Disaster Preparedness Training: Emergency Units Planning

Seconds count in any emergency situation. Here are ideas for planning emergency units in your neighborhood.

When the 911 emergency system first became available, it was hailed as a tremendous step forward in emergency notification. No longer would we have to memorize different seven digit numbers for police and fire departments, nor would we have to depend on an operator to make the time-consuming emergency connections. One simple number would put us instantly in touch with a trained dispatcher who could mobilize the proper help within seconds. Indeed, the 911 system has saved many lives simply because of the time saved through efficiency. Later improvements to 911 have enabled emergency personnel to get complete street address and contact information as soon as the call arrives.

But despite all of these tremendously beneficial improvements in the dispatching side of emergency services, your rescue still depends on how fast that police car or firetruck can find your location. Are you confident that your home can be found by emergency workers with minimal assistance? Here are some ideas to consider that will make sure your home is emergency-ready.

1. Is your 911 address correct? This is the address that will be displayed on the computer monitor at dispatch headquarters. Some residents who live in unincorporated annexes may discover that the address found at 911 is not their mailing address. When the 911 databases were being compiled, certain street addresses had to be changed to reflect the official street designation, not necessarily the name you have become accustomed to using. Check with your local police on a non-emergency line to verify that your 911 address is indeed correct, and make note of any changes in address information. The drivers should still be heading to your precise location, but merely using a different address designation.

2. Can your street numbers be seen clearly? Many residents elect to purchase very elaborate number plates for their homes. Some can be very easy to read from the street, while others may be very stylized or otherwise difficult to read. Drivers of emergency vehicles will often find the street first, then start scanning house numbers for the correct address. Houses with missing or obscured numbers can slow this process down, so even if your house is not the one in need of service, you still need to provide legible house numbers.

3. Is your house number visible on a mailbox or street curb? If you cannot make the numbers on the house more visible, then you can still make the numbers on a standing mailbox more plain. If this proves troublesome, then at least make sure that the street curb numbers have been painted clearly.

4. Did you provide enough details to the dispatcher? If your home is difficult to find under the best of conditions, be sure to give some landmarks or other distinguishing features to the dispatcher. If your house is behind another house, be sure to tell the dispatcher. If your apartment is tricky to find, give some directions to the dispatcher.

5. Can someone help guide the emergency crews to your home? During a fire, everyone should already be out of the home and standing together at a safe distance. Someone should be assigned to watch for the emergency crew's arrival, and be prepared to wave them into the area or point out the best access to the fire itself. Smoke can obscure addresses and landmarks, making it difficult for firemen to pinpoint the location. Swing a flashlight, wave a shirt or point out the driveway closest to the fire.

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