Missing house number could slow response in crisis event

A routine fire department exercise last week uncovered a problem that could have serious consequences in an emergency: houses and businesses in Hillsboro without visible address numbers.

?There are a lot places that don?t have an address posted on their building,? said Ben Steketee, the city?s fire chief and code-enforcement officer. ?Commercial and residential are required to have their address posted.?

Steketee said city code requires that address numbers be visible from the street. Violators would not be fined, he said, but it is a risk to inhabitants in an emergency situation.

?You might think, ?The postman knows where I?m located,? and that?s great,? he said. ?But when you call the ambulance or the fire department, you don?t want them having to figure out where you are.?

The issue arose during an otherwise routine fire-department training session last week.

?I try to get creative with fire drills to keep people interested and coming,? Steketee said. ?I wanted to do address drills so they know exactly where they?re going when the call comes in.?

He said he decided to model the drill on a scavenger hunt.

?I went to some hard-to-find addresses in Hillsboro and marked the hydrant with the appropriate number,? he said. ?I sent the firemen to that address, told them find the nearest hydrant and then radio me with the nearest number.?

If the volunteers found the correct hydrant for that location, they would be sent to the next address.

?That exercise flushed out a problem in Hillsboro?there are lots of places that don?t have an address posted on their building,? Steketee said. ?It?s a good idea to have those addresses posted where somebody can plainly see it.?

Steketee added that the exercise revealed that one commercial building had the wrong address posted.

?I?ll be visiting with that business owner to get that corrected,?? he said. ?That was a tough one, but I wanted to let (firefighters) know there are going to be addresses like that.?

Steketee said addresses on commercial buildings are important because you never know who will report a problem.

?If there?s an emergency, it?s not always people who live here in Hillsboro that are reporting the emergency,? he said. ?While most of the people who live here in Hillsboro would know that it?s XYZ?company, the visitor wouldn?t know that. All they?re going to do is look for an address and say, ?This is where I am.??

In an emergency, Steketee said, every second counts.

?If it confuses emergency services, that?s a problem. There are precious moments that we have to respond.?

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