Lack of street numbers a worry for first responders

Official figures have the toll at 125 so far this year and that number did not include the death...
Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Alarm bells are ringing for emergency services in Omakau.

Omakau’s Chief Fire Officer Lloyd Harris fears lives are at risk due to a lack of street numbers, something emergency services rely on when attending a callout.

The town does not have a door-to-door mail delivery service, which has made mailboxes redundant, and only a portion of dwellings have the street number displayed at the gate.

Mr Harris said the issue was concerning, particularly as the brigade was a first responder to medical events, something which made up a large portion of its callouts.

"Someone will die just because they haven’t got a number there and we can’t find them."

Last year, the crew attended 64 medical events and three fires.

Although Mr Harris knew where most people lived in the area, personal details such as a person’s name were not provided to the fire brigade when it got a callout.

St John also relies on a street numbering system.

Central Otago territory manager David Baillie said it was "vital" St John staff could accurately locate patients as quickly as possible, "especially if someone is in a life-threatening condition".

If an address was not easily identifiable, it could delay St John’s response time and affect the patient’s outcome, he said.

"While our ambulance communications centres have the technology to locate the caller if they are using their mobile phone, our call handler will ask for the exact address of the emergency to relay to our frontline ambulance crews."

For that reason, it was important all households were identifiable, he said.

He said a clearly marked letterbox or fencepost were the best ways to help identify the address.

The rapid number system was also advised.

However, rapid numbers had not been rolled out in the Omakau township, despite Ophir, which was just 2km away, having them.

Mr Baillie said it was also helpful, in an emergency, if someone at the property parked a car at the end of the driveway and turned on the vehicle’s hazard lights.

"If it is late at night, you can turn on all the lights in the house.

"It is also a good idea to trim back trees or bushes that may obscure a street-level house number, so it is more visible from the roadside."

alexia.johnston@odt.co.nz

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