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Public Works Blog

In an emergency, don't let your address delay help from reaching you

Posted On: January 15, 2019

It’s a simple question but one that may not get asked enough:

When seconds count, how easily will emergency responders be able to find your home?

In an emergency situation, seconds can feel like minutes. That’s why it’s important to evaluate how effectively your home is addressed.

Start by walking to the end of your driveway, to the road from which your home will be accessed by an emergency vehicle. Picture your home as an emergency responder, who may be trying to reach you in a variety of circumstances, including during the dark of the night or in heavy rains, snow or smoke from a wildfire.

Then ask yourself these three questions:

1. Is your address posted in a location that will hinder responders?

Chelan County code states that for residential properties located less than 50 feet from the primary road, the address assigned must be displayed on the side of the structure facing the road.

For those properties that are 50 feet or more from the primary road, or for buildings not visible from the road, the address number must be posted at the access point on the owner’s property. So if your home is more than 50 feet back from the road, or if your home is obscured by trees or a fence, you will need to have your address at your driveway entrance.

As a side note, please remember that a “grouping” or “listing” of addresses in your development may look nice, but it does little to get a responder directly to your home if you don’t have the address on the side of your structure or at your driveway access. The same concept holds true for a shared driveway.

2. Are there any bushes, trees or other obstacles blocking emergency responders from seeing your address?

If you have a bush or shrub growing over your address, cut the foliage back. Get those obstacles out of the way. While our landscaping may be important to us, do not let it hinder your safety.

And make maintaining your address a priority. If you lose a number in a windstorm, promptly replace it. Emergencies seldom happen at a convenient time. 

3. Do the numbers on your address stand out on your home in the day and night?

Chelan County code requires that address numbers be a minimum of 4 inches in height and be placed on a contrasting background in a location that can be easily identified from either direction of the roadside from which the address is assigned. So having white numbers on a white home may cost you some of those valuable minutes in an emergency.

One suggestion is to use reflective address markers that are sold by our local fire districts (Chelan County Fire District No. 1, Chelan County Fire District No. 3 and Lake Wenatchee Fire and Rescue).  The white-on-blue numbers are eye-catching for emergency responders, and their reflectivity stands out in the dark. The signs typically can be ordered online or at your local fire hall for a low cost. They also come in various styles, depending on whether you need a sign for your home or posted at your driveway.

An added benefit is that proceeds from the sale of the address signs go to support a district’s volunteer association and emergency efforts.

These are small steps that can go a long way in helping emergency responders locate your home without delay.


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