Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Simple Shit............................Perhaps not?

If it were simple, everybody would do it, right? Well yeah, if 'everybody' realized how important "it" was.
It never ceases to amaze me how folks are so sloppy about marking their homes without any thought of the need for emergency services. They have pretty signs which look great in the daylight and have lovely flowers draped artistically over them to provide a proper effect. But at 3am, during an ice storm, the colors are invisible in the dark and even if you could see them, the ice has weighed down the tree branches and covered up the house numbers completely. During a snowstorm at 2am it's even impossible to read the numbers on mailboxes because the snow droops down and covers the sides of the boxes. The change ion landscape during these storms makes it impossible to know where you are even on familiar roads. I was driving the first due engine to a structure fire this past winter and could not read a single number on any mailbox. Of course the flames licking up and out of a living room picture window kind of gave me a clue that I found the correct address.
Around my neck of the woods we have some additional problems in that we have a 'weekend' population. These homeowners fall into several categories such as those who live in The City, and come up on some weekends, those who have a second home here and come occasionally, and those who are celebrities and rarely come except for long periods when they are looking for a respite. They all have one thing in common: they don't get mail here. Because of that, they don't have a mailbox or advertise their address. They usually have some identifying mark they can use for wanted guests, and nothing for those of us trying to help them out when a party guest cracks his/her head open and bleeds on the expensive carpet.
Any responder that has 6 months on the job can recite a story about delays caused by trying to find an address. I have more than a few, several dozen in fact, perhaps more if I really thought about it (but you would have to buy the beer, that would be a long night). But here are just two:
Dispatched to an elderly female, fallen, with a history of stroke, cancer, and cardiac issues. The address is 34 Elderberry Road. I know the road and get there in good time, I find number 28 .... 30 ....32.....168 ...36 ...38. WTF? Houses around here are not in straight lines or complete order, just like the roads, none of which are straight and parallel. I am used to seeing missed house numbers on some streets. I search and think that perhaps they gave the wrong number (it happens often). I check one house that looks like a good candidate. No soap. Then I check number "168" and sure enough, I find the patient. We provide what she needs and as I am filling out my paperwork, I ask about the address again. She says "number 34" and I say "Elly, there is a big beautiful cast iron scripted set of numbers over your garage door that says "ONE SIXTY EIGHT", why its that?" Elly tells me that those are the "OLD NUMBERS, before this 911 system came into use and they changed everybody's house number". "Elly", I said, "that was over 20 years ago. you need to get rid of the old numbers or we will always have trouble finding you when you need us." "Oh" she says, "I don't know. If I take them down it will leave a terrible shadow on the garage that will be ugly and you could still read it anyway. Besides, I have the new number on my mailbox." "Elly, your mailbox was broken off and it's laying in the bushes. You really need to get this fixed right away. You may need to call us again and I want to make sure my crews can find you right away." "Well, ok, if you thinks it's best, but that shadow is going to look just plain ugly." Inside, I am screaming, but outwardly I smile, remind her that it is really important and hope that she remembers to get it done.

Dispatched to a middle aged female with severe chest pains. The address is number 24 Pinky Lane. Now I know that all the "Lanes" inn my district are either private roads or began as private road. I have no idea where this road is and the cross streets I'm given are over a mile apart. I find the road pretty easy. It has 8 mailboxes out at the end where it meets the main cross street... bad sign. Sure enough as I climb up this little one lane dirt track I see that there are only numbers on a couple of homes. I find number 20, but as I go further I find number 30. I back down and go to number 20 and knock on the door. Somebody is home and I explain I am looking for 24. She points across the road into the woods. "How do I get there", I ask. She directs me back down the road to a cut that heads up in the right direction. I find the house and leave my emergency lights on so that incoming units will find it easier. As it turns out, the woods and foliage is so thick that everybody misses it and there is a flurry of radio activity that makes us all sound like morons: "Nope you just passed it, back up and take the cut to the right. See my lights? No, that's the wrong cut, that goes down to the pond, take the next one. Don't you see my lights? Bring a monitor in when you finally get here. I'm a bit busy just now." The patient had a full blown MI working and thankfully did not die because we couldn't locate her home.

As important as it is to mark your house well, it is even more important to KNOW what your address is. More on that in the next post.

1 comment:

  1. Having worked in the country with poorly maintained house numbers, let alone street signs, I completely feel your pain. We had a separate EMS and Fire/Rescue systems (I was EMS only and we worked with multiple fire departments in the area), and I have to say, the best resource I had was the local fire departments (particularly the ones with the long hall volunteer firefighters that I occasionally wondered if they help found the department) who knew EXACTLY were the houses/odd streets were. The best department was the one with the guy who would stand out on the cross street and wave us down so we could find the street, let alone the house.

    That said, I work in a more urban (though not city) environment now and we have the SAME problem with house numbers. Bushes are my worst enemy, followed shortly there after by plain bad house numbers (why is it that pretty outweighs functionality), and small street signs. Map books are by far my friends even after several years and getting to know the area.