A Girl Scout since she was in the second grade, 18-year-old Natalie Lanier addressed the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday as one of the final steps for her Gold Award project that would help save lives in Bulloch County.
The Gold Award is the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of America; less than 6 percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn the award. One component of the award requires a Girl Scout senior to plan and implement a sustainable, measurable project that directly impacts her community.
Lanier is the daughter of Statesboro attorney Sims Lanier and Savannah attorney Barbara Nelson Lanier. She is a senior at Savannah Country Day School and works at Splash in the Boro during the summer months.
In fact, her employment at Splash, along with an interest in the emergency management operations of the United States Coast Guard Academy, prompted her project choice. Lanier is considering the Coast Guard Academy as an option after graduation.
“Lifeguarding at Splash, we’ve needed to call 911 frequently, so I’ve met some of the first responders,” Lanier said. “During a conversation, one of the first responders told a horror story about a time they couldn’t find somebody for almost four minutes because the address didn’t match up with the location. They couldn’t find the house. Four minutes can be critical.
“No one really thinks, ‘How well can my house be found?’ You never really think about it until they can’t find you and it’s too late.”
Lanier admits that she had never pondered those questions, either, before speaking with first responders.
“Something should be done (to help find addresses),” she said. “There’s my project.”
Lanier spoke with Ted Wynn, Bulloch County’s public safety/emergency management agency director, and he expressed the need for better identification of residences.
With an ordinance already in place, Lanier moved forward to amend the law to better aid first responders in finding locations.
“(County) Attorney Jeff Akins and EMA Director Ted Wynn have been amazing advocates for me,” Lanier said.
Akins, along with Lanier’s mother, offered lawyerly advice on the wording of the amendment, and he and Wynn accompanied Lanier to the commissioners’ meeting, introducing her to the board and presenting her proposal.
The gist of Lanier’s amendment to Section 4-80 of Article III of Chapter 4 of the Code of Ordinances of Bulloch County, Georgia, is that new buildings must have “the assigned number on the driveway of the structure with reflective numbering in close proximity to the public right-of-way as an additional method to assist emergency services in locating the residence.”
Lanier’s amendment was approved overwhelmingly at the meeting.
“I think it’s a neat idea and remarkable that someone at such a young age is thinking about public safety like that,” said Commissioner-elect Curt Deal, who will be sworn in next week. “It’s a great idea for the community.”
The long-time Girl Scout was thrilled.
“I’m 18 and I passed a law,” she said with a huge smile.
That may be the end of her project requirements, but to further act on her idea, Lanier and a team of individuals are taking it a step further.
“Mr. Donald Nesmith of Nesmith Construction Company has agreed to let me go in and paint in one of his neighborhoods,” she said.
Lanier hopes not only that new facilities will abide by the amendment but that established residences and facilities will take note and follow suit.
“It could be life-saving,” she said.