Monday, April 08, 2002

Beacons signal home emergencies




By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

        TAYLOR MILL — Police are responding to your 911 call. But your house numbers are not visible from the street. Police and ambulance crews are losing crucial seconds searching outside while the emergency continues inside your home.

        In nearly 15 percent of the police calls in Taylor Mill, emergency response delays are created when homes don't have clearly visible address numbers, according to Police Chief Steve Knauf.

        Taylor Mill is the first Northern Kentucky municipality to obtain newly developed flashing beacon lights for residents to install outside their homes to shorten police response time.

        This idea was developed by the chief, with City Administrator Jill Bailey and Fire Chief Dennis Hal pin, to help responders get to those who need help more quickly.

        “This is basically a no-brainer,” said Chief Knauf, a nine-year veteran in the job, who tested and installed a beacon light outside his own home. “It just stands out big-time.”

        The Emergency Beacon Bulb is a 60-watt bulb with a computer chip in its base. It functions as an ordinary light until someone flips the light switch on and off twice.

        The bulb then emits a flashing light that at night can be seen for up to four city blocks or nearly one mile in the country, according to Jerry Walkos, president of the bulbs' manufacturer, Response Technology Corp., based in Stafford, Va.

        Ken Moser, 80, bought an Emergency Beacon Bulb because of a past emergency.

        “I needed to use the ambulance; my wife broke her leg once,” said Mr. Moser, who lives on Taylor Mill Road. “Last time, (the ambulance) went right past my house.”

        Mr. Moser said that having the light makes him feel more secure, though he hopes he never has to use it.

        The city originally ordered 20 bulbs at $10 each, paid for out of the city's general fund. The bulbs flew off the shelves after the city's March newsletter announced their availability, Chief Knauf said.

        The city ordered another 50 bulbs last week. Mr. Knauf said he would try to add money to the city's crime prevention budget to get more bulbs after July 1, the start of the city's new fiscal year.

        “I think it's a really important thing,” said John Calhoun, president of the National Crime Prevention Council in Washington, D.C. “There are both pragmatic and social reasons for it. It's easy and I think it gives people a sense of comfort.”

        The bulbs cost $10 for Taylor Mill residents, but are free for victims of domestic violence, those with known medical conditions and those who are in the police department's “Because We Care” program, a check-in program for solitary elderly Taylor Mill residents.

        Mr. Walkos said the bulbs could also be used in urban neighborhoods to scare off drug dealers or for the elderly to alert neighbors if they need help.

        In Ohio, Hamilton County Sheriff's office officials said they had not heard of the beacon light and did not have a program in place.

        Fire Chief Halpin said his crews — Taylor Mill firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians — miss addresses nearly 15 percent of the time.

        Chief Halpin, a fire chief for 16 years, has had trouble locating homes in emergencies, he said, citing shrubbery, subdivisions with mailboxes placed at intersections and “flag homes,” homes stacked behind each other, as reasons why emergency squads could lose up to 10 minutes of response time.

        “The more prevention you do, the better off you are.”

        How to get an Emergency Beacon Bulb

        • Where: Taylor Mill Police Department, 5227 Taylor Mill Road.

        • When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

        • Cost: $10.

        • Information: (859) 581-1192.

        • Miscellaneous: Non-Taylor Mill residents or those who can't make it to the police department can buy the bulb off the Internet from Response Technology Corp. at http://www.emergencybeacon.com

        About the bulb

       • Response Technology Corp., the only U.S. manufacturer of the Emergency Beacon Bulb, has been making the bulb for three years.

        • 60,000-100,000 Emergency Beacon Bulbs are distributed annually.

        • Bulbs are in use in every state.

        • Heaviest distribution is in Florida and Arizona.

        • National Crime Prevention Council endorses Emergency Beacon Bulb.

        • Bulb visibility in daylight: 300 yards.

        Source: Response Technology Corp.

       



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