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AS I SEE IT

Posted 5/03/16 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shiopman
Farmer Editor

A proposal before the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources that would remove the requirement for oil and gas wells being assigned a 911 address is drawing fire from the McKenzie County Commissioners, as well as other oil-producing counties. And the counties are right in saying that wells and other oil and gas locations need to have 911 addresses.
If there is one place in western North Dakota’s oil patch that needs to have an accurate 911 address it is the thousands of wells and other oil and gas sites scattered across the countryside. When there is a fire or other emergency at any of these remote locations, it is critical that the rural fire departments and other emergency responders have an accurate address.
All too often, we have seen our rural fire departments and other emergency responders following a plume of smoke as they try to find a fire or other emergency at a well site. Without proper addressing to these sites, responders must rely on their knowledge of the county and its public and private roads. And that sometimes means that the emergency responders are wasting critical time caused by backtracking or taking wrong roads.
Having a 911 addressing system that includes oil and gas well sites, as well as other oilfield locations provides just that accurate information.
Granted there can be problems with assigning a 911 address to oil wells that are located on a private road. Which is why the North Dakota 911 Association suggested removing the requirement and instead using the unique North Dakota Industrial Commission number assigned to each oil well as the primary way to communicate with first responders.
But the underlying concern that the Industrial Commission needs to keep in mind when they decide whether or not to remove the 911 addressing requirement for oil wells is who is the requirement intended to help.
If the answer is that the 911 addressing system is needed to provide for quick response by emergency responders, then it only follows logic that the Department of Mineral Resources and the Industrial Commission follow the wishes of the county commissioners and the firefighters and ambulance crews who rely on having accurate well site locations.