08/20/07 — Officials calling for addresses on houses

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Officials calling for addresses on houses

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 20, 2007 1:46 PM

Delbert Edwards, Wayne County's communications supervisor, has a problem. But it's not just his problem. It's a problem for every firefighter, paramedic, law enforcement officer and first responder in the county.

Responding to about 50 calls for emergency services every day, dispatchers at Wayne County's E-911 Center have a wide range of technologies available to them to make sure county residents receive help quickly and efficiently.

They are able to look at a map and tell responders not only what address to go to, but also, if it's on William Street in Goldsboro, whether it's between Ash Street and Mulberry Street or between Mulberry Street and Walnut Street.

If somebody calls from a cellular phone -- and stays on the line for two or three minutes -- they are able to track them using longitude and latitude coordinates.

In addition, when they find the address on their digital maps, information immediately pops up showing who are the primary responders, which are the secondary responders and which are available.

However, Edwards said that none of those technologies matter unless the crews on the ground are able to actually find the correct address -- often a challenge in Wayne County where many people are failing to properly number their homes and businesses. It's a problem that gets worse outside of the county's municipalities.

"With all the technology we have, if the address or the house number is not properly displayed, it's only so good," he said. "Telecommunications always gets descriptive information just in case the house is not marked properly, but it's a common problem.

"It's not uncommon for us to get two or three calls a day where the house is not properly marked."

And while there is an ordinance on the books outlining how those numbers should be installed, it's rarely enforced -- except for on new buildings, which cannot get a certificate of completion until everything is in order. The rule has been in place since October 1991.

"It would be a very minor criminal offense, but it's still a criminal offense," Edwards said. "I don't know, though, of any case (a person has been charged). I think the biggest reason for that is that people just aren't aware of it."

The ordinance calls for numbers on single-family dwellings to be at least four inches tall, visible from the road and of a contrasting color from the background. On multi-family residences, the numbers are required to be at least six inches tall. Mobile home parks are required to number their lots in sequence. If the house is set too far back from the road for the numbers to be visible, then the ends of the driveways must be marked.

One issue, though, has been mailboxes, particularly in rural areas, where several are often grouped together on the same side of the road.

"It's great to mark the mailboxes for the mail carriers, but people still need to mark their houses or at least their driveways," Edwards said. "That just makes it that much easier for us and every second we can save counts."