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Montauk fire chief says inadequate address displays hamper emergency response

Montauk Fire Department Chief Joseph Lenahan holds a

Montauk Fire Department Chief Joseph Lenahan holds a sign to illustrate required house numbers next to an unnumbered mailbox in Montauk, Oct. 13, 2015. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Dozens of Montauk property owners who lack adequate address numbers at their homes and businesses are being pushed to correct the problem through a new campaign launched by the hamlet's fire chief.

Joseph Lenahan said there are many homes tucked behind gates with long driveways or nestled in other secluded settings that do not have proper displays of the numbered address -- or any at all. Lenahan said that poses a risk to the home's residents because it slows emergency response. Though the issue is a problem throughout East Hampton Town, it is particularly troublesome in the more rural and affluent areas of Montauk, Lenahan said in an interview last week.

"What happens is, when you get a call from a dispatcher you can have two houses with house numbers and there are 20 houses on the street, so you can't figure it out," he said, referring to the sequence of properties. "We're trying to play a guessing game to figure out the number. You lose precious time."

Lenahan cited homes behind Deep Hollow Ranch, and said that in areas such as West Lake Drive, numbers on mailboxes along the road can only be seen from one side.

"If you're coming from one direction and the numbers are on the other side [of the mailbox], all you see is mailboxes and no numbers," he said.

Lenahan said that if a home or business is more than 100 feet off the road it needs to have easily visible numbers at the end of the driveway. According to town code, house numbers must be a minimum of 4 inches high and a half-inch wide, and should be in a color that contrasts with the background so they stand out.

The numbers also are required to be easily visible from the street to pedestrians and drivers. East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell agreed about the need for proper and visible display.

"It's a critical safety concern that every property owner should be aware of," he said. "If there's an emergency and the responder can't identify your location, your life could be in jeopardy in the extra seconds and minutes it takes to find that property -- especially at night."

Residents and businesses are being informed of the campaign through media outreach, Lenahan said.

Town code enforcement director Betsy Bambrick said that when her department becomes aware of a property without proper address numbers, the offender receives a notice of violation and is informed of the number requirements and specifications. Offenders are subject to a fine of not more than $250 or imprisonment not to exceed more than 15 days, or both.


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