Can Emergency Responders Find You?
By Michael VanZile, Fire Chief, Auburn Fire Department
Every second counts during an emergency. And, more often than you’d think, when Auburn firefighters, police officers and EMS personnel are responding to emergencies, they are slowed down because they are having a difficult time finding the right address. As you can imagine, valuable time can be lost if your house number is not clearly posted where emergency responders can see it. Firefighters, police officers and EMS responders cannot provide emergency services to you or your family if we cannot find your house.
Take a look outside at your house number. Can you tell what it is? Can others? Can you see it? If it’s not easy to see for you, it’s not easy for first responders either. Ask yourself these questions:
- Can your house be found easily by passing cars?
- Is your house number easily found, seen and readable from the street?
- Can it be found quickly in an emergency?
- Can it be found at night?
- When seconds count, can it be seen?
If the answer is “no” to any one of these questions, it’s time to consider updating or replacing your existing address numbers on your home.
First responders have encountered many more homes without visible house numbers in recent months. It’s a problem not only in our city but also throughout DeKalb County—and it’s something that has been taken for granted over time. Maybe one of the digits falls off and we think, ‘Oh we’ll get to it, it’s not that big of a deal.’ But you never know when an emergency is going to happen. In an emergency, seconds count. If we can find the address, we are going to be able to get there quicker, start interventions and be able to assist whoever needs help. However, if we have to look around at adjacent residences to determine if that’s the appropriate location we’re supposed to be at, that’s going to add to the time.
There are a lot of things that can obstruct house numbers—like tall trees or shrubs, or decorative signs or flags. Or sometimes, numbers fall off or become faded and hard to see If you can’t see it from your street, we’re probably not going to be able to either, so it’s probably time to either repaint them or replace them.
It’s also important to remember to have the number be a contrasting color of the house or it will blend in and be hard to see. Furthermore, if your house sits back off the street, or you have a long driveway, make sure there is some sort of marker near the road to identify the house for emergency responders. In fact, if it’s dark outside and you call for help, turn on the porch light to help illuminate the house.
Here are a few suggestions to help first responders find your home:
- Post your address clearly and prominently on your home. Do not assume since your mailbox is marked, you have posted your address—mailboxes are not always at the entrance of a driveway and usually are not marked clearly on both sides
- Use something reflective or illuminated so that it can be seen in the evening as well as during the day.
- Use large numbers and make sure it can be seen from all directions.
- Post the number so it is visible from both directions of travel.
- Ensure trees, bushes or other debris are not blocking visibility from the road.
- Place numbers near the front door within a radius of the porch light and above eye level.
- Avoid placing numbers away from the front door, such as above garage doors.
- Avoid using cursive style words, use numbers only.
- Mark your mailbox on both sides—but do not use your mailbox as the only means of identification for your house. If your mailbox is not in front of your house or near your driveway, emergency responders cannot locate you if you do not have your house number on your house or on a post or sign in your yard.
It’s also helpful to be familiar with our city ordinances about home addresses. I’ve included them below for quick reference.
For city residents: per Auburn City Ordinance 95.71
- Every house, residence, apartment and business within the corporation borders of the city, shall have numbers identifying the location. These numbers are herein referred to as street address numbers for all structures subject to this subchapter.
- All street address numbers shall be a minimum of 4-1/2 feet above the ground, sidewalk, driveway or any other surface reasonably presumed to be a reference point.
- All street address numbers shall be of a color which, when viewed from the street in a vehicle, can be seen easily. It is required that said numbers are to be of a color contrasting or nearly contrasting with the background surface color upon which they are mounted.
- There shall be no obstructions to preclude the street address numbers from being seen as noted in no95.71(C).
- All street address numbers shall be a minimum of 3 inches in height and 1-1/2 inches in width.
For rural residents: per DeKalb County Code Article 9 – 36-9 Section 2.
- 01 Every house, residence, apartment, business and industry within the County borders of DeKalb County, Indiana shall have numbers identifying the location. These numbers are herein referred to as street address numbers for all structures subject to this Ordinance.
- 02 All street address numbers shall be displayed on a mailbox, mailbox post or separate post and shall be easily visible from the road when traveling in either direction. The street address number display shall be minimum height of three feet and maximum height of five feet above road grade as measured from the midpoint of the sign. Alternatively, if displayed on the mailbox post, the street address number display may be mounted directly below the mailbox so long as the midpoint of the sign is no less than two and one-half feet above road grade. In the event the structures to be identified by said street address numbers are situated in such a way that the display of those numbers as the sole means of identification does not adequately identify the structure in the opinion of the DeKalb County Building Commissioner and/or the DeKalb County 911 Coordinator, then the owner of the structure may also be required to display the street address numbers affixed to the structure in the size and colors as required below. In the event the second display is necessary then the DeKalb County Building Commissioner and/or the DeKalb County 911 Coordinator shall set forth in writing to the owner of the property the reasons for said second display.
- 03 All street address numbers shall be white reflective lettering on a green background which can be seen easily when viewed from the street while in a vehicle. Should an additional display of address numbers be required on the structure as noted in subsection 2.02 above, it is required that the numbers of said additional display be a color contrasting or nearly contrasting with the background surface color upon which they are mounted.
- 04 There shall be no obstructions to preclude the street address numbers from being seen as noted in subsections 2.02 and 2.03 above.
- 05 All street address numbers shall be a minimum of three (3) inches in height and one and one-half (1 & 1/2) inches in width.
- 06 No occupancy permit for new construction will be issued until proper numbers are erected either by contractor or residence owner.
- 07 A property with a non-conforming address display of the correct address which does not meet the size and color requirements of this ordinance may continue to be used should it substantially fulfill the intent of the ordinance and adequately identify the property in the opinion of both the Building Commissioner and the 911 Coordinator or his designee. In the event a non-conforming address display of the correct address is approved for continued use under this section, then the owner of the property shall be sent a letter approving said use by either the Building Commissioner or the 911 Coordinator or the 911 Coordinator’s designee. A copy of this letter shall be kept on file in the Plan Commission Office.