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Published: Wednesday, 1/8/2003

Special bulb beckons assistance


IDA - Shirley Kreps wouldn't bet her life on a light bulb, but she is hoping that a special beacon now available from the Monroe County Sheriff's Department free to area seniors one day might beckon emergency help when she needs it.

Several years ago, Mrs. Kreps purchased a special light bulb called an Emergency Beacon that, when triggered by flipping the light switch twice, will continually flash, alerting neighbors or emergency personnel that help is needed.

“It's been on our front porch light, but we're going to change it over to the back because our neighbors are behind us,” Mrs. Kreps said. “That way, if we were sick or needed help, we'd flip it on so they would see it.”

Although Mrs. Kreps paid $7 for her bulb, other area seniors can benefit from the largesse of the Soroptimist Club of Monroe, which has donated $700 to buy about 100 of the bulbs and distribute them free, with the help of the sheriff. The club is planning to distribute them at the Mabel Kahris senior apartment center in the next few weeks.

Acting Sheriff's Department Capt. Maryann Ortman said that she's had more than two dozen people inquire about getting the special bulbs, which have a life expectancy of more than 2,000 hours. While they screw in like any standard light bulb, they could be invaluable in helping deputies or emergency medical personnel locate those in need of help, she said.

“Sometimes it's very difficult to find houses, especially if it's a call you're trying to get to quickly. Some people don't have their addresses posted or they're not illuminated,” Acting Captain Ortman said. “If we see the light blinking, obviously that will get us there a lot faster than us just trying to search for the address with a spotlight.”

The emergency beacon bulbs are distributed locally by a Hudson, Ohio company called Safety Think, Inc., and have become popular with seniors south of the border.

Just last month, the TRIAD Council, which includes senior citizens, the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, sheriff's departments in Lucas and Wood counties, the American Red Cross, and the Better Business Bureau purchased $3,000 worth of the bulbs to distribute to needy seniors in Ohio. The Allen County Sheriff's Department in Ohio recently distributed a number of bulbs to needy seniors in its jurisdiction.

Monroe County Sheriff Tilman Crutchfield said that if the program catches on locally as well as it has in Ohio, he's willing to commit some of his department's federal forfeiture money to keep it going.

“It's just getting started in Michigan. We want to see how well the program is received by the public, then we'll make a commitment after that,” the sheriff said.

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