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New lockbox program aims to improve Delray Beach Fire-Rescue response time for seniors

Senior falls No. 1 call for service in Delray Beach
Lockbox for seniors in Delray Beach
Posted at 5:45 PM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 20:15:56-04

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Delray Beach Fire Rescue responds to more calls about senior falls than any other type.

Fire marshal and Assistant Fire Chief Travis Franco said it's because there is a large senior population living in southern Palm Beach County. When a senior is home alone, injured and can't make it to the door, it may take longer to get them emergency help.

"I've gone to calls where people have been on the ground for days," Franco said.

In a demonstration Wednesday, Delray Beach Fire Rescue showed how firefighters have to break down a door if there is no other way to enter when a senior is alone and hurt.

"Then you have to buy a whole new door, have it installed, labor, it's a lot of money," Ival Lowe, a resident of Delray Beach, said.

Delray Beach Fire-Rescue demonstration of firefighter breaking down door
A Delray Beach firefighter demonstrates what it takes for them to break down a door if there is no other way to enter when a senior is alone and hurt.

Lowe, 84, is making sure it doesn't happen to her.

"I was the first to raise my hand," she said when Delray Beach Fire Rescue visited her senior club this week.

Lowe volunteered for Delray Beach Fire Rescue's new program, a partnership with Roper Lockbox, in which Delray Beach residents can order a lockbox and fill out a waiver to participate. Right now, it's being offered to the city's senior population for fall prevention and safety.

"Our key goes in, you turn, pull and the key is right there," Joe Duffy, public education specialist for Delray Beach Fire Rescue, told WPTV.

Fire rescue has the master key, allowing only the city's fire department access to the home in the event a senior is in distress and can't answer the door. In the last year, it's happened a lot.

Delray Beach Fire Rescue responded to nearly 1,900 calls that were falls with injuries. Lowe said she's fallen a few times.

"Yeah, but nothing serious," she said. "I had no broken bones, just sore the next day or two."

Lowe said she stays active around her home, which fire rescue also surveyed as part of the program.

Ival Lowe, 84, lets Delray Beach Fire-Rescue install lockbox on her door
Ival Lowe, 84, says she's fallen several times already. That's why she let Delray Beach Fire-Rescue install a lockbox on her door.

The survey looks for any type of fall hazards. Seniors don't just fall because of tripping hazards or balance issues. Certain medical conditions can make someone more prone to falling.

Each senior citizen participating in the program can opt to post a form on their refrigerator with a magnet that will contain their medical history. The responding firefighter or paramedic will know where to find it and have access to important information quickly.

"This is going to be a game-changer for the citizens of our community, for sure," Franco said.

Lowe said the key to being mobile at her age is staying active.

"You have to get out of the house and make friends," she said. "You know, you can't sit in the house."

She hopes fire rescue will never have to use the lockbox but agrees that it's a smart precaution to take.

"For my safety and security, you know," she added.

If there is a senior you're worried about, Delray Beach Fire-Rescue suggests you contact the agency for an in-home survey.

A couple of prevention suggestions are:

  • make sure area rugs have a grip so they can't slide or shift
  • plug in night lights
  • advocate for the use of emergency systems like Life Alert
  • install handrails in bathrooms

If you live in Delray Beach and are interested in the residential lockbox program, there is a cost for ordering the lockbox, as well as shipping. You must also fill out a waiver.