Ambulances are going to the wrong addresses in rural Nova Scotia because of naming confusion, a manager with Emergency Health Services says. 

Jeff Fraser won’t say how many mix-ups happen because people have similar civic addresses.

“It does happen occasionally, but it is certainly the exception, not the rule,” he said Thursday. 

The confusion arises when people live on the same road that crosses municipal or county boundaries. As a result, multiple rural residences have almost identical civic addresses.

For example, Highway 1 cuts through six municipalities. There is a 6601 Highway 1 in both Annapolis and Kings counties, but they are 72 kilometres apart.

Cellphones add to confusion

Fraser says it is further complicated when the 911 call comes in from a cellphone. Unlike a land line, mobile calls do not display the location.

“Oftentimes we’ll get phone calls for help that are not made from the scene,” he said.“That means we wouldn’t want to send the resource to where the person is calling from if they are not physically in the locations. So that is one of the key pieces of information that we put a lot of emphasis on upfront.”

Fraser says paramedics have been trained to verify the address of the incident with both the 911 operator and the caller.

“When we get a hand-off call from 911, the first thing that happens is we validate the information with the 911 operator and with the caller on the phone,” he says.

“If we don’t get the county field, we do ask and check on that.”

John Ferguson, CAO for Annapolis County, says a resident complained of a delay earlier this year after an ambulance went to the wrong address.

Ferguson was part of a committee that met with EHS to discuss the situation.