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By the numbers

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By James Roberts

Four letters have been mailed but no fines have been issued since an ordinance requiring house numbers to be posted went into effect on Oct. 1.

"The ones that we have sent letters to have put numbers up," said Bonnie Childers, Campbellsville/Taylor County E-911 address coordinator. "Everyone has been really good about putting the numbers up."

The ordinance allows any home, business or rental property owner who doesn't have address numbers posted so they are visible from the road to be fined up to $100.

If the house is not visible from the road, Childers said, then house numbers must be placed by the road. The numbers must be visible at night, which means they should be reflective or lit. Numbers on a mailbox will suffice, unless there is a large number of mailboxes grouped together, which makes it difficult for emergency personnel to determine which house they are going to.

Childers said that when emergency service personnel respond to an address that isn't properly marked, they will notify E-911 dispatchers. Childers will then inspect the property and send a letter to the resident, allowing them 30 days to properly post address numbers. Childers said she will also suggest possible locations for the numbers.

To help the elderly and disabled, Childers is asking anyone who has extra address numbers to donate them to E-911.

If no action has been taken after 30 days, police will issue a fine ranging from $10 to $100. The ordinance states the numbers must be 3 inches in height and made of a durable and clearly visible material. Each day of violation can be deemed a separate offense, the ordinance states.

Childers said there is a simple rule of thumb to determine whether someone is in compliance.

"The main thing is, if you're on the road, can you tell what your house number is?"

Those who aren't sure if their address is properly posted may call Childers at 465-0508.

While Childers believes the ordinance has prompted many people to post their house numbers, she has also discovered a loophole.

There are some roads on which no homes have house numbers posted. However, Childers can only mail the letter to the owner of the home that emergency personnel reported.

"When it is not obvious [which home emergency service personnel reported], you don't know if you are sending [the letter] to the right house. If I had one out of 10 of those houses with no number, I could easily pick out the one that is not compliant, but when you have 10 out of 10 with no numbers, it can't be done."

One particular case involved several homes without numbers on Maple Road. The mailboxes to the homes were all grouped together.

"Just by looking at it, I couldn't tell which number belonged to which house."

House numbers on mailboxes will suffice if it is only one mailbox and that box is at the driveway of the home, she said.

Childers says she is finding more unnumbered homes outside the City limits. Though she isn't sure why that is, she suspects it could be that those roads are less traveled and house numbers simply never became an issue.

One way around that problem, Childers said, is to look up the home through the PVA's office. She has done that, but that route can be time-consuming.

While this may pose a problem, Childers doesn't believe there is a way around the problem.

"[The ordinance] is really about as sufficient as it can get. You'd have to have somebody knock on every door."

The lack of conspicuous house numbers isn't the only problem emergency services personnel run into, Childers said. There's also a problem with similar road names.

As address coordinator for the County, Childers will not permit a new road to be named something similar to an existing road. And while she has renamed several roads to prevent confusion, there are still some remaining that are quite similar.

"We need 90 percent [of the homeowners on a road] to agree before we can change the name," Childers said. "There are a few where we could not get 90 percent."

However, with the technology dispatchers have at hand to give emergency services the exact location of a caller, similar road names isn't the issue it once was. However, no amount of technology will help emergency personnel find a home that isn't numbered.

"If a 4-year-old is at home with a diabetic parent and the parent suddenly falls to the floor and the child cannot wake them, the child may know enough to dial 911 but does not know their address.

"Our system shows as soon as the call comes in where the call is coming from. The problem is, this house has a long driveway and the house cannot be seen from the road. None of the houses on this road have numbers showing.

"How is Rescue supposed to find this house before it is too late?"

"We just can't seem to stress to individuals how important this is for the safety of the adult or children of these homes."

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.