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Rescuing House Numbers in Whiteville, N.C.

If you’re sad when the pizza delivery driver has a hard time finding your home, imagine how you’ll feel when you see the ambulance drive past as you wait for the rescue of a loved one or maybe even yourself. Is your house number visible from the street, illuminated at night, visible when approaching from either direction?


In Whiteville, N.C., junior members of the Whiteville Rescue Unit noticed a problem after an ambulance was struck by another vehicle during an emergency response. A junior member of the rescue squad riding in the ambulance watched as the ambulance was struck in its rear by an approaching vehicle during the crews’ efforts to locate the patient’s driveway.


Following the incident, Whiteville Rescue Unit junior members came together and brainstormed, looking for a solution to help responders find homes and driveways and get help where it’s needed, faster. It was then that they decided to order, design and create higher-visibility house number signs and sell them to the community to raise funds.


EMS World recently had the opportunity to meet with junior members Jayla Cobbs, Julie Garcia, Ashlan Tyler, Chase Soles, Malik Washington, and Darryl King. The group is lead by two brothers, Brian King and Jody King.


After the ambulance accident, says Brian, the high-visibility address signs program began. Brian is proud of his group’s efforts.


“It was completely driven by junior members,” he says.


Soles knows firsthand what can happen during an emergency response with hidden or obscured signs.


“Some homes can be really hard to find,” he says.


With slogans such as “Help Us Help You!” and “When Seconds Count, Count On Us!,” the junior members offer signs to their entire community. Tyler says that they advertise the signs through fliers and signs, make the signs in the station, and then install them at the houses in the community.


With the help of their group leader, the members order supplies in bulk which they keep at the station. Each sign is customized for each resident that orders a sign. Junior members create each sign by hand, using blue reflective metal and numbered stickers. When bought in bulk, the raw supplies cost the group roughly $7.85 per sign. Each sign is specially prepared (including installation) for a $20 fee. Since starting their project, the Whiteville Rescue Unit has made over 153 signs, collecting over $3000. The sale of their reflective address markers has already helped the group raise over $1800.


Cobbs says they take great care to create a quality product.


“We use the stencils to make sure when we add the numbers, they are all evenly spaced,” she says.


Soles says, “There are several different stencils, so we can make a sign for just about anybody.”


Next, the sign is taken to the resident’s home, where the sign is installed with the post box, or on a member-installed metal post.


While junior members acknowledge the process can be time-consuming and difficult to get the word out to the entire community, they collectively agree that it’s incredibly rewarding to hear from residents sharing stories about how much it has helped them, for more than just emergency responses.


Seeing their hard work going to good use gives them a deep sense of pride.


“It takes some time to do this project, but it really helps,” Garcia says.


Finding houses is critical during emergencies, and their project directly helps prevent delays in responders getting to the scene for life-saving care.


The junior members have already begun seeing the benefits of blending a community project with fundraising, with monies raised going right back into their program to help the group to participate in competitions, annual trips, and other programs.


Leader Brian King notes that the signs are not the only ways the members are involved with outreach.


“Our juniors and department also partner with Celebrate Recovery, which is a drug, suicide, and depression crisis team,” King says.


Junior members share packets of information and phone numbers when they are on emergency responses so community members can learn about and access the Celebrate Recovery program. Junior members also take information to school, ready to offer assistance should they encounter someone needing help.


The next step for most of the junior members will be aging into their EMT training. Brian was quick to mention many already have bloodborne pathogen and HIPAA training under their belts. Despite the inherently temporary nature of their junior status, the group as a whole confirms the high-visibility sign project is here to stay, with members intent on passing the torch to future generations.


Sarah Bowman, NRP, MCHS, PA-C, is a physician assistant at Columbia Valley Community Health in Wenatchee, Wash., and a recent graduate of the University of Washington School of Medicine MEDEX Northwest physician assistant program. She has worked as a paramedic in Alexandria, Va., and began her career as a volunteer EMT with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. Sarah has experience as a paramedic, physician assistant, and EMS educator. Follow her on Instagram (@thepracticingpa) for more.

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