Dispatchers rely on house descriptions in their GIS information system (pictured above) to guide officers to emergency scenes. | Austin Nelson

Archived Story

Haggerty: ‘It is a problem’

Published 4:10pm Thursday, January 24, 2013

Missing house numbers complicate emergency calls

Emergency personnel depend on having as much information as possible when they respond to a call, and missing details can impede their response – especially if they can’t find the location.

“I hear from law enforcement, the fire department and EMS personnel from time to time that when they respond to emergencies, they have problems sometimes finding residents because they don’t have their house numbers posted or they don’t have their business address posted,” said Anita Haggerty, Tallapoosa County 9-1-1 coordinator. “It is a problem.”

Haggerty said she thinks one reason may be that lake homeowners don’t post their numbers because it’s a second home – it’s not where they receive their mail or live full time.

“It’s still very important to post their house number, whether they live here full time or not,” Haggerty said. “When they are here, they certainly could have an emergency and need either law enforcement, fire or EMS.”

Lt. Randy Walters with the Alexander City Police Department said missing house numbers or incorrect house descriptions have caused responding officials to bypass houses in the past.

“It happens here, even in the city limits,” Walters said. “If the person’s 9-1-1 address is not properly listed … if we don’t have the proper information … it could be detrimental to the person. It could be a life or death situation.”

Walters said he urged people to post their addresses as well as to call the 9-1-1 office and make sure their house description and information is updated – if officers are sent to a green house with a one-car garage that has since been painted blue and expanded to a two-car garage, officers may lose time trying to find the correct house.

“By having a sign posted or their address properly posted, it would enhance our response time,” Walters said. “We need as much information as possible … Seconds are extremely important.”

Haggerty said they encourage people to use at least 3-inch numbers and opt for reflective numbers on their mailboxes to aid in nighttime locating.

“If your house is not visible, it’s really important for you to post the number on your mailbox or at the beginning of your driveway, by the road,” Haggerty said. “Having that number can make the difference in an emergency.”

Haggerty said if people don’t know their house number, they can call the 9-1-1 office at 256-825-8490.

“You never know when you may have an emergency and need help quickly,” Haggerty said. “If emergency personnel are having to go up and down your road trying to find your location, they’re losing time, and time can make a difference.”