ELMORE CO., AL (WSFA) - It's beginning to become an emergency on its own. Kowaliga volunteer firefighters like Lt. Dave McGirt often struggle to find the location in rural Alabama when responding to an emergency.
"When you're getting to the scene, now you're focused on helping, and if you can't find the address, frustrations start to build back up," McGirt said.
Case in point, not even a mile from the No. 1 Kowaliga Volunteer Fire Department, McGirt points to a home with a name but no numerical address on a mailbox or street curb. And that is a real problem, especially at night when it's pitch black.
"We got a driveway to the right, another driveway a little further, one that has a mailbox, both of which at this juncture I don't know if that's a driveway or a secondary entrance," he explained.
McGirt says they have trouble locating about 50 percent their calls. He recalled one particular incident involving a mobile home fire.
"I believe we would have saved a lot of their personal property if we had been three or four minutes faster," McGirt admitted.
He says GPS or Google is great for locating an address in the city but often times it doesn't work as well in the rural parts of the county where most of your volunteer fire departments are located. According to the National Fire Protection Association, volunteer firefighters make up about 70 percent of the total number of firefighters in the United States.
"Just Google searched an E-911 sign and you'll find it. They're just numbered sign like you see on the roads with a green background and reflective numbers. They're inexpensive," McGirt said.
The department has two stations, 12 active volunteers and they cover about a 20-mile radius, lots of territory to be responsible for but often made more difficult without visible numbers.