By the numbers: Cumberland Girl Scout's project takes public safety to heart

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CUMBERLAND — When going around town distributing cookies one evening, Audrey Hankinson and her fellow Girl Scouts had trouble determining who lived where.

“We couldn’t see any of the numbers on one of the streets,” the 15-year-old Greely High School sophomore said Oct. 19. “And someone in the car said that if we couldn’t see them, emergency vehicles probably couldn’t see them.”

The seed was planted for what has become Hankinson’s project to earn her Gold Award – the highest distinction a Girl Scout can receive. (She earned her Silver Award last year for building two wooden “buddy benches” at the Greely Middle and Mabel I. Wilson schools.)

Hankinson went around town to ensure that the numbering issue is prevalent all over the place, particularly areas where mailboxes are clumped together.

She plans to work with town staff, members of the Cumberland Fire/EMS Department Explorers program, and other Scouts to install house numbers for as many residents who want them. She is spreading the word to local groups in hopes of getting at least 300 citizens involved.

Hankinson met with her adviser, teacher and Town Councilor Shirley Storey-King, who informed her of Cumberland’s ordinance regulating such numbers and connected her with Town Manager Bill Shane. The teenager wrote a proposal for her project, for which she had a brochure printed for distribution to residents.

The number must be at least 4 inches tall, of a color that contrasts with its background, and easily seen from the street. If the house is within 50 feet of the street, the number can be placed on the front of the residence. If the house is farther away, the number has to be placed on a mailbox, fence, post or wall at the property line by the driveway.

Speaking also with the town’s police and fire chiefs, Hankinson said she was told every minute counts in responding to a situation like a fire or medical crisis.

“Having easily-recognizable and easily-locatable is a big help to emergency responders when they are trying to find your address,” Police Chief Charles Rumsey said Oct. 20. “Frequently we’re trying to do that in the dark, sometimes bad weather, and what may be obvious to you about your house and where the number is, is not obvious all the time when we’re trying to get to you as quickly as possible.”

The chief added, “Anything that people do that can make it easier for us to see a house number is absolutely great, and we’re big supporters of the idea.”

Hankinson has been handing out brochures to residents, and the pamphlets are also available at Town Hall (290 Tuttle Road), the Cumberland Food Stop (320 Main St.) and Prince Memorial Library (266 Main St.). They contain order forms for sign kits, which cost $15 and contain two signs – one to go on a mailbox, for example, and another on the house.

Order forms and checks – made out to the town, with “911 Numbering” on the memo line – can be mailed to Cumberland Town Hall, 290 Tuttle Road, Cumberland, ME 04021, Attn: 911 Numbering. They can also be dropped off at Town Hall. The sign company, Perma-Line, will mail the signs to residents.

Email Hankinson at, or call Town Hall at 829-5559, for more information.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Audrey Hankinson of Cumberland has launched a campaign to install missing house numbers throughout town to help emergency responders. The Greely High School sophomore hopes to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.