Residents in Gloucester’s Bay View, Lanesville and Annisquam villages answered knocks on their doors over the weekend from Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers and other locals — all looking to ensure that each home is properly numbered and outfitted with working smoke detectors.
Houses that are not clearly numbered have caused challenges for emergency personnel trying to locate victims or burning buildings in the past, and non-functioning smoke detectors have just in the past year led to property damage and death during fires, fire Chief Eric Smith said Monday.
“We all know the problem exists, and it’s a matter of how can we fix it,” Smith said.
While the effort is led by CERT volunteers, many other local volunteer groups have pitched in their efforts already with the kick off in the northern neighborhoods this fall. The volunteers will continue to survey the rest of Gloucester’s neighborhoods come spring.
“My hat’s off to CERT for taking on this campaign,” Smith said. “It was an all-hands effort by volunteers that support the safety of our citizens. That’s a good thing to see.”
Other groups helping out include Pathways for Children, the Gloucester TRIAD Council, the Gloucester Council on Aging, and Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association.
Another part of the effort is aimed at helping people who are unable — either physically or financially — to attach numbers or detectors to their homes.
“Even if we only get a few additional homes per street done,” Smith said, “the more houses you identify the better. If an unnumbered house falls in between two houses with numbers, it still helps to get our people to houses as quickly as we can.”
While a city ordinance requires that residents label their homes and businesses with street numbers, Smith said the enforcement of that rule is often reactive rather than proactive.
Firefighters will check the numbers and smoke detectors when people apply for permits to add improvements to their homes or during other home inspections. Emergency personnel also tell people to number their homes once the police or firefighters have experienced difficulty locating particular homes in emergency situations.
“It’s already too late,” he said of those cases. “(If) there’s already been an incident at that home, it’s a reactive thing,” Smith said. “It’s, unfortunately, one of those lessons that we learn and relearn. It happens in every community.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.