By Alex Lippa
---- — ATKINSON— About seven years ago, Peter Gulezian had a near disastrous experience. When his wife’s blood sugar was low, he called for an ambulance. But emergency responders went to the wrong house.
“They went up the wrong driveway,” he said. “They couldn’t tell which house was mine. We had to run through the snow to tell them that they were at the wrong house. About a year and a half later, my son had a seizure and they went to the wrong house again.”
Now, the town may finally be getting around to preventing a similar mistake in the future.
Selectman William Baldwin, who was elected in March, has made it a priority to pursue renumbering several houses in town, to ensure there is no more confusion.
“It’s a huge public safety issue,” Baldwin said. “This is something that should have been done a long time ago and now is the time to take action.”
One of the first neighborhoods officials will be looking at is Gulezian’s home on Washington Road. Gulezian lives at 2 Washington Road, but shares a driveway with homes at 2A and 2B Washington Road.
That presents a clear risk, according to National Emergency Number Association standards.
“That is not in compliance with how it should be,” Baldwin said. “There shouldn’t be alphanumeric numbers in an all-numeric string.”
Fire Chief Michael Murphy agreed renumbering is needed.
“We just need to make sure we eliminate any confusion we may have,” Murphy said. “We just want to make sure we can safely get to residents in time of need.”
Gulezian said it’s even more imperative to fix this because Atkinson is a small town.
“Especially if something at night happens,” he said. “It could be other towns responding and they are not fully aware of what the problem is.”
In order to fix Gulezian’s address, officials would have to change the addresses on other homes. But not everyone has been on board with the changes.
“It’s created a scare among people,” Gulezian said. “They’ve had the same address for so long and, in their eyes, it’s never been a problem, so why fix it?”
Last year, selectmen proposed renumbering the majority of homes in town to meet the standards. But after residents complained about the plan, selectmen have decided to focus on high priority neighborhoods.
“I estimate that there’s about 28 houses we’re looking at,” Baldwin said. “But we’re not going to do it all at once.”
Gulezian’s neighborhood will be the first to change. Baldwin’s plan is to change the shared driveway off Washington Road into its own road, with a new address. He is also looking at changing seven addresses on Coventry Road from 20A to 34.
Selectmen would have to approve any address changes.