WYNOT — When a call comes in for fire or rescue, the response time can literally mean the difference between life or death.
Quickly pinpointing a physical location can be difficult, especially in rural areas with dispatch often using landmarks to help guide emergency personnel onto a scene.
In the Wynot area, riverfront property and other residential developments add another complexity, said Cedar County emergency manager Kevin Garvin.
And that’s why he suggested that the Wynot fire district look into adding emergency medical services address signs to the rural areas of its district.
Heath Schmidt and Jan Anderson took the lead in the recently completed project that is the first of its kind in the county.
The project has already proven beneficial, said Laurie Schulte, the fire district’s vice president.
“There are so many cabins down there,” she said. “We don’t really know the names of people down there; that’s why EMS signs are so important for us.”
Each sign cost $40 and a total of 441 address markers were installed. Some quick math nets the total cost of the project at $17,640 although 93 residents offered to pay for their own sign when the EMT squad came to install the reflective, sturdy breakaway signs at the end of each driveway.
The fire district utilized money raised through its annual barbecue benefit from the past several years. Those wanting to pay for their own sign can still donate if they wish, Schulte said.
“We’re always trying to figure out projects that we can do with our fundraising money to give back to the community. Kevin thought this would be a great place to put it that would benefit not just the ambulance but fire, too,” Schulte said.
The project proved to be much more difficult than just acquiring signs and sticking them in the ground.
An EMS address does not always correspond with the mailing address, which caused some confusion, and all the addresses had to be verified. Schmidt went through all of the addresses within the fire district that needed signage.
Garvin found that new addresses had to be created for many of the new buildings in the area.
Once they had all of the addresses compiled, the Diggers Hotline had to be notified before signs could be installed.
“Many of those addresses Diggers Hotline did not have, so we had to physically tell them where they were from Google Maps,” Schulte said. “They would have Google Maps pulled up on their computer and we would do the same. It was about eight hours on the phone to do that.”
Many hours were put in by Garvin, Schmidt, Anderson and Stevie Holmes to complete the project that took about six months from start to finish.
“It really was a team effort,” Schulte said, from those who organize and prepare the barbecue fundraiser every year to those who scrutinized addresses and installed the signs on this latest project.
Although the project turned out to be more work than originally expected, it’s already worth it, Schulte said.