May 17, 2018 500 AM
A matter of life and death
PRESIDIO — In an age where smartphones come equipped to detect location before you can utter the word “map,” it’s rare to not know where you are. But these far reaches of West Texas represent a final frontier in more ways than one, including in the ability to get lost. For many who live here, that’s one of the biggest draws. For the city of Presidio’s Police Department and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), it’s become a real problem.
“You’d be surprised how many times you get a call from somebody and they don’t know their address,” said city of Presidio police chief Marco Baeza. “They don’t know what their house number is.”
In 2008, Presidio passed a city ordinance requiring that its residents post numbers on houses and structures with penalties up to $200 for those in violation of the ordinance. Yet, many have failed to comply with these regulations. In recent years, as the city’s population increases, and as the city’s EMS experiences increasing turnover, first responders have struggled to locate houses in emergency situations.
“In a true emergency, a medical emergency, a fire, those four or five minutes can be the difference between life and death,” Baeza said. “If it’s an active shooter, if it’s a drowning, poisoning, heart attack, those two or three minutes are so important.”
He added, “Being so far away from the hospital, being low on manpower and having a volunteer fire department, every little bit that we can become more efficient, counts.”
In cooperation with the EMS, Baeza hopes to raise awareness within the city and encourage residents to attach numbers to their houses. Later this year, he and other city officials will organize a series of awareness campaigns, including the distribution of a pamphlet that will provide specific information to the public on how to properly post their house numbers, including the size of the numbers and where to display them.
But the number itself might only be scratching the surface of a bigger problem. Tom Griffith, who works as the 911 GIS coordinator for the tri-county area, said that part of the issue is what he referred to as “bad addresses.”
“Oftentimes, there’s been cases of one home having three addresses,” said Griffith. “There’s one that was assigned by the city at some time, and then the utility company would assign another address, and the phone company would assign another address, which you can imagine if you’re a resident, gets confusing.”
Another problem specific to the city of Presidio, according to Griffith, is one of street signage. “I know they’re working on it,” said Griffith, “but their street signage needs some work.”
Marisa Quintanilla, the Regional Services Director for the Rio Grande Council of Governments, who oversees Griffith, explained that since the governmental entity does not have funds to pay for street signs, the responsibility falls upon the city itself. In the past, street signs have been stolen from Presidio. As a result, signage has often been inadequate, and further contributed to the problem of knowing one’s address.
However, the issue can simply be remedied by contacting the 911 GIS coordinator office directly. “They can contact the office either by phone or email or physically come by and clarify what their address is supposed to be. If it hasn’t been assigned, then I’ll assign it,” Griffith said. “Oftentimes, they already have an accurate 911 address but they have been using the wrong one. So we try to help them out.”
He added, “If they need a letter sent to a utility company, I can help it with them. We try to work together.”
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Don’t know what your official address is? Give Tom Griffith, the area’s 911 GIS Coordinator for the Rio Grande Council of Governments a call at 432-837-7199, or drop by his office at Centennial School in south Alpine, 500 W Ave H, Room 115.