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2014-09-04

When every second counts ...

By John Stith BC Fire Marshal

Every year, approximately 15,000 calls relating to law enforcement, fire and EMS are dispatched through emergency telecommunication at the Bandera County Sheriff's Office. At approximately 800 square miles, the county includes both heavily and sparsely populated areas.
When 9-1-1 receives a call requesting assistance, a timely response is critical. Emergency personnel attempt to arrive and alleviate the emergency situation as quickly as possible. Factoring in the distances covered, Bandera County's first responders do an excellent job getting to the emergency scene when seconds count.
However, problems often arise when property owners fail to post their addresses clearly - or at all. In the later case, dispatchers must rely on subjective information, such as "... go past the dip in the road and look for a rock gate..." to direct emergency responders to the scene. This can - and often does - cause a delay in emergency services.
"Trying to give accurate directions in an emergency situation becomes difficult - especially when the emergency involves you or your family," said Bandera County EMS Director Calvin Plummer. "The time lost while searching for a correct address can never be regained when law enforcement, fire or EMS are responding to a emergency situation. Properly marked property can save valuable time - and lives."
Concurring with her colleague, Amber Chupp, Bandera County 9-1-1 supervisor, added, "The ability for emergency responders to go directly to the location of an incident becomes critical to saving lives and protecting property. We operate on the mantra 'seconds save lives.' Having to guess which driveway, house or corner lot to direct emergency crews to wastes those precious seconds."
To assist emergency responders provide the best possible care to county residents, it is urged that:
• Addresses be posted at the entrance to a property. Address placards are available through the county addressing office by calling 830-796-8343.
• Someone should be designated to meet arriving emergency personnel at the front of the property. On large properties, the residence is often located far from the entrance. Also, on winding ranch roads, direction signs or arrows pointing to the residence are helpful.
• Porch lights be turned on to illuminate the property.
• Codes to locked gates with keypads be filed with the sheriff's office. This information is kept in a database and only released to emergency personnel.
Additionally, the office of the Bandera County Fire Marshal has a program that allows property owners to acquire a lock accessible to all fire, law enforcement and EMS personnel with an access key. It is also possible to install a keyed access panel that ties into a property owner's electric gate that is also accessible to all emergency personnel.
This system offers an advantage over using an access code. Essentially, the emergency responder can "lock the gate open" and eliminate delays for access for additional responding emergency personnel.
Telephone for Fire Marshal John Stith is 830-460-8183 and Emergency Manager & 9-1-1 Coordinator Carey Reed is 830-796-8343.