Stepping Up to Provide Assistance

Soldiers of the 101 FSC, 101st  Engineering Battalion, hand out boxes of hot plates in Lawrence, Massachusetts on Sept. 23, 2018. National Guard soldiers and airmen delivered hundreds of hotplates to families throughout Lawrence after the gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley.After multiple gas explosions shook the cities of Lawrence, North Andover and Andover, Mass., residents are seeking assistance to get their homes functioning again. The event affected over 8,000 homes and has shaken the hearts of many. Numerous occupants who were home at the time of the explosion state that they still feel the fear from that night and have difficulty sleeping. 

The company responsible, Columbia Gas, is working to correct the issues caused by too much pressure in the gas lines, the cause of the explosions. The surge of pressure impacted the gas appliances in these homes. As a result, these appliances will be replaced with electric ones, including stoves, dryers and water heaters. Hundreds of electricians are being brought in to help complete the work. 

The Massachusetts National Guard has been continuing to assist in the efforts to get these citizens back on their feet. After the gas supply was shut off to the affected buildings, residents who used gas appliances lost their ability to cook meals for their families. Soldiers and Airmen set out on foot to deliver electric hot plates to these families, at no cost to them, so they can prepare cooked food until their appliances are operational again. 

Spc. Matthew Cole, a power generator equipment repairer, Forward Support Company, 101st Engineer Battalion, said the people of Lawrence see that the guard actually cares. 

“A lot of my friends actually live in Lawrence so this makes you feel good personally,” said Cole, who lives in a neighboring town. “As a Soldier, this is what I signed up for, to do stuff like this.”

The Soldiers and Airmen volunteered to assist in the relief efforts also worked in teams alongside electricians and volunteers from Mass Save. They acted as liaisons as each team visited the affected homes. 

“What they are doing is going door to door, each team has a list of what locations they are going to, and they will hit all the houses on those streets,” said 1st Lt. Samuel Giard, Platoon Leader, 181st Engineer Company. 

More than 100 teams worked to canvas these residences. At each building, multiple smoke and carbon monoxide detectors were installed to help keep people safe and avoid further tragedy. Additionally, pairs of electricians took careful notes on the electrical lines in the building as well as the type and number of gas appliances. This information will be used over the next several weeks as new electrical lines are run and appliances are replaced. 

“You see a lot of kids running around, it feels good. You give them a hot plate and now they have that hope in their mind like yeah I can get a nice hot meal today,” said Cole. 

As the cool weather approaches, many people who previously used gas to heat their homes are feeling the chill. Although residents have the option to use space heaters, many homes are not supplied with the proper electrical wiring to safely use these units. In the meantime, crews continue to work tirelessly to complete the work required to restore these buildings to functioning homes again. 


Cpl. Tricia Andriski, 65th Press Camp Headquarters, Massachusetts National Guard

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