Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 33° Partly Cloudy
News >  Voices

New addressing standards aim to hasten Spokane County emergency response

Spokane County residents living on East Jackson Road may dwell in homes up to 25 miles apart.

Identical addresses along Jackson Road in Elk and Greenacres are just some of the many issues discovered by city and county workers looking to harmonize addressing ahead of implementing a countywide computer-aided dispatch system for law enforcement. Last month, the Spokane City Council approved the new rules to standardize the naming of new streets to avoid confusing the system and emergency workers tasked with responding to crises.

The rules still need to be approved by Spokane County and other cities within the county.

“We think it’s going to save lives,” said City Councilwoman Candace Mumm, who sponsored the ordinance.

The 41-page document replaces the more succinct regulations on the books dealing with street naming in the city. The new ordinance standardizes numbered street names (spelled out from First to Tenth, and numerically thereafter); abbreviations for features like suites in an office building; and defines streets, roads, lanes and drives, among numerous other changes.

Final development plans submitted to the city – regardless of whether the proposal is for housing or business – will require address listings for all buildings as a condition of approval.

The ordinance also prohibits naming new streets in any way that could impede dispatch services, including duplicate street names such as the discrepancy between the two Jackson roads in Elk and Greenacres.

“We’re trying to standardize this as much as possible,” said Joe Sacco, a public safety mapping specialist with the city of Spokane who’s worked on the project.

City and county officials have been working since the middle of 2015 to adopt addressing standards designed to govern future road developments – not retroactively change addresses, Sacco said. Where addressing discrepancies pose a threat to public safety, however, the city can request through the new ordinance an address change subject to approval by the City Council. Address changes may be appealed to the city’s hearing examiner.

Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams said his department was delayed responding to a medical call in the Kendall Yards neighborhood due to discrepancies between their dispatch system and street addresses on an alley, a problem that was resolved by City Council action earlier this year. He said the new standards would ensure the dispatch system was working properly, especially for crews that are operating outside their normal area of service.

“We’ve got Sprague and Division as the X-Y coordinates,” Williams said. “Everyone in the county looks at that X-Y coordinate as the center point. When you start going throughout the county, and you’ve got an address range that’s wrong, how do you know where to go?”

The next step will be for members of the city and county mapping team to begin on-site inspections of apartment buildings and strip malls to improve the precision of mapping for multibuilding complexes, Sacco said.

“We know a big gap in our data is with apartment complexes, and, specifically, multifamily residential,” Sacco said.

Mumm said she hopes the new ordinance will start a trend of adoption by other cities within the county, and the Spokane County Commission, in the coming months.

“It’s a very big document, and going forward, the hope is that we’ll use that as a model,” Mumm said.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.