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Easton Chief Favors Phone Checks for Elderly

A fragile, elderly Easton woman's heart stops. Nearly paralyzed from the attack, she falls to the floor. She lives alone and is not expecting visitors.

She is, however, due to receive a call from the Easton Police Department' s automated call system. When she doesn't answer her phone, the police are alerted. They  show up at her door, see her on the floor, and force their way in. They save her life.

This scenario happened less than a year after the Easton Police initiated the RUOK (Are You O.K.?) call program, said Chief John Solomon. RUOK is a computer program that telephones people who live alone or are homebound or disabled. If the subscriber to the program doesn't respond to prompts from the automated call, the police are alerted. At the same time, a printout is generated with emergency information on the subscriber, including doctor name and phone number, contact name and phone number, next of kin and brief medical history.

"That computer program saved her life," Solomon said. "If we didn't have that program she would have died. After that, I was sold."

When the program started in 1996, more than 20 residents signed up for the service. Since, then, subscriptions have dropped to less than 10. “There are people out there who could really use this service,” Solomon said.

The initial purchase of the software has been the only cost of the program, Solomon added. "We just [recently] upgraded for free," he said. Wilton police Chief Angelo Toscano introduced Solomon to the RUOK program 14 years ago. At that time, Wilton was one of the only towns in Connecticut to use the technology.

Solomon said residents sometimes will go out of town and forget to inform the police, generating a false alarm. "But that's rare," he said. "Most people are good about telling us when they're going."

The service is free to residents and is useful for anyone who lives alone. "People have a fear of living alone and something happening to them," Solomon said. "We found that most who start this program, it's a great comfort for them just to know that somebody's checking up on you."

For more information on the RUOK program, visit its website or contact the Easton Police Department at (203) 268-4111.

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