What's up with these number signs on beaches? Several times in the past year, I've gone to the beach and noticed a numbered sign near the trail to the sand. What are these for, and who put them there?

— Dave D., Medford

What you see there, Dave, is a numbered access system on Oregon beaches that might save your life one day, or help you save someone else's life.

The public beach access spots along most of the Oregon Coast have numbers on them so people in distress and who call 9-1-1 can quickly tell first responders where they are, and the responders will know where to go.

The program started in Lincoln County in 2008 and was adopted by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, which has jurisdiction on Oregon's beaches. By 2015, it had spread to the entire coast except a stretch of federal land between Florence and Coos Bay where the process to get the signs up has been slower, state parks spokesman Chris Havel says.

It may look like 19th-century technology in the 21st century, but there's a method to this retro beach thing.

Sure, everyone has cellphones these days with GPS in them, and that's all fine "except when things are going wrong and the panic sets in," Havel says.

"It's so much easier to look up at a black-and-yellow sign and say, "I'm at blank," Havel says.

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