Postcodes will cost lives, warn emergency workers

A group representing frontline emergency staff has warned lives will be lost unless the Government reverses its decision on a new national postcode system due to be rolled out next spring.

John Kidd, chairman of the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association, said the “mainly random nature” of the Eircode system would mean errors by users would go unnoticed, as well as cause confusion and may be “catastrophic” in terms of sending services to the wrong location.

The Eircode system will see every address in the country given a unique seven-digit code comprising a three-digit ‘routing key’, and four-digit ‘unique identifier’.

Eircode says the routing codes were designed to benefit the postal and logistics industry, while the unique identifier would locate specific addresses.

Mr Kidd claimed the random number system was flawed, but pointed to cross-border services as an example of best practice.

“[They] are used to postcodes that can be learned and are predictable so that they can find localities easily from memory,” said Mr Kidd. “Eircode does not offer that capability and will not be visible on street signs to help the public raise the alarm.”

Communications Minister Alex White this week said “a sequential postcode structure is not feasible or necessary”. He had been pressed in the Dáil by Fine Gael’s Olivia Mitchell, who asked if he would consider postponing the introduction of Eircode in light of the “serious reservations”.

Neil McDonnell, general manager of the Freight Transport Association Ireland, said he understood Mr Kidd’s concerns.

“Take, for example, two adjacent houses in Glasnevin, Dublin,” said Mr McDonnell. “One could be D11 ZXQ8, the other one D11 67TR. The four-character unique identifier is completely random, with no sequence or algorithm linking one house to the other.”

He plans to raise concerns at an upcoming meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Communications Committee.

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