Some rural homes are hard for first responders to find. WCSO program aims to change that.
FREEPORT — Not even delivery drivers can easily find Susan Rau’s house tucked off of State Road 20 on Tucker Town Road in the outskirts of Freeport.
A single driveway leads to a stretch of land where her home is located next to her sister's house, but neither have house numbers visible from the road. Rau said she has feared first responders might not be able to find their homes in emergencies.
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“My brother-in-law has Parkinson’s (disease) and we stay upset, worried about if they’re going to be able to get to him if we need them in a hurry,” Rau said.
A new community program for residents is now offering homeowners like Rau and her sister a little peace of mind. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Rescue installed the first of many home address signs on Tucker Town Road on Wednesday as part of the newly launched "Sign Up, Stand Out" program.
The green reflective signs display addresses in large white numbers to help first responders find homes more quickly. A $17,000 grant from the Emerald Coast Healthcare Coalition provided for about 1,000 signs, which are free to Walton County residents.
“Most don’t think of it,” Sheriff Michael Adkinson said. “But in the rural areas of the county, this need is critical. The Sign Up, Stand Out program is about protecting the residents of our community by providing them with a simple resource that can make a significant difference when it really counts."
Walton County Fire Rescue Chief Jeremy Radney dreamed up the idea after realizing many homes in the county, especially in rural areas, do not have house numbers visible from the road.
“When it deals with chest pain or any kind of heart attack or anything like that, time is precious,” Radney said. “They always talk about the golden hour when it comes to emergency services, and the quicker we find you, the quicker we get you a higher level of care, the better.”
Rau was born and raised in Freeport in the same home she lives now. The house was built facing the woods, and its location has caused Rau many problems over the years. People also often confuse her house with her sister's.
“The layout here is just a little confusing. You come in one driveway to go to both houses. UPS, FedEx, everybody is always so confused,” Rau said. “The grocery deliveries — nobody can ever find us.”
Now with the new signs installed, people will be able to locate them right away and clearly distinguish between the two houses.
“I think this is just going to be great because they can drive right here and see that they’re here at the right spot,” Rau said. “I already feel a little bit better about it just getting these up today.”
WCSO officials started the program by reaching out to people who are part of its Handle with Care and Safety Net programs to ensure those with special needs were identified.
Residents who feel they would benefit from the program can fill out a Sign Up, Stand Out form on the Walton County Sheriff’s Office's website at waltonso.org.
“If this goes well and we get all 1,000 of them, I plan on putting in for the same grant next year,” Radney said. “I’d like to see it at every house if I could.”