METHUEN — It was a cold, snowy night and Sally was sitting in her living room when her elderly mother fell down the stairs and knocked herself unconscious. In a panic, Sally picked up the phone and called 911. She explained the nature of the emergency and quickly gave the address to the person on the other line.
Unbeknownst to Sally, the number on the house was not visible from the street, making extremely difficult for the EMTs to reach the residence promptly.
This story happens to be fiction, but the problem is not.
Throughout Methuen, there are many homes where the house number is not visible due to its size, color, location or script. This can cause problems for everyday occurrences such as delivery of a package, installing cable or phone service or something more serious, such as a 911 emergency.
The Methuen Senior Activity Center, Methuen Health Department, Methuen TRIAD, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Mayor Bill Manzi and many others have teamed up to help rectify the situation by rolling out a program called, “Is Your Number Up?”
The program will start in March and with any luck, the city will be in compliance with Massachusetts General Laws and local ordinances by April.
Corinne LaCharite, Methuen Senior Activity Center’s executive director, and Activity Coordinator Susan Foster both explained the importance of the program and why the citizens of Methuen should comply.
LaCharite said she was concerned with response time to 911 calls.
“With the EMTs, most of their calls are from the elderly,” LaCharite said. “It’s critical they get to them in a timely fashion.”
Stressing the importance of the program, Foster agreed with LaCharite.
“This program could, and I mean could, help save a life,” Foster said.
Lou-Ann Clement, director of Public Health in Methuen, said the program is not just for emergencies but it helps the residents as well, stating that most people take for granted that friends and family know where their home is.
“Think about how many houses have changed over the years,” Clement said. “Whether siding was put on or the porch was painted. More often than not it’s simply an oversight the number has not been put back on.”
Clement also added that while some residents put the house number on their front doors, that might not be the most visible location.
“You’re waiting for a package to be delivered or for the cable company to show up, what do you do? You open the door,” Clement said. “If the number is on the door, it’s no longer visible with the door open.”
To help get the program started the store manager of Home Depot in Methuen, Nathan Reel, has donated 200 three-inch block style numbers to the Methuen Senior Activity Center and Public Health Department to assist the program.
“It was really just a good cause,” Reel said. “We want to be a good member of the community, instead of just being the big bad retailer.”
Reel plans on replenishing the numbers should they all be used.
“I wanted to get them started with 200 numbers,” Reel said. “I will continue to resupply them as needed.”
“He was just awesome,” Foster said of Reel. “He would have given us the shirt off his back when we went to speak with him (about the program).”
Another retailer helping the cause is Wal-Mart. Donna Quintal, community involvement coordinator, is giving the Methuen Senior Activity a $1,000 Community Grant and also has at lease five associates donating their time to help hang the numbers.
“We want to be heavily involved,” Quintal said. “This is where our customers live and we want to be a good neighbor.”
Quintal added the Wal-Mart Foundation will make a contribution from $250 to $1,000, depending on how many associates volunteer their time and how much time is actually used. The money would go straight to the Methuen Senior Center.
“Event volunteerism always pays,” Quintal said.
While some may think the local ordinance is trivial, Mayor Manzi disagrees.
“If this program saves one person, we have done something good,” Manzi said.
Manzi also does not want to take credit for this program, although his office is 100 percent behind it.
“Corrine LaCharite, Susan Foster and Lou-Ann Clement deserve all the credit. They are the driving force behind the program,” Manzi said.
Manzi also praised the two retailers involved in the program.
“Thank you to Home Depot. I am very pleased with their community effort,” Manzi said. “Wal-Mart has gone above and beyond and truly has become a great corporate citizen.”
The Sheriff’s Department, Methuen Police and Fire departments, Methuen Public Health and the Methuen Senior Center are urging everyone to comply with the ordinance by April 1.
Although they will strictly be going out to residential homes, the program also requires commercial buildings to comply.
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