Grand Forks first responders: Missing house numbers waste time during emergencies

Hidden house numbers make it difficult for emergency crews to quickly find homes during emergency calls.

Hidden house numbers make it difficult for emergency crews to quickly find homes during emergency calls.

With numbers partially hidden or located in a difficult to see position, quick response times are slowed down when emergency crews are unable to locate the home.

Jeff Olsen, unit chief for Grand Forks Ambulance Services, pointed out there are quite a few homes in Grand Forks that don’t maintain their homes and the shrubbery grows on it.

“We were at a house the other day and we were driving up and down the road but couldn’t see the numbers because the shrubbery covered it,” he said. “We had to call back dispatch for the address and in the end we had to ask them to stand outside to flag us down.”

Olsen noted that it is even more difficult in the rural areas where the numbers are far apart.

“When you drive out to the farm area you’re logically thinking it should be the next one, but when you get there, it’s not,” he added.

Dale Heriot, fire chief for Grand Forks Fire and Rescue pointed out that some houses don’t have any numbers at all.

Along with hidden numbers, some are placed too far back, are too small, or too dark in colour, Heriot stated.

“All these reasons affect us when we work because then we have to get out with our spotlights to search for numbers house to house,” he said. “The last thing you want to do at two in the morning is shining your light in someone’s front windows trying to find a house number.”

Heriot said it is an ongoing problem, with some areas in Grand Forks that are better than others.

“In the rural areas, especially with the long driveways, if they don’t have a number out at the post at the end of the driveway it makes it real heard to find a place,” he said. “In town there are a number of houses where the house numbers are either missing or just in a bad spot that we have a hard time finding them.”

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Area D Director Irene Perepolkin noted that it is up to residents to number their own houses and make them visible.

“We do charge a fee for house numbering, but that’s just to register the house number,” she said. “It’s up to the people to make their numbers visible so that if they call the ambulance or anything they can really see it. I know that it’s difficult when you’re driving along to find a number, but residents need to make sure they’re visible.”

Heriot explained that when he first moved to Grand Forks, it was easier to figure out where people lived.

“When you wanted to know where someone lived, you asked someone in town and they’d said, ‘It’s the blue house, third one down on the left’,” he said. “Well now there’s a lot more houses in town than there used to be and so those days are long gone. When we get called on dispatch they don’t give us names they give us numbers, and they don’t tell us it’s the blue house, third one down on the left.”

The biggest thing is for people to put their house numbers someplace visible like on the garage and make it big enough to see, Heriot stated.

“The easier it is for us to find a house number, the quicker it is we can get to the resident and start helping people,” concluded Heriot. “When we have to drive up and down a street, that’s time wasted.”

Olsen added, “People should drive by their house at night and see if they can see their address from the road at night time. If they can see their house number then they’re good to go.”