In emergency, it’s location, location, location

By Rick Rouan

Fire chiefs, home builders and Realtors plan to publish educational advertisements.

BOARDMAN — When a cell-phone call comes to the 911 dispatch center, the geographic location of the call can be ambiguous, leaving emergency responders to decipher which department should handle the call.

The situation gets more dangerous when callers don’t understand the difference between their mailing address and their township of residence.

“People need to be fully aware of where they live,” said Chief David “Chip” Comstock of the Western Reserve Joint Fire District.

“They can’t depend on their mailing address.”

Representatives from Valley fire chiefs, Realtor and home-builder associations met Friday to discuss ways to educate the public about how to find out what township people live in — and why it is important to know.

The meeting came as a result of a stern letter Comstock sent on behalf of the Mahoning County Fire Chiefs Association to the Home Builders Association of Mahoning Valley and the Youngstown Columbiana Association of Realtors Inc.

In the letter, Comstock said that Realtors and home builders should fully disclose where the properties they sell are located.

Comstock’s original letter appears to attack the two associations to which it was addressed, but Comstock said that his real goal was to find a way to educate the public and find a solution to the problem.

Comstock said Friday after the meeting that his letter was stronger than he would have liked.

At the meeting, Comstock said, he learned about a number of ways that Realtors disclose information during the sale of a home.

“Certain assumptions I may have made aren’t necessarily correct,” he said.

Realtors point out the township in which a house is located in several ways, including purchase agreements, tax information and titles, said Eric Caspary, president of the Youngstown Columbiana Board of Realtors.

The problem stems from the ambiguity surrounding mailing addresses and the townships in which people live. Some homeowners have a Poland mailing address but live in Beaver Township, which has different emergency responders than Poland.

The three organizations are planning to jointly publish articles advertising how to find the information, Comstock said.

“Getting that knowledge out is something we all can do,” he said.

Ambiguity about address played out on Aug. 16, when the Western Reserve Joint Fire District, which covers Poland village and township, was dispatched. When responders determined that the address was in Beaver Township, the dispatcher notified that department to respond.

Similar problems have arisen among Canfield, Austintown, Boardman and other townships in the area, Comstock said.

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