April 8, 2010

Emergency Responders Can’t Help if They Can’t Find You

Anyone who has searched for a house in an unfamiliar part of town where few house numbers are displayed has experienced a sampling of the frustration emergency personnel often face at times when seconds count. Lack of numbers on houses and mailboxes can mean several extra minutes getting to the right home, especially at night. Minutes and seconds count in emergency situations, especially in heart attacks. The loss of time can translate to the loss of life of a loved one.

“There is nothing more frustrating and time consuming than trying to find somebody’s house with improper house number markings, because you know that if you don’t get there soon enough that the person is not likely to survive,” said Scotland County Ambulance Director, Dave Crawford. “Then you get there and the family is angry because it took you so long,” he said. “They don’t realize it was because they didn’t post their house numbers properly or at all.” That delay can be as minor as emergency personnel having to slow down or stop several times to read small or non-reflective numbers on mailboxes or longer when they cannot find house numbers at all.

Now that spring has arrived, the Scotland County Ambulance personnel are asking residents to check the numbers on their homes and mailboxes to ensure that there are no numbers missing after so much snow and wind this winter and that overgrown shrubs and trees are not overshadowing or covering the numbers. “The numbers need to be of a color that contrasts with the house and are best if they are reflective,” said Crawford. Crawford suggests that residents stand near the street and look at the house number to determine if the number is visible from the street.

Scotland County Ambulance District Personnel offer these tips for house and mailbox numbering:

* If you are numbering a curbside mailbox, be sure to use at least 3 inch high reflective numbers on a contrasting background. White numbers on a black mailbox can be easily recognized. Number both sides of your mailbox.

* If you are displaying numbers on your home, large 4 inch reflective numbers are highly visible. But, if your home is a distance from the street and difficult to see due to trees and shrubs, numbers on your mailbox or a curbside sign are preferable.

For residents located outside the city limits, many of these same principles apply. Because there is not a formal 911 service in Scotland County, Ambulance personnel ask that county residents place their names on mailboxes with reflective lettering. Crawford also suggests that when calling in an emergency, residents use actual mileage and directional terms (i.e. 6 miles east of Hwy. 15) rather than local landmarks with names unfamiliar to everyone (i.e. Joe Smith’s pole barn on the old Armstrong place).

These numbers are not only important to your local ambulance personnel, but police and fire departments rely on these numbers as well. There truly is ‘safety in numbers.’

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