The new Lake Tapps incident locator program had its first successful test last month – and it wasn’t a test run.
On July 31, a boat carrying four people became disabled around 9:30 p.m. In order to get help, the boaters had to tell the 911 dispatchers where they were on the lake. They were able to read the numbers of a nearby locator sign to give dispatchers an accurate idea where they were on the lake, and emergency responders were able to locate and tow the boat to shore.
The Lake Tapps locator incident program is designed to save agency response time by giving emergency response teams a better picture of where they need to be on the lake or shore.
“Even if you are familiar with Lake Tapps, your perspective is different on the lake than on the shore,” said Rescue Deputy Chief John McDonald. McDonald said that even though there was no specific incident on the lake to prompt the program, quickly locating emergencies on the lake has been an ongoing problem for both the fire and police department.
Each parcel of land on the lake has its own unique location number associated with it. The number is not the same as the street address of the land, but fire and police departments can look up a property’s street address with its lake location number. While the fire and police departments have a layout of the lake location numbers, the signs are necessary for boaters, swimmers, and emergency response teams to physically locate themselves on the lake. The numbers start at Allan Yorke park, which is No. 1, and counts up clockwise around the lake.
East Pierce Fire and Rescue and Bonney Lake Police Department claim that this system will allow dispatchers to quickly verify the location of emergencies and emergency crews can respond more effectively by using preplanned routes to get to the emergency area. Additionally, both the fire and police department use the same system, which they claim will avoid confusion and increase their effectiveness during emergencies on the lake. The locator signs, which are colored brown and white, are mounted on a dock or post facing the lake, so boaters and swimmers can determine where in the lake they are. Lake-side residents can order their signs through the fire department online or at the station on Veterans Memorial Drive East. So far, the fire department has sold more than 100 signs, which cost $15 each.