The Pittsfield Housing Authority tenants at Providence Court had the misfortune of a small fire at their home late last Wednesday night but they also had the great fortune of being the beneficiaries of a well-thought-out disaster plan put together by a myriad of city and county departments and agencies.
First to respond as always was the Pittsfield Fire Department, which quickly contained the fire and the damage itself was held to a minimum. The sprinkler heads that often save lives, however, caused considerable water damage. Seepage into large electrical panels required shutting down power on several floors so examining the extent of the flooding problems in apartments with soundly sleeping residents soon proved to be a vexing problem. Deputy Chief Mike Polidoro made the proper call to relocate all tenants on the third and fourth floors as well as several directly affected residents on the fifth floor. This put in motion a well-prepared machine designed to quickly evacuate and relocate people with care, respect and concern for their individual needs.
County Ambulance personnel soon arrived and set up a processing station that helped tenants contact family and friends that they could stay with. Some were paired up with tenants willing to share their homes on the lower floors. The list was culled to about 15 who still lacked a place to go to. These people were soon transported by County Ambulance to Reid Middle School where the maintenance department opened the doors of the gymnasium where they would be guests for the rest of the evening.
The Red Cross, with the help of Pittsfield police officers and the Berkshire County Emergency Response Team, had set up cots. Dunkin Donuts offered refreshments and a bag of needed items was given to help them settle in for the night. It should be noted that the student body, unbeknownst to them, graciously donated the use of their gym to these people in need. This well-coordinated midnight performance was completed in the span of a few hours.
Back at Providence Court, local contractors Gable Electric, Peter Main’s Plumbing and Service Master responded in the middle of the night to begin repairs and deal with the flooding. All of this effort was steered by PHA Maintenance Director Hank Sultaire and his always reliable and professional maintenance staff.
By 12 p.m. the following morning word was sent out that the tenants could return to their homes. The Red Cross and County Ambulance again provided transportation while County Sheriff Tom Bowler had a CERT crew help to disassemble the bedding in the gym and by 2 p.m. it was given back to the students.
We at the PHA give a truly heartfelt thanks to those who participated in this terrific effort and also to those who had the foresight to organize a plan to address it.
CHARLES L. SMITH JR.
The writer is executive director, Pittsfield Housing Authority.