‘Someone will die’ Omakau firefighters call for better street numbering

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Numbers game . . . Omakau Volunteer Fire Fighters are calling for better street numbering in the town so emergency personnel like Travis Jolly, left, Adam Rubie, centre, and Leah McCabe, right, can attend callouts efficiently. PHOTO: ALEXIA JOHNSTON

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ives are at risk in Omakau.

A lack of mailboxes and street numbers displayed at gates and driveways has meant attending an emergency can be like finding a needle in a haystack for the Omakau Volunteer Fire Brigade.

The town does not have a door-to-door mail delivery service, which has made mailboxes redundant, and not many dwellings have the street number displayed at the gate in a situation where being a number counts.

Chief fire officer Lloyd 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.

Instead, the crew was given a Rapid (rural address property identification) number or street address from the communications department.

Neighbouring township Ophir, just 2km from Omakau, has Rapid numbers.

The same goes for properties 200m from the Omakau town boundary.

Mr Harris said the situation was a concern and he hoped it would be rectified.

In some cases, a person at the house where help was needed was asked to stand in the driveway to alert emergency services, but that was not possible for someone who lived alone.

Mr Harris hoped a group might devise a project to improve the situation, but believed it was also up to individuals to put their street number within view ofthe road.

‘‘If they do that it saves us a lot of hassle.’’

Mr Harris said people need to follow the address that was on their rates bill, not their PO Box number.

Some people were also confused about what street they lived on if their house was on a corner, he said.

‘‘Whatever your rates says is what your address is.’’

St John Central Otago territory manager David Baillie echoed Mr Harris’ concerns.

‘‘When we receive a call out, it is vital that we accurately locate our patients as quickly as possible, especially if someone is in a lifethreatening condition.

‘‘If a rural address is not easily identifiable, it can delay our response time and patient outcome.’’

He said when someone calls 111, St John’s emergency call handler asks them a series of important questions to understand the nature of the emergency and triage it appropriately.

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

For that reason it was important for all households to be identifiable, he said.

‘‘One of the best ways of helping our ambulance crews find a rural address is to have a visible number on the roadside.’’

He said if there was no clearly marked letterbox or fencepost visible from the road, the rapid number system should be used.

However, that was not available in the Omakau township.

He said, in an emergency, someone from the property should park a car at the end of the driveway and turn on the vehicle’s hazard lights and if it was late at night, turn on all the lights in the house.

Trees and bushes should also be trimmed back so they do not obscure a street-level house number.