The Town and Country Planning Department unveiled a new system Tuesday that names every street in the Road Town area and assigns a numbered address to each building in the city.
Still in its pilot phase, the National Addressing System has been promised by successive governments for more than 30 years, but recently became a greater priority after increased interest from public sector partners, Chief Planner Gregory Adams said during a press conference on Tuesday.
The programme currently only provides addresses in the Road Town area, but the department hopes to assign an address for every building in the territory by the end of next year.
Officials said the programme could transform the territory, helping the fire and police departments respond more quickly to calls, making it easier for tourists to navigate the territory, and allowing for the postal service to deliver mail to homes.
“We’re bringing the BVI into the 21st Century,” Mr. Adams said.
How it works
Every building within the pilot’s boundaries — which extend from Sea Cows Bay to Sophie Bay — appears on the new mapping system, which uses satellite imagery and highlights the names of all streets and roads within this area.
The map also shows the numbers of buildings, and users can click on a specific building to view its full address — a system that follows international standards, according to Troy Dawson, national Geographic Information Systems coordinator in the TCPD.
Residents who are not tech savvy or who lack the means to access the website can also get in touch with department officials over the phone or in person to learn their new address, Mr.Adams said.
Partnering with community entities like the postal service, the fire department, and financial services businesses was essential to the launch of the programme, Mr. Adams said.
Such partnerships put added pressure on the department to get the system off the ground, and provided the department with input to make it as beneficial to as many sectors as possible.
“With the needs of certain industry partners, it became a greater priority for us,” Mr. Adams said.
The chief planner thinks the new system will prove especially helpful for first responders in the territory, who will be able to drive straight to a numbered address instead of following vague directions from people in need of help.
“This could be a matter of life and death,” Mr. Adams added.
He also envisions a VI where residents enjoy many of the conveniences available in other parts of the world, such as pizza and mail delivery at home.
Additionally, the new addressing system will have tremendous impact on the territory’s tourism industry, making it safer and easier for visitors to rent cars and manoeuvre across the territory, he said.
“I am excited … for how this will change our tourism product,” Mr. Adams added.
Still, it is unclear how soon the system will prompt tangible effects.
The territory’s postal service must advise international committees about the new physical addresses before incorporating them into operations, and it will also be sometime before firefighters are able to respond to individual building addresses, Mr.Adams said.
In the meantime, however, first responders will be provided with the community name and street number where they are headed, which is expected to reduce response time.
Additionally, legislation is in the works that would enable 911 operators to obtain the exact location of anyone who calls the hotline, though that technology would not be implemented until the legislation is passed, said Russell Jones, project manager of the next generation of the 911 operating system.
“We cannot work with‘the left of the mango tree,’” Mr. Jones said, referencing the need for a more precise 911 operating system.
The TCPD has not designated the next area to receive physical addresses,though it will continue to target denser communities in the territory.
The agency will also start mapping communities on the sister islands before Tortola is completely covered, Mr. Adams said.
Government began working on a National Addressing System more than 20 years ago, former Premier Dr. Orlando Smith said in a 2018 meeting of the House of Assembly.
Since its conception, work was started and stopped several times over the years, but in 2018 the HOA unanimously passed a motion that officially named dozens of roads in Road Town, which was intended to lay the groundwork for a territory-wide network for addresses.