Mailbox Markings Put Residents In Danger

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

April 24, 2006

Firefighters in our area say they are having trouble finding people in distress because many residences aren't properly identified in their database. This is why mailboxes and how they are numbered can affect you.

"Coming through here, we know we are in the 400 block," said Battalion Chief John Oprandy of the Albemarle County Fire Department.

Oprandy combed one local neighborhood, looking for improperly marked mailboxes.

"This house here is tough to see," he said as he pointed to one residence. "There's no address on the house itself."

The way a mailbox is marked could be deadly during an emergency. It's the only way firefighters, along with emergency personnel and police, can reach you once you call 911.

"If you can think about that in advance, and work on trying to make it very easy for us to identify your house, then you'll know that we'll get there as quick as we possibly can," added Chief Oprandy.

The crews can get their quick if you follow their suggestions.

All buildings should have their mailboxes marked with numbers at least three inches in size. The color of the numbers should be in contrast with the background. If a building sits within 100 feet of the street, numbers should go next to the door.

"You know, it makes me concerned as a parent, that there would be a time issue if I needed them. If I need somebody in an emergency-- that they would not be here, so that's my immediate and only concern," said Mary House who lives in Albemarle County.

Mary's house is not the only problem slowing crews down. While the mom has cursive writing on her home, which takes too long to read, there are others who are doing it all wrong, too.

"We'll see small numbers, hand-written numbers on the mailbox, we'll see numbers missing off of the mailbox, and numbers that have been on the mailbox, or on the post for a number of years," said Chief Oprandy.

The numbers with a reflective backing work even better for crew during the night.

The Charlottesville Fire Department says they do not have the problem as bad as Albemarle County because their homes are closer together.

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