WSAZ Investigates | Holding up Help
When an emergency happens, you dial 911 and hope help will arrive quickly.
"Being able to find you is the number one priority," said Chad Ward, Cabell County EMS shift supervisor.
He says the clock starts the moment a call is placed into the dispatch center.
But what you may not realize, is that something as simple as the way your address is displayed could add seconds or even minutes to the time it takes first responders to get to you.
"That can be the difference of whether we find you quick or we find something quick and stop it," Ward said.
Officials say it's precious time you may not have to lose.
"If you need us there and you need us there now, we have to be able to find where you are," Ward said.
He's talking about house numbers. Cabell County ordinance requires clear, visible house numbers and on commercial buildings.
"People need to have their addresses on their front of their house or on their mailbox," said Andrew Frazier. "Anything that they can do can seriously help get the resources there that is needed."
It's a homeowner's responsibility to make sure they're maintained. No fading, peeling or missing numbers. It's recommended you display big, bold numbers that are well lit.
"Some houses don't have numbers," said Justin Antle, deputy chief with the Huntington Fire Department. "Some aren't marked. Not everyone is outside to help us wave us down."
Driving through neighborhoods, we found home after home with addresses that were anything but easy to read.
"Sometimes things aren't cleared off as they should be," Antle said. "Sometimes the leaves and tree limbs aren't cut back enough. Sometimes, frankly, people don't have their address and they don't think about it. Until they need us or EMS or police department."
Even during the daytime it can already be hard to see certain numbers just based on their size, color and placement.
Fast forward to nighttime and those small, hard-to-spot addresses become nearly impossible to see.
"Even though we do have computers it does help a lot, to look at the house number," Antle said.
Crews say while many addresses may be visible to postal workers, most people don't think to plan ahead for a life changing emergency.
"They've known the mailman for years," Ward said. "He has no problem, he knows exactly where he's going or what number that is, even if there's no number. We don't. We don't go out there every day."
Addresses aren't always logical either.
"If the house number is 11, for some reason it's between 13 and 16," Ward said.
Firefighters say not every fire is easy to spot from the road.
"We have certain addresses we know by heart," Antle said. "The Marshall buildings, apartments downtown. There's new businesses that change names."
Those moments weigh heavy on the hearts and minds of those racing to your home.
"That can just be a desperate sinking feeling, particularly in EMS as the problem worsens and things are going downhill, they will keep calling back," Ward said. "Your level of anxiety is building up. I'm in the right area I should be finding this."
The green double sided reflective signs can be purchased from the Barboursville Volunteer Fire Department for relatively cheap.
When you call dispatchers, make sure to give as much information as possible.