Peace of mind is priceless--and free

For Barbara Farrell of Ocean View, the Ocean View Police Department’s Senior Check-in Program is one of the best things about living near the beach.

“I’m a widow and I’m here by myself. And just knowing that they’re looking out for me, I’m not afraid to be here. I really can’t say enough about it,” she said about the program.

The Senior Check-in Program has been in place for years in the town and is done as a free community service for residents of Ocean View by its police department. The Bethany Beach Police Department has a similar program, titled “RU OK?”

In Ocean View, individuals who live alone or don’t have family in the area can sign up to call in to the police department during certain window of time each day, and a log is maintained. If they fail to call in, the police attempt to contact them. If they can’t be reached, an officer goes out to their house to check on them. Often, the participants leave emergency contacts and keys with the police department, too, should they need them in an emergency.

“We did have one case,” said Chief Ken McLaughlin, “where one of the callers had fallen and wasn’t able to call. She fell during the night, and we went to check on her and she was on the floor. We got the paramedics and got her to the hospital. She said she knew that we were coming, so she just waited it out. It was a good thing,” he recalled.

In addition to that peace of mind — and, sometimes, physical help — the program’s participants get to know the department and can become like extended family.

“Cpl. Kristen Miller has done an excellent job of maintaining relationships with the folks,” continued said McLaughlin of the police officer and local volunteer firefighter. “She makes sure they get Christmas and birthday cards, and we’ve even gone to the pharmacy and picked up medicines for them. During Hurricane Isabel, we evacuated everyone, and took care of them and watched over them.”

Participants can also let the department know if they are going to be out of town for an extended period, so the police can check on the property while they are away.

In Bethany Beach, the object of the RU OK? program is the same, but the system is a bit different, said PFC Rhys Bradshaw.

For that program, their software-based automated phone system automatically calls participants, and if they can’t be reached, an officer is dispatched to check out the situation.

The software Bethany Beach police use even has the ability to make 240 calls per hour, should evacuations or other mass notifications be needed in the town. The department used it a few weeks ago to let people know about some flooding.

“Unfortunately, not enough people take advantage of it,” Bradshaw said of the RU OK program. “It’s a great system. We hope to get more, because there are a lot of people here that don’t have family.”

Over the five-year run of the program, the department has been the first to discover that two of the participants had passed away. But, most often, they deal with the much-appreciated false alarm.

“One time, it called and couldn’t get through to one of our participants. So, we went over to check, and the phone was off the hook,” recalled Bradshaw.

Although both police forces have many things to do in the course of a day and have much on their plate to ensure the safety of the entire community, the fact that they still take the time to start relationships with their most vulnerable residents is not lost on the participants.

“My oldest son is a detective in Prince George’s County (Md.),” stated Farrell. “So I know the police have more important things to do than take care of us seniors, but they do it. They are always looking out for us. I had never lived by myself before, and I thought it was going to be strange and I would be afraid. But, after finding out about (the program), I just relaxed. I couldn’t be in a better place.”

Ocean View also offers its residents the File of Life program, which uses a free file that people can get and keep on hand with information about their medications, past surgeries and health, or other pertinent information emergency responders might need to know if they entered the residence.

The OVPD also participates in Project ChildSafe and offers free firearm safety kits that include a cable-style gun lock and a firearm safety brochure. For more information on any of their programs, visit online or call (302) 539-1111

In addition to RU OK?, the Bethany Beach Police Department also offers a child identification program, free child car-seat safety inspections and free gun locks, through Project ChildSafe. For more information on any of the BBPD’s free programs, visit online or call (302) 539-1000.

DDA receives

marketing grant

The Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) has been awarded a direct grant from the Delaware Tourism Office to create an agricultural festivals and events brochure and accompanying video.

The grant, totaling $3,840, is one of eight direct grants awarded by the Tourism Office to tourism attractions and organizations. Ten non-profit tourism groups were also awarded money in matching grant funds.

The idea to apply for the grant came from DDA Marketing Specialists Lisa Falconetti and Jo-Ann Walston. Walston, who once worked for the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO), previously administered the grant program and knew there was money available. She said she thought it would be a great idea if DDA applied.

“There is no such brochure available,” said Walston. “I see this as a way to increase attendance at agricultural festivals and educate people about agriculture.”

“This brochure will be a useful tool not only for visitors to Delaware planning their vacations, but for Delawareans who are looking for an agricultural experience,” said Falconetti.

The Festivals & Events Brochure will be available in 2009 and will be found at farm stores, farmers’ markets, on-the-farm-markets, Chambers of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureaus, hotels and motels, libraries, etc. The brochure can also be viewed on-line.

To have a festival or event listed in this new brochure, contact: Lisa Falconetti at (302) 698-4554 or Jo-Ann Walston at (302) 698-4523.