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First responders: Visible house numbers can make difference between life and death

A lack of visible address numbers on houses is adding precious seconds to their response times.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Time is of the essence for first responders when it comes to saving someone's life. But a lack of visibility of address numbers on houses adds precious seconds to their response times. 

First responders, like Derek Meyer of the Sylvania Township Fire Department, are having difficulty spotting the actual physical address number on houses. 

"If we're not able to see the address, it can become a time constraint for us and it slows us down," said Meyer, a firefighter and paramedic.

Ryan Sedlock, President of the Sylvania Fire Fighters IAFF Local 2243, said that this is a county-wide problem and it's happening in all types of neighborhoods.

Even with sophisticated computers and turn-by-turn directions, finding the right house isn't simple as it seems.

"We find houses with no numbers on them whatsoever or we find numbers that are very small. We've seen them recently in cursive writing too and when lighting conditions aren't good, we're out most of the time when it's dark," Sedlock said. 

If they can't find the right house, Sedlock said that they'll do a process of elimination or they'll even go banging on doors. 

Sedlock said that there's nothing in Lucas County's building code that states residential properties have to have numbers on it, however he recommends that homeowners help them out. 

Do's and Don'ts: 

  • Stay away from cursive
  • The bigger, the better
  • Use reflective numbers
  • Avoid painting them on the curb because they can covered by snow. 
  • Have a motion light
  • Display the number on your house or mailbox
  • Have numbers on both sides of mailbox

"The brain will survive without oxygen for four minutes so by the time that call comes in, we're behind the ball already. When we're talking about seconds, it's absolutely critical for us to get where we need to go," Sedlock said. 

In Wood County, the Bowling Green Fire Division also said this was an issue in certain areas. 

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