House Numbers Are Fire Safety Headache

In normal places, you don’t have to think very hard about your home’s street numbers and where to display them.  You put a set of numbers somewhere that’s visible from the street, and make sure the vegetation stays cleared from the numbers.  Then you’re all set for either first responders or everyday visitors.

In Montclair, this task just isn’t normal.  Around our homes, placing house numbers appropriately isn’t at all intuitive and has turned into a little guessing game.  As city fire inspectors  do their jobs, many residents have been notified to take care of their numbers and they are trying to meet standards.

Street Numbers Visible

Generally to be compliant, you need to display numbers that are close to the home as well as visible from the streets.  Fire Safety compliance rule #10 says you need to “provide street address numbers that are clearly visible from the roadside: minimum height 4 inches, in a contrasting color.”

“Making house numbers clear and visible helps [first responders] get to the right address as soon as possible.  The spread of a fire in a densely vegetated area can be very quick so every second counts,” declared District 4 Council Rep Jean Quan.

The main challenge relates to proper placement on homes. The ideal situation is to place numbers on the house and near the front door.  However many homes aren’t visible from the street, so numbers are attached to gates and fences which can be viewed properly from the street.  Both seem to be acceptable protocols.

“It’s smart to ask us to standardize – somewhat, depending on the physical characteristics of each property – the placement of house numbers, so they can protect us,”  said neighbor Sue Kahn, on the Montclair SIC’s Yahoo board.

For properties nestled between two streets, the degree of difficulty rises. “In the hills we often have two entrances on different streets and sometimes two addresses, it is very confusing,” explained Council Rep Quan.  “As someone who has walked to almost every house in my district I understand [the] concern.”

According to Montclarion John Rabold, “it’s clear to me that if a house’s legal street address is, say, 1234 Front Street but its back border is on Back Street, the visible address on the front of the house should be 1234 but any visible address on the back of the house should be 1234 Front Street.”

Keep on trying to comply. Today is another Red-Flag Day, a designation issued by the National Weather Service which means that high winds and low humidity continue to translate into high fire danger.  Anything we can do to protect our home fronts is serious business, so this house number talk isn’t mumbo-jumbo.

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