EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 17, 2012

Homeowners get their numbers straight in Atkinson

Over 100 homes corrected to follow 1995 ordinance

By Dustin Luca dluca@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — ATKINSON — A town effort to make sure all homes have numbers on them is moving forward smoothly after stiff discussions earlier this year.

More than 100 homes that didn’t have numbers visible from the street have installed them since officials started acting about two months ago, fire Chief Mike Murphy said.

The town first supported a house numbering bylaw around 1995, when residents said all houses should be numbered.

With little enforcement since then, selectmen voted in May to renumber every street in town. The decision was to make the town compliant with National Emegency Number Association standards.

The decision was reversed a little over a week later after selectmen start getting complaints from unhappy residents. After the reversal, it was determined that around 200 homes needed renumbering.

Officials had a survey done on the town to see which homes needed numbers. Things like permits for projects at those homes are being held, Murphy said.

“We’ve tried our best to make them compliant,” Murphy said. “Along with that ordinance, we had a provision that people couldn’t pull permits —electrical and plumbing, even a fire permit — unless they had the proper number on their house.”

The current effort “is the biggest effort we’ve done since the enactment of the ordinance” 17 years ago, he said.

The effort is being led by James Kirsch, code enforcement officer for Atkinson. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

The ordinance only affects homes visible from the road. For homes farther back or out of sight, Murphy said, clear numbering on mailboxes works just as well.

“It’s a huge asset to the fire department and emergency responders to know that people are getting their numbers out there,” Murphy said. “It provides us a comfort level also.”

There is a critical need for visible numbers on homes, Murphy said. He offered an example.

A baby was having a seizure and the parent called 911. Responders went to the scene, but first pulled up to a neighbor’s home.

“You can imagine the parent when we go up the wrong driveway. This is where seconds count,” Murphy said. “That’s why we need to make sure those numbers are visible to us, so we can definitely find the right piece of property.”

While fire calls may be easy to spot because of flames and smoke coming out of a building, Murphy said around 80 percent of his department’s calls are for medical issues, where there is no visual cue that there’s a pending emergency.

When officials tell a homeowner to put a number on their home, the response is usually positive.

“People are very receptive to it. I haven’t had any angry phone calls,” Murphy said. “People understand. I think it’s a new generation that completely understands that emergency vehicles need to find them in an emergency.”