Scott Co. officials want guidelines for posting addresses

Friday, March 31, 2006

Not having posted numbers could delay emergency response up to two minutes, officials say.

BENTON, Mo. -- About 10 years have passed since Scott County, like other Southeast Missouri counties, switched to an enhanced 911 address system.

The switch stopped the old rural route system of identifying addresses outside of city limits, instead assigning addresses using numbers and street names like those found within city limits.

But more than a decade later, county emergency service personnel still struggle with the problem of improperly posted addresses -- people using the old rural route designations or not posting numbers at their address at all.

Now, Joe Burton, the county's E-911 administrator, is pushing for the county commission to do something to address the problem.

When emergency calls come in to the county's 911 dispatching center, information is displayed on the dispatchers computer, including the home's 911 address. However, when emergency personnel are dispatched, the address they're sent to may appear at first not to exist.

"If they don't post their house numbers on the homes where they're visible, then basically they're defeating the system," said Burton.

If emergency personnel have to look for a house that doesn't have its address numbers posted, valuable minutes could be wasted, said Burton.

County Presiding Commissioner Martin Priggel said there are no guidelines for posting addresses currently written down for county residents to follow. But in the next few weeks that will change, as the commission will likely move to institute guidelines for residents to follow.

Those guidelines would probably be similar to Cape Girardeau County's system, in which county residents are required to post 4-inch tall numbers on either a mailbox or a post in front of the house.

Like Cape Girardeau County, Priggel said there would probably be no penalty if a house doesn't have its numbers posted.

Posting those 911 addresses in front of a house is important to fast emergency service, said North Scott County Ambulance District manager Larry Chasteen.

Chasteen said if the numbers aren't posted, it could delay emergency response by one to two minutes.

A couple of minutes doesn't seem like much, but that small amount of time can be critical in an emergency.

"You never think you're going to need that ambulance, but if you do, and they can't find your house, every minute is like an eternity if you're waiting," said Priggel.

335-6611, extension 182

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