Thousands of smoke detectors installed in Lawrence as restoration continues

Thousands of smoke detectors installed in Lawrence as restoration continues

LAWRENCE, Mass. — It's been almost six weeks since the Merrimack Valley gas explosions and still, thousands of people are without heat or hot water.

As crews work to repair the damage, they're leaving behind an unexpected safety outcome: smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in dwellings that previously either didn't have working ones or ones that were up to code.

"We realized a couple weeks back there's a certain population that is vulnerable... at-risk population... we realized we had to come in and adjust fire right away. So we did," said chief recovery officer Joe Albanese.

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Albanese, the chief recovery officer for the state as appointed by Governor Charlie Baker, says they've ordered 18,000 smoke/CO detectors. Of those, 6,000 have already been installed.

"A lot of times people just take them down. People have this careless habit of - if it makes the alarm go off when you're cooking chicken, they'll take the battery out and they'll forget to put it back in," said Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera.

Another issue they're having is making repairs in apartment and homes that are taking longer than they thought because they're finding things like asbestos and lead paint.

"There are homes that were built in the 60s, there are some multi-family homes that Lawrence was built on," said Albanese.

Despite that, officials are still saying they expect all homes that were damaged to be gas ready by the November 19 deadline.

"Better today than yesterday. Every time someone gets lit with gas is a better day than the day before," said Rivera.

Rivera says they've had a number of issues with gas leaks at schools in south Lawrence so another thing they're doing is adding methane detectors to schools that previously didn't have them.