New Map Book Speeds Response Of Fire Apparatus
How many times have you responded to an emergency call, address in hand, and still spent valuable time creeping down the street trying to locate the correct house? The house doesn’t have a house number on it or it is in such a place that it isn’t easily seen. This has probably happened more times than you care to rememeber.
The Woodhaven, Mich., Fire Department solved this problem by using subdivision plat books available in the city’s building department, a copier that reduces, and diligent work from fire department personnel. Our dispatcher now has at his fingertips an address book containing all the residential streets and apartment complexes in our city.
The Woodhaven Fire Department consists of one full-time chief and 35 volunteer members. We are located 22 miles south of Detroit along 1-75. We provide fire and EMS services to an area of 6.6 square miles with two stations. Our city experienced the same building boom in the mid 1970s as most other suburban cities did. It was a result of this boom that created a need for such a map.
Once the task was undertaken, it was divided into the following three steps: retracing of the subdivision plat books, supplying accurate addresses, and the reducing of the maps to a workable size.
We retraced the subdivision plat books on tracing paper to give us an original size map to work with. This also removed the engineering gibberish that is normally contained on a plat map. One of our members had access to a blueprint copier which supplied us with even more working copies.
Once the maps were retraced we spent many hours filling in the correct current addresses. We were fortunate that our building department was able to supply us with most of them. The ones that they couldn’t supply were found by going from house to house recording the addresses. We found that a small tape recorder or dictating machine was very helpful with this task. It allowed us to go hack to the station and add the addresses to the map in a controlled environment. We also spent time recording all the hydrants for use on the maps.
To verify that our addresses were accurate, we requested a listing of all the addresses on our city’s water department file. We then compared the listings to the map for accuracy. Where discrepancies were found, we again went out to the home in question and physically verified the address. We were surprised at the number of addresses that were incorrect on the water department’s listing.
When all addresses were recorded and verified, and the hydrants indicated on the maps, the final step was undertaken. We had to reduce these large maps down to an 8 ½ X 11-inch sheet and still keep them readable. Some pages were reduced into sections, spliced together and reduced again. The maps covering very large areas had to be reviewed for logical breaking points. Once all the maps were reduced down to the final size, they were placed in logical order and numbered.
We then developed an index by street name, beginning address, ending address, page number and station number. By using the beginning and ending address, page number and station number, we were able to further isolate an address for a street that overlapped more than one map. At this point the only thing left was to place it into operation. This occurred after the chiefs approval.
Our dispatcher now advises the first responding unit exactly where the house or apartment is. He can advise a responding engine where the best hydrant is. We have found that we are no longer in the dark.
The address book has helped to improve our overall performance and we hope to find other ways of using it. We are only limited by our imagination regarding possible future uses. Some of our police officers have made copies for their needs while on duty. With the maps broken up on different pages, new addresses can be added with minimal amount of effort. Additional copies can be made relatively easily. It’s a tool that doesn’t cost much, but will give you high returns.