Alarm Box: Make sure emergency responders can find you

    One of the primary goals of emergency first responders is a quick response time to the location where the emergency is taking place. This is something we strive for and is a source of pride for our department. A great deal of resources and training are dedicated to achieving this goal.

    Through a regional grant, both Ashland fire stations were equipped with a state of the art station alerting system that visually alerts our firefighter/paramedics before the radio system “opens” up the station and the specifics of the response are relayed by our dispatch center. This gives our crews a five- or 10-second head start on our responses. In many cases an additional 30 seconds, or even one or two minutes, doesn’t affect the outcome of a call a great deal.

    However, in some cases this window of time can make a profound difference in the outcome of the lives, property and environment involved. A free-burning structure fire doubles in size and energy release every minute. For an individual experience a cardiac, vascular or respiratory emergency, every second counts.

    Ashland Fire & Rescue meets its response time goals in Ashland a majority of the time. There are many factors that can affect our response time. One of those is something that everyone can help us with, address numbering. As you travel around Ashland over the next week or so, look at how many of the commercial and residential structures either don’t have address numbering, the numbers are blocked by vegetation or placed where they aren’t visible from the street. You will be surprised.

    Imagine you are responding to a report of structure fire or heart attack at 2:30 in the morning and know that your response time is critical. You have a mobile computer terminal in your fire engine/ambulance that displays your location but it doesn’t give real-time location information, being delayed by up to 20 seconds. How important is legible address numbering at that time?

    The Oregon Fire Code in Chapter 5 states that new and existing buildings shall have approved address numbers, building numbers or approved building identification places in a position that is plainly legible and visible from the street or road fronting the property. These numbers shall contrast with their background. When required by the fire code official, address numbers shall be provided in additional approved locations to facilitate emergency response.

    Address numbers shall be Arabic numbers or alphabetical letters, or letters. Numbers shall be not less than 4 inches in height and not less than 0.5 inch in width. Where access is by means of a private road and the building address cannot be viewed from the public way, a monument, pole or other approved sign or means shall be used to identify the structure. Address numbers shall be maintained.

    So please, help us help you. Maintain your address numbers such that they are visible and legible from the street on a contrasting background. Keep vegetation from obstructing the numbers. Can you see them from the street at night? If you can’t, neither can we. One day it could make a difference to you and your loved ones.

    The Alarm Box, a column with local public safety information, appears triweekly in the Tidings. John Karns is fire chief of Ashland Fire & Rescue. Email topic suggestions to

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