Minutes — and even seconds — often matter in an emergency response situation, which is why something seemingly as small as keeping address numbers easily visible can make a big difference.
“Certainly as you’re responding, whether to a medical (call), a fire, (or with) law enforcement, the first thing you have to worry about is getting to the right place,” Union County Emergency Manager JB Brock said.
Both Brock and La Grande Police Chief Brian Harvey stressed the importance for residents to make sure the address numbers on their homes are visible to help first responders.
“I know we’ve had times before when it’s been a challenge to locate a specific address, and in an emergency response, obviously time is critical,” Harvey said.
Oftentimes when this is a concern, it is because the address numbers are either too small to be seen from the road by somebody driving by, do not stand out on the building they are on, or are covered by overgrowth from a bush, grass or a tree.
Or, there may not be an address number posted at all.
“Take a simple drive around town and look at how many places don’t have addresses. Businesses are not exempt, either,” Harvey said.
The police chief said knowing whether a location is on an odd- or even-numbered side of the road, or the block numbers, helps, but even then it can be a guessing game if there isn’t a visible address.
And even if it takes only an additional minute or two to find the right place, that extra time has the potential to be detrimental.
“If someone is having a heart attack, a minute or two is a long time. Or if someone is being assaulted,” Harvey said.
Brock said the county replaced its rural address posts about four or five years ago, making them a brighter color — orange instead of brown — and turning them. Previously, the address signs were parallel to the road, and the number was only on one side. Now, they are perpendicular and have numbers on both sides.
Even then, finding the right place isn’t always a cut-and-dried proposition. For example, an address post at a back county road can seem to lead to multiple houses.
“You get back in there and you have a choice of two different houses, which can be a challenge as well,” Brock said.
Or grass can grow up and cover the post.
“Without a little bit of maintenance, nature encroaches quickly,” he added.
GPS systems are not much help either, according to Harvey.
There are a handful of steps residents can take to make their addresses more visible and help out first responders: install larger numbers, use a color that’s in contrast to the building, ensure brush or tree limbs do not block the numbers, and add lighting.
“If (residents) are comfortable with it, either (use) numbers that light up or are posted where other lights can illuminate them (at night),” Harvey said.
The chief added that the best way to see if your address is visible is to simply drive by.
“Look at them from the standpoint of if you are driving by (can you) see them at a distance?” he said.
For county address markers especially, Brock said, it helps if residents trim the vegetation around the address posts. That could be necessary one or more times a year. He also said to routinely check the address marker itself.
“While you’re clearing the brush, it’s good to look at the address stake to make sure it is in good condition. Sometimes people don’t realize (when it’s damaged or gone).”
Posting your address number in more than one location — on a mailbox and on the house, for example — doesn’t hurt.
“Having more than one way to do something is always a good thing,” Brock said.