Hammond said the illegal signs could make it very difficult for EMS to find an address and could ultimately cause the death of someone suffering a heart attack or some other trauma.
"We've got some 911 addresses on private roads here in the county," said Hammond. "But we have some private roads that are named illegally. We're seeing and getting phone calls from more and more people wanting to name private roads using their own signs.
"A lot of folks have already put up road signs at driveways on roads that have not officially been named under the county ordinance," said Hammond. "The signs are often made of the same type of green stock that state road signs are made of, or the blue material that we (E-911 Addressing) use for named private roads.
"This could cause a liability issue for the county by not complying with the ordinance," Hammond added.
Hammond explained that the ordinance specifically states that roads with fewer than two houses (other than state-maintained roads) cannot officially be named. As a result, they are not listed on the grid at E-911 Dispatching.
"If someone calls in and gives an illegally named road as a reference point, the dispatcher has no way of knowing where the road is located unless they are familiar with it," said Hammond.
Hammond explained that a recent photographic project accomplished by the E-911 Addressing unit found 1,300 structures in the county that do not have E-911 addresses recorded in the system or do not have visible numbers. This, he said, could lead to significant problems for EMS or fire units responding to these addresses.
He explained further that there are many private roads that are legally named and that the illegally named streets often bear signs that look like those of the legally named roads.
Hammond said the ordinance spells out what residents are required to do to correctly identify their residences; however, the regulation does not spell out any penalties for non-compliance.
"There's no teeth in the ordinance," said Hammond. "I'm not suggesting we fine folks; however, without some enforcement of the ordinance, they're not likely going to comply."
Hammond said the unit is going to start sending out letters to those folks who have illegal signs and ask them to take them down.
"I don't want to penalize anyone; education is a better alternative, but if that doesn't solve the problem, then there's going to have to be some sort of penalties," said Hammond.
Hammond said mistakes have already been made around the county in naming roads. He pointed out as an example the two state roads in the county named Burney Road-one in White Oak and one near Bladenboro.
"This doesn't cause too much of a problem because they're serviced by different fire departments and the dispatcher identifies which Burney Road when they dispatch out ambulances," said Hammond. "But if someone, for example, in Bladenboro decides to illegally name their road Burney Road, you can see what a problem that could cause."
Commissioner Jimmy Smith suggested conducting an education plan through the fire departments in the county as a way of getting folks to comply with the ordinance.
Commissioner Dr. Delilah Blanks said, "Why play around. Why make an ordinance and not enforce it. It's not worth the paper it's written on if we don't have some way of enforcing it. If we're going to have an ordinance, then we ought to try to enforce it."
Commissioner Chairman Lewis Tatum suggested that an educational program first be initiated and that if that didn't work, then the commissioners ought to resort to enforcing the ordinance.
Hammond pointed out that his department had undertaken an extensive effort to educate the public about the ordinance.
"The paper (Bladen Journal) did a three-part in-depth series about the problem a while back," Hammond said.
Commissioner Billy Ray Pait suggested giving out a warning first, then enforcing the ordinance if the offender doesn't comply.
The commissioners agreed that the E-911 department should first use an aggressive campaign in an effort to educate the public about the provisions in the ordinance. If that proves to be unsuccessful, the board will address possible ways to enforce the ordinance.
In a later interview, Hammond said, "We see it here (in E-911 Addressing) as a growing problem. It's not just the illegal signs, it's people not putting their house numbers on their residences. Someone could die because they're not complying with the provisions of the ordinance, and if it happens, it could cause a liability problem for the county."
Hammond said the E-911 Addressing department not only makes public and private road signs, they also do house numbers.
Signs for private roads cost $35 for the first signs. Thereafter, the county assumes the cost of replacement if they are destroyed or stolen. House number signs can be obtained for $12. The signs have the numbers on both sides and can be made either horizontally or vertically.