numbers there. It’s a nightmare.”

The HSE told the Irish Independent that it recognised there was a problem with finding addresses in rural areas, and said the issue sometimes affected response times. TheJournal.ie has contacted Dublin Fire Brigade for comment.

The Government has stated its intention to develop a national postcode system, and tendered for bids earlier this year. A spokesperson said the process was still ongoing, adding that it was not possible to give an exact timeline.

However, it’s thought the aim is to introduce a system as early as next year.

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