VFD: Every second counts, address signs save lives

By Brandon Evans | Published Wednesday, March 6, 2013

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Time after time, first responders rush to the scene of an emergency call only to have trouble locating the house.

Failure to post an address in front of a house can mean homes, and lives, lost.

“A couple months ago we were responding to a CPR-in-progress call,” said Adam North, chief of Greenwood/Slidell Volunteer Fire Department. “We’re trying to get there as quickly as we can, but the person didn’t have a numbered address posted on their mailbox or on the side of their house.

“911 dispatch is good about giving us details about a location, but a numbered address is the most important,” he said. “If we have to drive up and down a road before we can find the location, that is precious time lost. There is only so much we can do without all the key information.

“EMS and firefighters are trained to do the job, but we can’t do the job efficiently if we’re battling against even more time. Especially when someone is suffering from a stroke or heart attack, time is essential to prevent more damage from happening,” he said.

“In an emergency, every second counts,” said Phyllis Shaw, Wise County 911 addressing coordinator. “I encourage people to install their address at their permanent driveway, at their entrance, even if it’s just a small sign.”

It’s just as important for house fires.

“A fire doubles every minute,” North said. “Every minute longer it takes us to get there is more time lost to get someone out of the house and save property.”

Shaw said private roads are usually the ones that tend to not be marked. While the county maintains county road signs, it’s up to the property owners to install signs for private roads. A private road is defined as any road or driveway that has one or more houses on it that aren’t visible from the main road.

County commissioners did approve a motion where the county will provide a free reflective private road sign and a cap and pole at no charge. But if it’s stolen or lost, the county does charge for subsequent signs.

And the county sells reflective 911 address signs for people to post by the road.

The cost for a reflective sign from 911 addressing is $25 for a 6-by-18-inch or $30 for 6-by-24-inch. A cap and pole can be added for $25 extra.

“But people can get similar signs from Lowe’s, Wal-Mart or Tractor Supply,” Shaw said. “We just encourage people to put the sign up by the road or on the side of their house. If emergency responders don’t see it and they have to double back, that is valuable time lost.”

Shaw said she would even like to see some kind of ordinance or other law that makes it mandatory to post a visible address.

North also encourages people who witness and report traffic accidents to make sure they give 911 the most accurate location they can in order to cut down on response time.

For more information on purchasing a 911 address sign from the county, call 940-627-3051.

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