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Safety devices installed for seniors

November 02, 2008|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN - Falling down the steps or slipping in the shower.

Withstanding hazardously low indoor temperatures to manage heating bills.

Inhaling carbon monoxide or sleeping through a house fire.

Preventable accidents and injuries happen to people each day, especially senior citizens.

The Hagerstown Fire Department, local Lowe's volunteers and several members of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County's Women Build joined forces Saturday in an attempt to help prevent some.

Armed with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, handrails, grab bars and LED power failure lights, the group set out into 25 homes within the city to perform home safety makeovers.

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Lowe's Heroes program provided $1,200 for project supplies. Fire Prevention Coordinator Mike Weller said the fire department advertised the project through local media and received more than 50 responses. Given a budget and a variety of needs, Weller prioritized 25 applicants and established a waiting list for those who remained.

"Unfortunately, we had to turn a lot of people away," Weller said. "I think this is one of the best initiatives we have offered. It's a combined effort that addresses not just fire, but other issues as well."

Betty and Vernon "Ray" Reedy, 80 and 82, consider themselves fairly handy and continue to do what they are able in terms of home maintenance, but they said some tasks have become increasingly difficult and risky to perform. Their two children help out as they are able, but both live out of state.

A group of six workers arrived at the Reedys' home Saturday morning, and within about an hour, had installed smoke detectors, a carbon monoxide detector and a stair rail. They left a power failure night light/flashlight and a grab bar for the Reedys to install on their ceramic tile, checked on other safety concerns, and provided fire safety and utility assistance information.

While Betty Reedy said she and her husband try to stay in the habit of maintaining smoke detectors when they set their clocks each season, firefighters discovered that of the two smoke detectors the couple had before the makeover, one had a dead battery and the other had no battery. Now each is equipped with a 10-year lithium battery.

"This is just a godsend. The rail grabber seems like such a simple thing, but it's such an important thing to us," Betty Reedy said. "It would have taken us I don't know how long - maybe months - to do what they did today."

Richard and Madeline "Louise" Cline, 73 and 72, also received a safety makeover. After a series of surgeries, Richard Cline has been unable to use his shower because he is afraid of falling. Instead, he has been tediously sponge bathing.

"When I get the grab bar in, I'll be able to use the shower," Cline said. "I think this is a really good program."

Weller hopes to provide assistance to more seniors through the program.

"There is a very good chance we will do this again in 2009," he said.

For more information, call 301-791-2205.

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