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Automated calls to elderly at home may save lives

QUEENSBURY Elderly residents of Warren County may soon be getting a daily phone call from the county Sheriffs Department to make sure they are well or summon emergency help if they need it, county Sheriff Bud York said this week. The Sheriffs Department is planning to launch an elderly welfare-checkup program later this year after acquiring and installing computerized equipment that can place the calls automatically, he said. This service wont cost a lot of money, and it is likely to save lives over time, he said. We owe this to our senior citizens. The calls would be made by a reverse 911 notification system which would call individuals at home at pre-set times they select. The person called would then dial a code that would indicate they were okay. If the code wasnt entered or there was no answer at the home, York said, the county computer would then dial one or two guardian angels designated for the individual, and the sheriffs department would send out a patrol officer to investigate. York said that various counties elsewhere in the U.S. have used the system and its proven to summon vital help when needed, and occasionally save lives. This will be particularly useful in our county, where a lot of elderly people live alone in their own homes, he said. The computerized telephone system has other uses including notifying thousands of people in a short time to warn them of impending disaster, he said. The system allows public safety officials to plot an area on a map where people might be facing a potential danger, and all the people in that specific area would receive phone calls within a matter of minutes, he said. Such a capability would be particularly useful when Spring ice flows are headed down the Hudson River, when a prison escapee is at large, or a hazardous cloud of chemicals is emitted in an industrial accident, he said. The system would have been useful during the roadway washouts in recent years that posed substantial hazards to unsuspecting motorists, York said. Such a notification system would also be useful in alerting citizens in an effort to find a wandering Alzheimers patient, he said. The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Feb. 15 to lease the reverse 911 notification system and software, for a three-year period for a total of $36,000. The systems not yet active, but York said his department is ready to start setting up the elderly welfare-checkup program. York said elderly who wish to participate are welcome to call his department at 761-2500 and ask for Communications Supervisor Larry Jeffords to make arrangements, including designating a good time to make that daily call. The sky is the limit with this system, York said. Its the greatest thing to come down the road since 911 first started.

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