Landrum police aim to serve seniors better

Published 5:08 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2012

When Landrum’s Tim Edgens took over as police chief earlier this year he wanted to discover a way to better serve the city’s elderly, disabled and homebound residents.
At first he wasn’t sure where to look for advice on how to start such a program, but then he was directed to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and its RUOK Program.
“I think it would be a great program for us,” Edgens said. “If we were to get something like this going it would be a lot more work, but that is what we are here for as a department.”
Kim Pack runs the RUOK program for Polk County, which she said began in the 1990s under Sheriff Boyce Carswell.
The department has maintained the program since and currently has a minimum of about 100 residents participating at any given time.
“It’s not really a lifesaving program, but it is a man down program. If someone falls and can’t help themselves back up – this makes sure they don’t lie there for days without anyone knowing,” Pack said. “More than anything it’s a reassurance for a lot of people who don’t have family nearby.”
Pack said the system generates an automatic phone call to individuals listed and prompts them to push a certain number. If the person does not answer or pushes the wrong button, the system calls them back in 15 minutes. If a similar situation occurs again, the program calls back for a third time. At this point, if there is no answer, an alert is sent to the sheriff’s department and a deputy makes a personal visit to the home.
Pack said the individual can choose the time to be called each day. She said one gentleman has his call come in at 5:30 p.m. because he works with farm equipment and fears that a large piece of equipment might fall on him during the day. Others want early morning calls to make sure they didn’t fall when getting out of bed.
Pack added that many of the participants let the department know where a hidden key is so a deputy can enter the home if the individual is believed to be in danger.
Pack said the program has been incredibly beneficial to people in the community. She said if nothing else it provides a bit of peace of mind.
“Sometimes I think we are the only people some of these individuals are talking to on a regular basis,” she said. “I have one lady whose machine never works, but sometimes I think it’s just because she wants someone to talk to.”
There is no restriction based on age, Pack said, adding that anyone who has a medical condition or is home alone on a regular basis could receive the call.
“What do you have to lose to be on it? It doesn’t cost anything,” Pack said. “If you know that you aren’t going to be there – we just ask that the person calls in and lets us know.”
Participants are also able to give the department a laundry list of important information to keep on file, such as emergency contacts, key holders, if there is a DNR in place, a physician’s name, if the individual walks with a cane or a walker and if they have pets in the house.
Landrum council members seemed keenly interested in offering the service to the city’s own residents when Edgens proposed the idea in July.
“It’s been a good program over there [in Polk County] and from what I’ve heard it has done a lot for their elderly residents,” said Landrum City Councilman Johnny Carruth.
Polk County has offered to allow Landrum to run a pilot version of the program through its system for up to about 50 people, Pack said.
Edgens said he conservatively thinks 30-35 people might be interested in participating in the program initially. If the actual number grew far beyond these expectations, he said the city might have to look into purchasing its own system.
Edgens said based on research he’s done, the cost of an automated call system would be about $7,500.
“If people really like it and it gets going, we’ll have to keep it going,” Edgens said.
Mayor Robert Briggs and other council enthusiastically gave their approval for Edgens to move forward with a pilot version of the program.
“Another thing it does is it builds a relationship between the police department and the citizens,” said Briggs.
Landrum residents interested in participating in a pilot version of the program can call the Landrum Police Department at 864-457-7281. Anyone who wants to be added to the program in Polk County can call Pack at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 828-894-3001.

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