One rural Columbia County fire department is adding fuel to a project that not only makes residents safer but also helps meet firefighters' needs.
North Columbia Fire and Rescue's Sgt. Keith Shomber (left) and Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue Capt. Dino Cesarini demonstrate how address markers will be assembled. Firefighters hope that sale and installation of the signs will help them locate addresses in emergencies.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
North Columbia Fire and Rescue's Division 4, formerly the Winfield Volunteer Fire Department, is continuing its sale of driveway markers to make sure first responders can find homes when an emergency happens, said Dino Cesarini, captain of the volunteer Division 4 Chief and Martinez-Columbia Fire and Rescue.
"There's an old saying in the fire service, 'If you can't find it, look for the smoke and fire to find it,'" Cesarini said. "That is not true in the fire service anymore."
Cesarini said about 80 percent of America is rural and 80 percent of the department's calls involve medical cases, where firefighters are needed as first responders.
Locating homes in cases of emergency has become more difficult because there is no smoke signal to follow. The department's driveway markers leave a different trail to follow.
"We've had several recent incidents where we have had some difficulty locating a place, especially out here where people have long driveways and houses are spread far apart," Cesarini said. "We're talking about time that can be the difference between life and death."
The green driveway markers are customized to each address with 4-inch white reflective numbers on both sides. As a public service, Cesarini said, firefighters will install the markers at a location with the highest visibility at the entrance to a property owner's driveway. Mailbox address numbers are not sufficient, Cesarini said, because many times they are across the street from the home or they are lumped with other mailboxes.
"There's still a need," Cesarini said, despite the fact that the sale of driveway markers was started several years ago by Gordon Sparks, a former Winfield Volunteer Fire Department board of directors president. "There's still a lot of places out there that don't have proper identification and proper markings.''
Pam Tucker, Columbia County's Emergency Services Division director, said a county ordinance requires that home addresses be displayed in at least 3-inch letters on a contrasting color on a post, fence, wall, mailbox or other structure at the property line adjacent to the access driveway of the home. It must be visible from both sides.
Tucker said reflective numbers are not required, but she highly recommends them.
"On rainy dark nights, it really helps emergency -responders," Tucker said.
For all residences on private drives with more than one home, the address must be posted on the main road, then again at the access drive to the individual home.
"The biggest problem I am hearing is in mobile home parks," Tucker said. "They'll get to the right location, but them finding which mobile home in which a person is having a heart attack or whatever the issue is (is the hard part)."
Cesarini said residents of mobile home parks should place the marker in front of their mobile home. The markers can also be modified to have a lot number for those residents, instead of just the street address.
"We will do whatever we can to accommodate the needs of the community," Cesarini said.
Firefighters will install the markers from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to residents in the North Columbia Fire and Rescue district as a public service. Volunteers also will install markers for anyone outside the district, including Augusta and all neighboring counties, Cesarini said.
The $20 price of the markers, installed on a stake or onto a mailbox, mostly covers the cost of materials. A small amount of profit from the sale goes into the Division 4 Firefighters Fund. Cesarini said the fund pays for firefighters' needs, including jackets to wear to emergency scenes.
"We put the money right back into the community or it benefits the firefighters directly," Cesarini said.
Cesarini said anyone in need of a driveway marker should call Sgt. Keith Shomber, at Division 4 headquarters, at 541-0103.
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