An ongoing issue with first responders locating addresses has recently resurfaced, according to St. Clair Fire Capt. Dan Cooley.
There has been a problem with houses and mailboxes not being clearly marked, in areas mainly outside city limits, which is delaying fire and EMS response time to calls for service, Cooley said.
“It’s just a challenge. It’s been going on for a while, but recently we’ve just noticed a rash of calls that we’ve ran where we’re having a hard time finding the numerics,” Cooley said.
He mentioned a recent incident where it took EMS more than double the time to respond to an individual.
“What should’ve been a seven or eight minute response turned it into about a 15- to 17 response because they could not find the address,” Cooley said.
Luckily, he said the patient was not in critical condition.
“Had it been a critical patient, time is of the essence,” he said.
Cooley added that most do not think about house or mailbox numbers until an emergency occurs.
“It’s out of sight, out of mind; people go to their mailbox to get their mail. They don’t think about looking at the numbers on it,” he said.
The other issue Cooley said is when four or five mailboxes are stacked at the end of a road with no signs or directions to specify which house is which.
“We’re carrying GPS in some of our trucks and the problem with that is GPS can only get you so close; it’s not an exact science,” he said.
“Depending on the severity of the call, the service could get delayed trying to look for an alarm,” he said.
Cooley urges residents to check that their house and mailbox numbers are labeled legibly.
For stacked mailboxes, he suggested home owners put up a sign that directs them to the correct house. He added that mailboxes should be labeled on both sides and the lid.
“We want to make sure we’re providing the best service at all cost. If we can’t find places, we’re just afraid we’re going to delay service,” he said.
St. Clair Ambulance District Chief Nick Tepleman said the problem is found randomly throughout unincorporated areas in Franklin County. There could be 10 addresses in a row that are clearly labeled and then have one or two with faded numbers.
“Not having an address visible for first responders, it slows us down. When seconds count, it can be an unnecessary delay.”
“If someone was in cardiac arrest and we missed the house because the address wasn’t marked and nobody was outside, then yes, a minute is a big deal.”
“If someone is under assault from a perpetrator and a law enforcement officer misses the residence, obviously those seconds can count too.”
For those with emergency numerical signs (ENS), he said it is important to make sure those are properly displayed outside residences, as well. For more information about ENS, call the St. Clair Fire Protection District at 636-629-0844.
Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton said this problem happens to deputies once every three to four weeks. The biggest challenge is with stacked mailboxes at the end of driveways and oftentimes they will show up to the wrong house, he added.
Having properly marked mailboxes and residences are beneficial for citizens, especially on time-sensitive issues, Pelton said.
It is recommend the use of at least 4 to 6-inch numbers placed on the mailbox and near the front door of the residence.