Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Rescue Workers Left in Dark by Poorly Marked Addresses

DEAR ABBY: I am a police officer in a small but very busy community in New England. I would like to impress upon your readers the importance of having their address numbers clearly visible on their homes and businesses. On too many occasions, police, fire and rescue personnel have wasted precious time trying to find the exact location of an emergency because the homes and businesses in the area were poorly marked -- or not marked at all. This could mean the difference between life or death for the persons requiring assistance.

The numbers must be large enough to be seen from the roadway in all types of weather and lighting conditions. Their color must contrast sharply with their background. Put them directly on or immediately by the front door. If the structure is set too far back from the road, place the number at the entrance to the driveway. Make them large enough to be read from a moving vehicle. Individual apartment or condo doors should be clearly numbered or lettered as well. It is a wise investment that could save your life. -- PUBLIC SERVANT IN RHODE ISLAND

DEAR PUBLIC SERVANT: You have written an important letter, and I'm pleased to pass along your message. Address numbers should be posted on both sides of one's mailbox, or near a porch light so they're clearly visible at night. Do not allow hanging plants, overgrown shrubs or partially opened doors to obscure them.

Once 9-1-1 is called, if at all possible, station someone at the door or in the yard to guide the police, firefighters or emergency medical personnel in. It's also a good idea to give the 9-1-1 operator a brief description of the house. A 15-minute search for an address during an emergency can be the difference between life and death.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 20-something new mother, as are most of my friends. On New Year's Eve, my husband and I invited all our friends who have small children over to ring in the new year together. The idea was that the children (all 20 months and younger) could play and fall asleep, while the adults sat back and enjoyed themselves.

The nursery was packed with little ones snug in their makeshift beds, as their moms and dads sang "Auld Lang Syne." A good time was had by all.

The next day, I received a phone call from my cousin, who attended the party. He's a police officer. He told me that two of my guests had reported $50 stolen from their purses sometime during the evening. I was flabbergasted. All of the guests who attended are so close that my husband and I would have trusted them with our children's lives. Now we don't know what to do. I've called each guest. No one else had money stolen, and any one of us would have gladly lent funds to whoever took the cash from those purses.

What do I do now, Abby? I have lost trust in my closest friends. I had scheduled play dates for our children, but have told the other mothers not to bring their purses. -- HEARTSICK IN CLEARWATER, FLA.

DEAR HEARTSICK: By notifying your guests about the unfortunate incident, you have already done the responsible thing. You have prevented it from happening again.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600