I listened as Chesterfield Fire Chief Loy Senter addressed the attendees at this year’s TRIAD meeting. He said the majority of emergency responses were for medical incidents and that it is important for everyone to ensure that their addresses are readily identifiable from the street. Whether a response occurs in the day or night, house numbers should be visible to emergency responders. The longer that it takes personnel to find your residence, the longer it will be for patient care to begin.
If you have a mailbox at the street, then you need to have numbers that are reflective and at least 3 inches in height. Multiple mailboxes are a problem and cause confusion. Multiple mailboxes may help to confirm that the house is down a particular driveway, but it does not indicate which house is the correct one. Common driveways for multiple homes need to have addresses posted at strategic places along the way, as well as numbers affixed to the home in a visible location. If you do not have your home well marked with house numbers, then you are going to have to be much more descriptive of your home so that responders can find you.
Enhanced 911 took some of the problem of misstated information out of the equation. I do not know if addresses come up for cell phones, so it becomes necessary to give an accurate address. It may be necessary to spell a street name. Keep in mind, the more time that you spend in helping the dispatcher get your address correct, the better the chance that units will be dispatched to the correct house initially. If you know that units are going to have a hard time finding you, then take the time to give the best information to help responders find you. Take absolutely nothing for granted.
I talked about this recently, but if access is an issue, then state that when you call 911. You may not be sure, but if you think it, then say it. Adding the proper equipment to a response, based on sound information, could be the difference between life and death. On the same note, if finding your driveway is a problem, then do whatever is necessary for responding units to find you. If possible, you may need to give landmarks, place something at the end of your driveway, or send a person to flag down responders. Whatever it takes for units to find you, do it!
Mobile data computers, cell phones and other GPS devices make the job a bit easier, but nothing is fail-proof. The more information you can give, the better the chances of units finding you. Keep in mind, firefighters and medics may have just gotten out of bed, or have been out all night, prior to your call for help. Do your part to make their jobs as easy as possible. Do not assume that everyone riding or driving a piece of emergency equipment knows the area to which they are responding. Firefighters are moved from one station to another daily. In other words, firefighters from a South End station can get sent to a north end, west end or east end station. and vice-versa.
What if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident away from your home? Determining an address may be difficult. You need to be mindful of addresses on the streets that you travel. Being close with an address is better than only giving a street name. It is the difference between giving “13500 Harrowgate Road” as opposed to “Harrowgate Road.” Harrowgate Road is 5 miles long. Yes, there are fire stations on each end, but it will still take time to find you.
Bottom line: do everything possible to make your address as identifiable from the road as possible. Time is critical in fire and medical incidents. It is beneficial to you for emergency responders to find you the first time that they come to your house. Having them pass your address causes a delay in your loved one getting much needed medical care.
There are times when looking for an address is like finding a needle in a haystack. What do you have to do to make your address quickly findable? Think about it!