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In Snohomish County, a low-tech idea is helping first responders get to homes much faster during emergencies.

Aluminum sign poles with house numbers on them are the Monroe Fire Department s newest tool.

Rural areas account for more than 75% of its 55-mile coverage area.

There s some pretty obscure addressing. With the overhanging trees and the fog, it s tough to see especially at night, said Pete Parrish, a firefighter/paramedic.

First responders were getting lost, impacting their response time and delaying critical care to those depending on them. More than 85% of the calls in the district are medical-related.

It s quite frustrating, said Parrish.

A federal grant helped the department purchase at least 200 address poles. Average response times of 4-5 minutes were trimmed down at least a minute.

It could save lives, said Parrish.

Elsie Fulcher lives in rural Monroe and was one of the first to have a pole placed in front of her home. She recently had a scare when someone suspicious lurked on her property.

I was home alone, I called 911 and it took 40 minutes for the deputies. By that time the car had left, said Fulcher.

Deputies were circling around and couldn t find her house. According to Fulcher, the new pole gives her peace of mind.

Help will be there if I need it, she said.

The poles were so popular; the fire department ran out of them. More are available now at the Monroe Fire Department s Station 31 for free.

Firefighters can install them for residents, if they re physically unable to.

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