When Culverden farmer David Croft needed an ambulance, every second counted.
However, with no Rural Address Property Identification (RAPID) number on the gate and no directional signage on farm, ambulance staff had to “have a go” at locating the correct dwelling, while precious minutes were lost.
Today, David and wife Voray concentrate on the positive – David’s recovery and the shiny white and blue RAPID number on the farm gate and the directional signs that point to each dwelling on the property.
“We had thought that because our emergency services were staffed by locals, they would know where we would be, but that is no longer the reality,” Croft said.
Culverden Fire Chief Craig Ritchie said recent changes to emergency services’ structures meant local knowledge could no longer be assumed, with responders sometimes coming from other parts of the district – or even outside Hurunui.
“It’s one thing to find the main gate, and another to find the right dwelling on the property,” he said. “It’s not until you’re in the position of needing emergency services that you realise how vulnerable you are.”
Ritchie is a driving force in encouraging Hurunui’s farmers and lifestyle block owners to make sure emergency services can find them when time is crucial as part of a partnership between Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) and Hurunui District Council. Earlier this year, Council passed a resolution that all new rural properties, principal buildings and new accessways be provided with the correct RAPID numbers at the owner’s cost and installed by Council through fees and charges.
Council’s first dedicated Rural Address Property Identification (RAPID) officer Liz Atkins is working closely with Ritchie and the rural community to support rural property owners to correctly identify and display their RAPID numbers.
“Rural properties often have shared driveways with multiple dwellings. If we think how fast a rural fire can spread, or how quickly a medical emergency can escalate, it’s vital that valuable time is not lost by emergency services trying to locate the correct dwelling,” Atkins said. “This is why directional, lettered signs identifying individual buildings off a shared drive are just as important as the RAPID number on the main gate.”
Ritchie said RAPID numbers were the only solution, with GPS in rural areas not being able to pinpoint exact locations and non-reflective signs not showing up at night. “The RAPID system is the main method used by emergency services.”
Atkins said the work didn’t stop there. “It’s important that property owners keep their RAPID numbers free of vegetation to ensure they remain clearly visible, both day and night.”
It’s not just emergency services that are reaping the benefits. “We’re getting a lot of feedback from businesses and services, power and telecommunications companies, even couriers, that it’s saving time,” Ritchie said.