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Safety Experts Urge Compliance with House Numbering Code

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SOMERS, N.Y. - You can live in a town with the best firefighters, police, and ambulance crews in the world, but it won’t mean a thing if your house is ablaze or you’re having chest pains and they can’t get to your address as quickly as possible, Somers’ code enforcement officer says.

“As firefighters, our first responsibility is to get to you. If we can’t find you, we can’t help you,” Robert Russell, who is also deputy chief of the town’s Fire Prevention Bureau, said at a recent Town Board meeting where changes to the town’s house numbering requirements were being discussed.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a great tool for emergency responders, but, like a lot of technology, it’s not foolproof, safety experts agree.

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The town hopes to raise public awareness of the rules and is looking at ways to increase enforcement without unduly burdening homeowners and businesses.

An encounter with a code enforcement officer isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, Russell allowed at the Thursday, June 14, meeting.

But, as always, with house numbering or any issue, the emphasis is on “voluntary compliance,” Russell said, adding that it’s all about “encouraging rather than browbeating.”

“We try to gently remind them (residents and businesses) that this is for their own safety,” he said.

Town Supervisor Rick Morrissey, noting that he would like to see every house and commercial building have a number by 2021, asked Russell whether the volunteer fire department could help get the word out to the public.

The current code on house numbering was adopted by the town in 1993. Violators are subject to fines of $100 for each offense.

The rules are fairly simple: address numbers for houses and businesses have to be at least 3 inches high (the state code calls for 4-inch-high numbers) and be securely mounted on a front wall, porch or “fixed appurtenance,” such as a post or mailbox.

But it doesn’t help if the address is on a row of mailboxes, at the mouth of a long shared driveway, and the entrances to the individual properties aren’t numbered, or the signs have faded and/or been obscured by shrubbery, Russell said.

A lot of homes in Somers have setbacks of at least 25 feet, Russell said. And it’s not easy seeing 3-inch-high numbers from that distance at night, especially in the rain.

Walking to the back of the meeting room, he held up a dollar bill, which is 6 inches long. He further illustrated his point by displaying, 3-, 4- and 6-inch-high numbers on a board.

It isn’t just police, firefighters and EMTs who would like to see some changes made.

As a school bus driver and volunteer firefighter, John Wahlers is very familiar with the main drags and back roads of Somers.

But even he can occasionally get tripped up by improperly or absent house numbers when he’s picking up or dropping off kids from school, he told the Town Board.

“If you make a mistake, it’s really, really hard turning that 3,000-pound monster around,” said Wahlers, referring to his big, yellow school bus.

For more details on the current house numbering code, check out https://ecode360.com/11112248.

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