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Finding where it's at

  • Gary Hoffman, Director of Communications for the Monroe County Control Center, displays the choices that the townships will have for the new addressing which will begin on Aug. 13 of this year.
    Gary Hoffman, Director of Communications for the Monroe County Control Center, displays the choices that the townships will have for the new addressing which will begin on Aug. 13 of this year.
Published August 13. 2010 05:00PM

David Koerner, a dispatcher, sits at his desk with five computer monitors in front of him at the Monroe County Control Center. A call comes in from a husband whose wife is in labor. They are en route to the hospital. He doesn't think they're going to make it.

Koerner advises the distraught man where to pull off the road safely and dispatches an ambulance to the location.

Each dispatcher has a Rolodex filled with cards that helps him keep the caller talking through the emergency. If someone calls in about a victim choking, possibly having a heart attack or someone is in labor, there are lists of questions to ask and instructions to give to the caller.

Koerner went down that list with the father-to-be until the ambulance arrived, just in time to deliver a healthy infant.

This is a sample of what Koerner does on a daily basis as a dispatcher for the Monroe County Control Center.

Koerner says he has used the one on CPR the most often.

"Any time you can get people the help they need and the end result is good, it makes for a good day and picks up the morale in the dispatch room," says Koerner.

Gary Hoffman, director of communications, has been at the Control Center for 32 years and knows from experience it doesn't do the caller any good if the dispatcher is emotional. He also wants every call to have good end results. That relies on fast emergency response time.

The purpose of the Control Center is to provide prompt, professional 9-1-1 Public Safety Emergency Dispatch service for all calls received from the townships and boroughs in Monroe County and Lehman Township in Pike County.

But what happens when a call comes in and a victim is unable to give directions to her home?

If she lives in the borough of Stroudsburg, just giving her house number and street name can help the dispatcher send an emergency or police vehicle out immediately.

What if someone places a call to the police but doesn't talk?

The Center can call back the number and the dispatcher can determine if it is indeed an emergency.

"Dispatchers have to be able to make decisions and to react quickly," says Hoffman, who started out as a dispatcher in 1978.

But what if the victim lives in a rural area of Kunkletown?

Giving her address of RR#1 and Box number is not a physical address and valuable time can be wasted as a dispatcher tries to determine where her home is located.

That's why Hoffman pushed for readdressing for Monroe County several years ago.

"We wanted to enable emergency responders to proceed to an incident more efficiently and reduce response time," says Hoffman.

He knew the county was going to have to look into readdressing.

"I researched it and knew it would take about five years to complete. But I said to the commissioners, let's do it once, slowly, but right. So we got a task force together in 2004 to look at what systems were available. We asked the United States Postal Service what system they used and it was Frontage Interval. The task force presented it to the Monroe County commissioners. They adopted it, bid it out and awarded the contract to L. Robert Kimball and Associates, Inc. They came out and talked to all the county's elected officials to explain what readdressing was and what would be involved," says Hoffman.

Kimball began with the identification of roads and created a base map. In the second phase, any road with two or more structures had to have a road name, even if it was a dirt road. Some townships had hundreds of unnamed roads. Those roads were given names. No two identical road names can be in a municipality or township and no duplicate addresses can be in the same Zip code.

The third phase involved plotting all the homes and structures. That was done through aerial photos and field verification.

Once plotted, Kimball determined that they follow the National Emergency Numbers Association (NENA) frontal interval standard with a street address number every 52.8 feet, allowing 100 numbers per side of a road in a one-mile distance, with an address only where there is a driveway, with even numbers on the right and odd numbers on the left. This allows for addresses to be added in case of future building.

The next phase starts this August when a distribution of over 90,000 letters will begin going out, but not all at one time, at a cost of $60,000. Address notification letters will be released to one municipality at a time with an anticipated completion date of spring 2011. They're working with the county's voter registration to have a new address form included with the letter.

The residents and businesses of Paradise and Eldred townships will receive notification from its post offices of their brand new addresses: Aug. 13 for Paradise and Aug. 27 for Eldred. The rest of the townships and boroughs in Monroe County will receive their notifications over the next few weeks and months. Kimball plans delivery of address data for Polk, Chestnuthill and Ross townships to the post offices approximately: Polk-Aug. 11, Chestnuthill-Aug. 25 and Ross-Sept. 10. No date yet was given for when the post office will send out the letters to the residents and businesses notifying them of the new addresses.

The townships will have to have their new and name-changed road signs up by then.

The letters will display the old address in the left-handed corner and the new address in the right hand corner. The name of the city and Zip code will remain the same.

The new address may be used immediately but it may take major mailers a few months to update their database. The post office will continue to deliver mail with the old address for one year.

PO Box addresses will remain the same but will have a new physical address.

The residents and businesses will be responsible for contacting everyone of their new address. The letter offers these reminders for important notification: Voter registration; insurance companies, bank accounts, business correspondence (mailing labels, letterheads, business cards); magazine subscriptions; personal address list; utility companies; Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (vehicle registration, driver's license.)

"If you're near the end of your checks, don't order new ones until you receive your new address. Don't use your new address in your GPS systems. You'll have to wait until those companies catch up to the new addresses," advises Hoffman.

The new addresses will make finding a business listed in a phone book easier to locate.

Another advantage is when someone wants to build a new home and needs a permit from the township. The secretary can bring up a geographical map of the area on the computer. A temporary address can be given to allow the homeowner to schedule cable, telephone and the utilities company for hook-up. In the event that the driveway has to be moved, the GIS can locate it and the new address will become his permanent address.

"There will be complicated dynamics until all the municipalities come on board. 911 will be dealing with two maps for awhile," says Hoffman.

But he says it will make the Control Center's job so much easier in the long run.

"We'll locate places quicker and it will be worthwhile for public safety."

Hoffman says he hopes the townships will make a determination of what color the new address numbers should be.

"I think the color and size of the numbers are important and should be uniform. If the sign is a dark color, the numbers should be light. If the sign is light, the numbers should be dark. The numbers should be either three or four inches in height. If the townships don't determine a specific color, I think it'll look like a circus out there with everyone picking different colors. Uniform makes it easier for the emergency vehicles to locate," says Hoffman.

He recently spoke to the supervisors in his home township of Eldred and suggested that Eldred pick one color (he likes blue) and then the township or the fire company buy signs in bulk and sell them as a fundraiser.

"It's been a five-year project and to get the readdressing done has cost the county residents about a half a million dollars. I couldn't get money for the signs," he apologizes.

It costs about $2 million dollars a year to operate the Control Center.

It receives fees from the municipalities it serves, for dispatching emergency services, depending upon the category of service the municipality has requested. Some municipalities do not have local police departments, therefore, pay a per capita fee based on fire and emergency medical service dispatch only. Other municipalities, with local police departments, pay a higher per capita fee for fire, emergency medical service, and police dispatch. In addition, dispatch fees are paid by Monroe County for dispatching all types of emergency services throughout the county, including dispatching for county agencies such as the Sheriff's Department. Universities and school districts also pay a per capita fee for additional radio usage and emergency services.

The Control Center pursues other types of revenue in order to reduce the amount of the per capita fees charged to each participating municipality. These sources provide approximately 30 percent of the annual operating budget of the Monroe County Control Center.

If you have any questions regarding the Readdressing Project, contact Kim Borger, E-9-1-1 addressing coordinator via phone at (570) 420-3466 or via email at

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