Roads with similar names causing problems for EMS teams in Washington County, TN


Two roads, with similar names are causing problems for first responders in Washington County, Tennessee.

“Brethren Church Drive” and “Brethern Church Road” are both located in Jonesborough and are more than nine miles apart.

The quickest route from one to the other is nearly twenty minutes.

Now, Washington County Emergency Communications personnel want to change the name of “Brethern Church Road.”

“It could potentially be a loss of property or a loss of life,” said Lesley Musick, GIS Coordinator.

Musick said it’s a problem they’ve dealt with for years.

The two roads not only share similar names, but similar road types and the same postal community .

She said that has made it difficult for dispatch and emergency crews responding to scenes in those areas, citing a few instances where people have called and given them the wrong road name.

“In the time of an emergency, it’s the most stressful time,” said Musick. “We may ask cross streets and they’ll just agree with us and it’s the wrong cross streets, we’ve [also] had that happen.”

Months ago, Musick suggested to the Public Works Committee to change the name of “Brethern Church Road” to “Brethren Church Valley” which received approval.

“It wasn’t very well accepted,” said Washington County Commissioner Mike Ford, who spokes on behalf of a number of residents in District 15 affected by the possible name change, “they wanted it left Brethern Church Road, they didn’t want Brethren Church Valley.”

Homeowners in the area are pushing back in an effort to preserve local history.

Ford said the name dates back to 1850 with the establishment of Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethern. A number of people concerned with the possible name change attend that church.

“It’s more than changing the road,” he said, “it’s who we are and what we are.”

Meanwhile, Pleasant View Church of the Brethren sits empty on Brethren Church Drive, as it is no longer in use.

Other homeowners worry about the difficulties with changes to drivers licenses, social security and other documentation.

“It’s lengthy and to do all that,” said Sally Brocklebank, “if you don’t do it online there’s postage involved, and that could get costly.”

The proposed change from “Brethern Church Road” to “Brethren Church Valley” will go before the County Commission on August 26th.

Part of that name change will include the correction of “Brethern” in the original name to the correct spelling of “Brethren.”

“I think the number one problem in 911 today of when we train people is location, location, location,” said Washington County 911 Director Greg Matherly. “We got to know where you are.”

If the change is approved by the County Commission, Ford said new road signs would most likely be up in a short amount of time, but it may take several months to get GPS data and other informational technology updated to reflect the change.

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