Click photo to enlarge
Ornamental house numbers on a burning home in San Bernardino County, 2007.

Q Gary, Gary, Gary, Bad Mr. Roadshow! Your advice to Chie Tieu was terrible about painting address numbers on the curb in front of one's home.

Ray-the-Tow-Truck-Guy

A You mean the Tuesday column where Chie received a notice saying "76 percent of all 911 calls occur after dark" and "a curbside address number can help protect you and your loved ones." Chie asked if fire departments and police departments use GPS to locate addresses. Or are they still relying on painted curb address?

My police contacts said they usually use their patrol car's spotlight or GPS to locate address numbers on a house, so it isn't that important to have the numbers stenciled on the curb. Then other cops and emergency workers weighed in. So off we go.

Q Having worked patrol for many years, one of my pet peeves was the lack of curb or house numbers on many homes. The department I worked for did not have GPS on the patrol cars. Even in departments that use GPS, the GPS only kept track of where the patrol cars were. GPS did not direct officers to the correct address as in consumer GPS units.

Departments use CAD (computer-aided dispatch) to help send officers to a call. Dispatch receives a 911 call, takes the info and sends officers. The computer would automatically give the two nearest cross streets. It's up to the officer to know his assigned patrol sector to drive to and locate the correct address. The computer doesn't tell the officer whether the address is on the left or right side of the street.

You're right in that officers will use their patrol car spotlight to help find the address. But having spent 11 years working the midnight shift, I can't tell you how frustrating and time-consuming it is to drive down a street looking for a particular house and not being able to locate it quickly because the owners don't have a visible house number on the house somewhere. Curb numbers helped on more than one occasion. They do work.

Sgt. Ray Gee

SFPD Retired

A On that, you and many others agree.

Q Emergency responders don't solely use their GPS to locate a house. GPS is often incorrect and sometimes even have us on the wrong street. We ALWAYS verify a house via a house number before making contact. A painted curb number is the best way to do this.

Owner-applied house numbers are located haphazardly, often blocked by bushes, in disrepair, or so ornamental that they are hard to read. Painted curb numbers are in predictable locations and easily read, as long as they are regularly painted.

Regarding the use of spotlights to find numbers on houses, police and Fire/EMS responders often have different reasons for going to a house. Fire/EMS personnel are typically called by residents and are wanted there. Police are often called by neighbors and, in order to get close enough to hear what's going on before making contact at a house, we may not want the residents to know we have arrived. Therefore, we park a distance away and verify house numbers with as little light as possible. This is best done down at the curb.

Lastly, our vehicle's GPS often isn't available to us. If we have to exit out of our vehicles quickly for an on-view situation or get involved in something away from our vehicles, we use house numbers to let dispatch or other officers know where we are. Curb painted numbers are most easily located and read for these urgent situations.

So, please paint the numbers! Even better, paint them on both sides of the driveway and on the face and top of the curb.

Kevin Cassidy

San Jose PD

A Message delivered and you have convinced me. We'll have our address number repainted next time the paint guy comes around.

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