Address numbers on a house, curb or mailbox, or a lack thereof, can cost precious minutes, according to city officials.
"A lot of the times, there's not actually an address on the house. It slows your response time on dealing with an emergency," said Kevin Coffelt, assistant fire chief for the Fulton Fire Department. "We like to see the address in three-inch numbers and make sure they don't mix in with the color of the house."
For emergency responders, finding specific addresses can be difficult if the numbers are not clearly visible from the street, Callaway County Commissioner Randall Kleindienst said.
"It's just common sense that somebody would have a number that anyone can read in case of emergency," he said. "We preach so much about our road signs because people destroy them and steal them. It's all fun and games until emergency people try to find your house, and they're gone; house numbers are similar to road signs in that sense."
The county has no official ordinance to mandate how address numbers are to be shown, but Kliendenst said it is recommended that those living on a county road mark their mailbox numbers with contrasting colors and be visible from up to 50 feet away. Reflective numbers are ideal, he added.
The city of Fulton, however, has an ordinance to inform residents of the standards for visibility of address numbers.
"It is made a duty of the owner of each house or building in the central business district which abuts an alley to keep and maintain the number so established on such house or building in numerals at least three inches high in contrasting color to the mounting surface, at a place where it shall be clearly visible from such alley," the ordinance states.
Bill Johnson, Fulton director of administration, said resident compliance to the ordinance helps emergency responders effectively do their job.
"It's very important if you're in an emergency situation and responders need to find your house," he said. "Emergency responders can get close, but if you don't have numbers clearly visible, precious minutes will be wasted."
Major Roger Rice of the Fulton Police Department said having contrasting colored numbers from the color of the house is helpful, and a lack of contrast has been an issue to responders in the past.
"It can be a problem, but generally we can figure it out. A lot of people paint their numbers on the curb which is really easy to see," he said. "Some people paint over the numbers which makes them really difficult to see."
Kleindienst said non-visible numbers aren't only a smart and safe practice but could be lifesaving.
"We encourage everyone to make sure they have a legible address because their life could depend on it," he added.