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Houses without numbers can create problems in emergencies

By Trina Trice

Most people have experienced the frustration of driving by a friend's house or a business because the address is not clearly displayed.

The problem can be more serious when an emergency situation arises.

"From the law enforcement view point, it poses a severe problem in time of emergencies," said Capt. Jeff Turner, public information officer for the Clayton County Police Department. "As we come up to that street and can't find the numbers on the house or the mailbox, it happens quite often."

Turner said it is especially hard for police officers who work the early morning shift because it is dark outside.

"We're losing valuable minutes when we can't find the house," Turner said.

And valuable radio time, said Steve Ward, lead dispatcher for Henry County 911 Dispatch.

"If you call to have an officer or fireman (answer an emergency call) and they can't find the house, we're trying to dispatch to it, but (the public safety official) keeps holding up the radio trying to get to the house."

The United States Postal Service encounters the frustration, too.

"We certainly encourage our customers to display their numbers in some manner, whether it be on their mail boxes, affixed on the residence, or painted on the curb," said Michael Miles, spokesperson for the South Atlanta Post Office.

Bob Johnston, 87, lives on Jodeco Road and regrets that his address is no where to be found. But Johnston hasn't had any problems with deliveries, he said.

"It just looks like I haven't got time to look into it," he said. "It seems a shame that I don't do it. I'm sorry that I haven't put up the numbers. The postman could require it, I think. But (his mail carrier) bears with us."

Miles asserts that the post office doesn't require an address be visible, but it does help.

"The key to delivering mail is having the correct address," he said. "It becomes critical (to have addresses clearly displayed) when we have a substitute carrier on a route, sometimes they're not certain where the mail is supposed to be delivered to. If it's not clearly displayed, it could very well result in the mail being delayed."

Both Henry and Clayton counties have ordinances requiring the owners of residences and businesses to display their individual street addresses. Each county's Code Enforcement Department enforces the ordinance when necessary.

For new buildings, including houses in a new subdivision, "the building inspector is supposed to make sure there is an identifiable number" on the house, said B.J. McGaughey, chief code enforcement officer for Clayton County.

In Clayton County, the address must be visible for a distance of at least 150 feet.

For residences, the address, placed within 15 feet of the street, should be displayed in figures at least three inches high on a contrasting background that allows visibility, day or night.

If placed beyond the 15-foot limit, the address must be displayed in figures at least six inches high.

Any Clayton County resident violating the code, would be charged with a misdemeanor and could be fined no less than $25.

The code is similar in Henry County, but offers more specifications for residences that can't display an address on a mailbox.

For instance, for houses within, or more than, 100 feet of the street or roadway should use 3 inch light-reflective numbers with contrasting background. The same rule applies to Henry County businesses.

Anyone in Henry County found violating the code could be punished in magistrate court by being charged a fine up to $500 and/or required to serve 60 days in jail for each separate violation.