HIDDEN HOUSES: The overlooked item that could delay first responders

Published: Feb. 12, 2023 at 10:46 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) – On the streets of Jonesboro, first responders are on the hunt. Not for crime, but for a commonly overlooked thing that could delay them getting to you when you call 911.

We’re talking about house numbers.

“We may not always know where we are going,” Jonesboro officer Carma Butler said during a recent shift. “You truly never know when you’re going to have an emergency. You can’t plan an emergency.”

House numbers are critical for first responders getting to you.

Region 8 News anchor and investigator Chris Carter rode with Butler on a recent Friday night to see the problem firsthand.

“It is actually very often,” Butler said.

In neighborhoods full of homes, in many cases, first responders can’t see the numbers on them.

“When first responders miss your home because it is not properly numbered that is time delayed if we don’t know where we are going,” Butler said. “It is not easy to turn around buses, and EMS and fire trucks and some of our vehicles if we get on a narrow road, it is hard to get backed up and turned around to you.”

In many cases, Butler, and her partners, are looking looking for numbers on mailboxes.

They want those numbers to be visible and at eye level and most importantly on both sides of the mailbox, not just the side your mail carrier is coming from.

”If you’re coming from the west, that is great but if you’re coming the east side you may not see that,” Butler said.

For numbers on your home, they need to be near your front door and your porch light. Having well-marked house numbers doesn’t just help first responders find you, it is also the law in many communities.

In Jonesboro, the city ordinance requires all house numbers to be clearly marked on the home and visible from the street.

The numbers must be 3 inches in height, and they aren’t allowed to be spelled out.

The city of Gosnell recently reminded folks there of the need for numbers.

In the Mississippi County town, house numbers must be 4 inches tall and must be a contrasting color to your house. 911ready.org also wants to make sure first responders like Officer Butler get to you quickly.

They suggest using reflective numbers and avoid brass.

And especially black. You can’t see it at night.

You are also encouraged to remove shrubbery and decorations from around your numbers... and do not rely on numbers painted on the road.

Butler suggests you check to see if you can see your numbers for yourself.

”Go outside and look at your houses at night,” Butler said. “Walk to your neighbor’s house and see if you can see your mailboxes. What can I see. What can I not see.”

When you call 911, also do what you can to make sure those on the way know where you are no matter how identifiable your house numbers are. “Turn on your porch light on and say my house is this color and there are four bushes out front,” Butler said “It is the third one on the left or the fourth one on the right or what kind of vehicle is out front. Any describing factor.”

Something else Officer Butler mentioned is apartment complexes and new subdivisions not being clearly marked.

Under the city of Jonesboro’s code, proper numbering is required.

Fines for not having the numbers properly displayed start at $25 and go up to $100.