Wednesday 22 November 2017

Eircode useless

Just over 2 years ago, Ireland joined the wired world by assigning every dwelling in the country a unique Eircode - like a postcode UK or zip code USA only more specific - down to the house rather than the street.  I had a truculent grump in 2015 about how the Irish government implemented the project. If you're going to throw €25 million of budget at such a project you'd expect it to have public utility. It works grand for An Post the government distribution service not least because they gave most input to the project. But it is much less handy for rivals of An Post, like FedEx and UPS, because the within-post-town numbers are deliberately assigned at random. If R95 R6X6 is in the same county [R95] but otherwise nowhere near R95 R6X7 it is difficult to plan a round of delivery drops efficiently.  Who gains? An Post. Who loses? everyone else.

Every so often we'll hear wireless & TV adverts begging us to know our Eircodes because it would be handy for an emergency. The implication being that if you call the fire, ambulance or police they will have a GPS tracker on-board the emergency vehicle that can tell the driver the fastest, safest way to get from A&E to Bogge Hall, Ballygobackwards, R95 R6X6.  This has apparently been integrated in the Ambulance Service. He's another party heard from indicating than Eircodes are useless unless you are at home. And here's an autopuff for Loc8code an alternative system which seems to have more utility; although they would say that wouldn't they?

So the other day, one of neighbours called us in a flap at 0720hrs because she'd woken up to find smoke filling her kitchen. Could we come and help sort it out? We were half-dressed and I was only two cups of tea into the day but we threw on some clothes and drove across the valley. She should call the fire-brigade [not us] we said as we went down the lane. But then, not everyone behaves sensibly in an emergency. When we were threatened with a domestic conflagration in 1994, I did some really dopey things: a) deciding to push a pair of horses out of a burning barn with the heel of my boot b) saving our new computer rather than our old photographs.

Let me tell you that FIRE emergency services in our neck of the woods is kind of cruddy old-style. Neighbour, who is not a native anglophone, had handed her phone to The Beloved, whose very expensive education had included elocution lessons. ER operator required a whole lot of rural Irish directions before asking for the Eircode. Transcript(ish):
  • County? Wexford!
  • between Kiltealy . . . no KILtealy with a K . . . no K for Kleptomaniac . . . and Borris . . . no BORRIS . . . that's B-O-R-R-I-S
  • Yes I know Borris isn't in Wexford . . . no, Borris in Carlow
  • In Kiltealy you turn right at The Thatch . . . no right, if you're coming from Enniscorthy you turn right. [note all sets of directions in Ireland involve at least one pub]
  • You take the second turn left out on the Borris road . . . no the second turn . . . no before the fork
    • [meanwhile smoke is roiling out of the kitchen]
  • Yes the Eircode is Y21 M6N6 . . . that's Y for why are you so stupid?  then 21 then M for monkey sixer and N for nuts sixer
I tremble to think how this desperate conversation would have been further delayed if the speaker was old, deaf, or had a deeply rural or foreign accent.  Emergencies, by their nature, require brisk, efficient, calm and effective response.  Many of these attributes were missing in this incident. Every second car has GPS directioning but seemingly fire-engines do not. So they have to wait at the fire-station until the directions appear from the National Emergency Phone Centre in Dublin. In an efficient world, they would be off on the road in the right direction expecting to fill in the local details when they got closer because we're all wired now. In a 21stC world they'd just zero in on the Eircode. As I say, this is apparently what happens in a paramedic emergency . . . unless you're on a mountainside or in a car-wreck.

Here's Gary Delaney, CEO of Loc8code and rival of Eircode, quietly pointing out how disfunctional Eircode is. The tendering process was illegal under EU law and steam-rollered through by vested interests. Shorter critique by RTE.

PS Fire Brigade came; they were conscientious, efficient, and did their best to limit the mess; the house didn't burn down, but a total re-wiring job is indicated; nobody lost an eye, or their wedding photos.  As with the Health Service, it is hard to find fault with individuals, however much we criticise the system - creaky, under-resourced, over-bureaucratised and backward-looking.

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