Chatham COA, Fire Department Collaborate On House Number Program

By: Elizabeth Van Wye

Examples of house number signs being offered through the Chatham Council on Aging to help emergency personnel better locate homes. COURTESY PHOTO

CHATHAM – A call to 911 may be at the worst moment of your life. Whatever prompted the call – a heart attack, a stroke, a fire – "seconds make a huge, huge difference," according to Chatham Fire Lieutenant Ryan Clark, the new public education coordinator for the Chatham Fire-Rescue Department. "It's that serious."

If your house number is not easily visible from the street, in daylight or at night, a new program, co-sponsored by the Chatham Police and Fire Departments, along with the council on aging, may help ensure first responders don't lose those seconds searching for your house.

Although Clark is new to the public education role, he has been a member of the Chatham Fire Rescue Department for 14 years and he has seen the problem first hand.

"Some houses in Chatham sit far back and way off the road," he recalled, making it difficult to find the house in a crisis. "If we don't see the number it will delay our response," he said.

At the time first responders are answering the call, "there are 10,000 things going through our heads and we want to get there as fast as possible to help."

Clark is heading up the new program, designed to have reflective addresses installed outside homes. The signs come in two formats. The first is six-by-18 inches, which costs $12, and is suitable for installing on a mailbox post. Made of aluminum and coated with red reflective material that is highly visible day and night, the signs include three-inch reflective numbers and are fade- and weather-resistant.

If a mailbox is not directly in front of the house on the same road, or is across the street, a more appropriate choice would be the sign on a $16 free-standing four-foot green lawn stake, according to Clark.

After consulting with the homeowner on the best placement, the Chatham Fire Department will install either sign free of charge. Or if the homeowner prefers, the signs will be provided for a do-it-yourself installation.

"It's up to the homeowner to decide where they want it," Clark said. "We'd like it as close to the road and visible as possible. It is good for us and good for them." Supplies for the signs will be purchased locally and there should be very little lag time between the request and the placement.

The council on aging has stepped up to be the registration point-of-contact for the program, under the Senior Safe Program. However Mandi Speakman, COA director, has stressed that this is a community-wide initiative, with no age restrictions.

To order a sign contact the COA at 508-945-5190. The fee is small, Speakman said, however if needed there is also financial assistance available.

According to Clark, this is a first of its kind program on the Cape. He picked up the idea from a colleague at a recent training session, and thought it was "a great idea, really helpful. It's a win-win for us and for the public."