The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 12, 2012

Safety officials stress importance of visible house numbers

By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Something as simple as having a clearly visible address number on your house could make the difference between a happy ending and a bad ending when police officers and firefighters need to find your home.

Matt Westermayer, public safety deputy director, is reminding residents that it’s important to have house numbers that are clearly visible from the street. There hasn’t been a certain incident that prompted the warning, but situations where officers and firefighters have to take extra time to find a house happen more often than most people think, he said.

Fire codes require that numbers be visible from the street. So Public Safety officials recommend numbers that are at least 4 inches high and in a color that contrasts with the background. The best place to fasten them is next to the front door because that’s the spot officers and firefighters check first. If you have a mailbox on the street, the numbers should be on both sides of the box.

The numbers can shave seconds or even minutes off response times, Westermayer said. The number is often the only way officers can figure out where the trouble is. Flames don’t always make fire calls obvious, either. Dryer and oven fires aren’t always obvious and medical calls can be difficult to find without easily visible house numbers.

Westermayer said there have been times where he has responded to calls and spent valuable seconds running up and down a block attempting to figure out where help is needed.

“That’s one of the most frustrating things there is: Knowing that you're right there in the area and you can’t find it,” he said. “The whole time the seconds are ticking away and you’re trying to get there to do your job.

“The bigger the better. The more visible the better.”