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A few numbers can save lives

Guest Column, Gene Welch

What is the big deal about five numbers on your house?

Recently, I was asked to inspect a residence and advise them if they were complying with defensible space requirements. The home was for sale, and the owner gave me a street address, description of the home and directions. As I started up her street I started looking for addresses. The first house on the right had its address clearly marked. From its numbers I knew the home I was searching for would be nearby on the same side of the street.

Driving by the second house, I could not see its address. Proceeding on to the third house, there was no visible address. The fourth house also had no visible address. The fifth house, again, no visible address.

Driving on I passed several vacant lots and then found a house with its address clearly visible. The address appeared to be several lots past the one I was looking for. Turning around, I headed back. Using the description the owner had provided, I was able to find the home I was searching for. This process took several minutes and I was only able to complete it because the owner had provided me with a description of her home. This is not usually the case during an emergency.

If this had been an emergency response by fire, medical or law enforcement personnel, they would have had to knock on the doors of every one of the homes that were not clearly marked to find the correct home. Precious minutes would have been wasted and the emergency would have escalated and could have become deadly.

After completing my inspection, I attempted to find out why I could not see addresses at four of the first five homes. The siding on the second house on the street had been resealed and the brass numbers had been sprayed over. They were there, but from the street they tended to blend in with the siding. The third house on the street had its house numbers mounted on a board and the board was lying on the porch. One of the numbers was missing and I assumed it had been removed so it could be repaired or replaced. The fourth house on the street used to have a trash enclosure next to the street. The street address had been on the enclosure. The owner had it removed and forgot to remove the numbers and place them on their home. At the fifth house on the street I saw no address and was unable to establish if it ever had one.

The combination of these different problems created a situation that could have prevented life-saving resources from arriving quickly if they were needed. Is your house clearly marked? Will emergency services be able to find you in your time of need?

Your address should be clearly visible from the street when driving by. The numbers should be of a contrasting color from their background so they can be easily read in varying light conditions. Take a few minutes to look around your neighborhood and see if your neighbors’ and your addresses can be seen from the street as you walk or drive by. If they can’t, be a good neighbor and make your address visible. If your neighbors’ address is not clearly visible, let them know how it could affect them and others on your street. Hopefully we will never need to come and visit you in the middle of the night, but if we do, help us find you in time.

Gene Welch is Public Safety and Information Officer for the Truckee Fire Protection District.


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