Reflective house numbers offered

June 04, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG - Capt. Sam Ginn of the Smithsburg Community Volunteer Fire Co. said there is an old joke about how to find a burning house in a rural area.

"They say you just drive down the road and you'll see the smoke - you don't need the address," Ginn said.

But to Ginn and other rural firefighters in the area, finding a home quickly during an emergency is no joke.

So starting May 1, Smithsburg has been offering residents in their areas reflective metal house number plates at a cost of $15. The plates are affixed to mailboxes or posts so house numbers can be spotted easily at night.


Often in rural areas, house numbers can be difficult to see because the houses are set back from the road, Ginn said. In the cases of long lanes, the numbers can be posted at the entrance of the lane so firefighters know when they have arrived at the right place.

"If we have to drive up and down a road two or three times to find a house, it could be too late," Ginn said, adding that large firetrucks aren't the easiest vehicles to turn around on narrow roads.

Ginn said Smithsburg has become a fast-growing area and developments are cropping up all around the town. Many times, ordinary addresses on mailboxes are too small, get dirty or fall off.

"Plus we are updating our map books constantly to keep up with the new roads and houses," Ginn said.

Firefighters in Mount Aetna and Maugansville also are offering the reflective house number plates for residents in their areas, Ginn said.

The large reflective two-sided number panel for out-of-town homes has white numbers on a green background. For in-town homes, house markers have dark letters on a white reflective background and can be mounted on porches or doors.

Both signs are fade resistant, pre-drilled and made up locally as soon as the order is received, Ginn said.

"We will even install them if necessary at no extra charge," Ginn said.

A nine-year veteran in the fire service, Ginn works as a firefighter at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., when he's not volunteering in his hometown of Smithsburg.

Ginn said the benefits of the program extend beyond putting up the house numbers.

"When we go out to someone's home, we are then available to talk escape plans, smoke detectors and other safety information with them," he said.

Since May 1, all the volunteers have been out selling the house numbers. Word is spreading quickly by word of mouth, and 20 already have been sold.

As people move and more homes are built, the fire company is prepared to continue to have the materials available to constantly update the process until all are on board.

"If we can't find you, we can't help you," Ginn said, and that's the bottom line for the house number project.

Order forms are available at many Smithsburg-area businesses or by calling the fire station at 301-824-2889.

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