Numbers Count In Emergency Response For Canadians

Written by Posted On Monday, 07 February 2005 16:00

Canadian communities spend millions on fast-response emergency services, but their citizens may be the greatest obstacle to prompt service delivery. A 9-1-1 call comes in and fire fighters or police are on their way, but can they find the right house or condominium? Time wasted searching for the street number of a house or hi-rise may have serious safety or medical repercussions for those in danger.

In Toronto alone, Emergency Medical Service annually transports more than 100,000 patients and Fire Services may respond to more than 10,000 fires and rescues. Arriving at the right address as quickly as possible is the greatest determinant of success in most cases.

How sure are you that your street number is clearly and easily visible from the street at any time of day? If your house number or building address is missing or hard to read, valuable time may be lost in an emergency. Regular traffic may continually be tied up on the street while those delivering anything from pizza or prescriptions to furniture search vainly for the right address.

Numbers should be placed near the main entrance and should be well lit or reflective for maximum visibility. Numbers on a sign post at the end of a lane way should be duplicated on the building in case snow or an accident damage or cover the post. Prune bushes or trees that might obscure numbers from the street.

Size matters according to the City of Toronto Works and Emergency Services Department. Don't let design and novelty distract you when selecting numbers. Remember that the further from the curb your main entrance lies, the larger the numbers must be to be clearly seen from the street, especially after sunset. The City of Toronto, which has approximately 435,000 addresses within its boundaries, has amended its Municipal Code regarding property numbering to ensure all businesses and residences can be easily found by emergency responders, delivery services and other visitors.

Since it is the property owner's responsibility to ensure the address is clearly visible from the street, you may want to review the setback-to-size correlation for your home and business. The City of Toronto suggests these criteria:

  1. Single Family Residential Properties

    • 15 metre setback - minimum 10 centimetres (4 inches)

    • 30 metre setback - minimum 20 centimetres (8 inches)

    • 60 metre setback - minimum 80 centimetres (32 inches)

  2. Commercial, Industrial and Multi-Unit Residential Properties

    • 30 metre setback - minimum 40 centimetres (16 inches)

    • 60 metre setback - minimum 80 centimetres (32 inches)

FYI: Most municipalities use a consistent numbering system that assists with address location. For instance, in Toronto, even numbers are usually assigned to the north and west sides of streets and odd to the south and east sides. On east-west streets, numbering begins closest to Yonge Street while those that run north-south are numbered from Lake Ontario, which marks the city's southern boundary.

Municipalities that approve large subdivisions or undergo amalgamations must also review street names to protect against duplication. The 1998 amalgamation of six former municipalities into the City of Toronto resulted in 96 street name duplications and four triplicate street names. For example, two streets carried the name Alexander Street -- one from the former municipality of Etobicoke and one from the former municipality of Toronto. A five-phase process of public consultation and naming policy will see this problem resolved by 2006.

Toronto's Surveys and Mapping section has developed and maintains Toronto Centreline Mapping (TCL) and One Address Repository (OAR), the official records for the transportation network, street names and municipal addresses within Toronto. Geospatial data within these applications is used by the Toronto Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services' 9-1-1 computer-aided dispatch systems -- the information 'backbone' for prompt delivery of emergency services.

Precision in numbering and identifying individual properties is essential to emergency service delivery where seconds matter. Municipalities continually attempt to improve their systems to ensure public safety. Can you count on your numbers to do that, too?

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