Senior citizens and residents with special needs can register for the Well-Being Check List, a directory that was utilized throughout Hurricane Sandy, with the Lacey Township Police Department.
From Oct. 29 through Nov. 9, Lacey police conducted 161 well-being checks, which includes everyone from senior citizens to those on oxygen or indisposed, Captain David Paprota said.
Fred Beglinger has a neighbor on life support equipment, he said at a recent Committee meeting. Without electricity or a workable landline, she managed to call for help with someone else’s cell phone.
“Every citizen of Lacey Township who is either on life support, over 75 years old or handicapped and may not be able to take care of themselves should have been notified at least three days ahead of time before the storm hit us. They should have been evacuated to places that can handle them,” he said.
The police department has a list of residents with special needs that is utilized, Committeeman Dave Most said. But those on the list notified the police beforehand.
“They did a fantastic job,” he said.
“I’m sick of hearing they did a fantastic job. There are all kinds of people in this community who have suffered,” Beglinger said.
One Lacey resident died due to Hurricane Sandy. Celestine Kreitzer, 94, of Forked River supposedly refused to leave her home prior to Sandy. Her home was severely damaged by flooding and she was pronounced dead on Oct. 30 at 2:35 p.m. due to hypothermia.
Kreitzer was not on the Well-Being Check List, Captain David Paprota said.
“A family member checked on her on a daily basis,” he said. “Apparently she relied on that contact. The police department was not advised of her personal situation.”
The Well-Being Check List “only” contains 28 people, he said.
“We actively keep that list,” he said. “It is something we’re looking to expand so we’re aware of those that need assistance during weather emergencies, snow emergencies and power outages when people are affected and need attention by police in the absence of a family member, neighbor or friend assisting them.”
The list has been developed using various sources including JCP&L and the county 9-1-1 system, he said. Family members have also called to inform the police of a loved one who would need assistance during storms and power outage situations and sometimes residents have asked to be on the list.
Paprota said the police department would like to expand the list to people that are homebound or live alone and are elderly or have special needs.
“It’s open ended,” he said. “Special needs are loosely defined.”
The criteria to be added to the list is not necessarily limited, he said. Although, in the event of an emergency, certain residents may take prioritization over others, such as someone on medical equipment requiring electricity during a power outage.
The list is also “strictly voluntary,” he said. Even when a family member calls in to add a residents name to the list, police get the consent of that individual.
“Some matters are private and people don’t want to be on a public list. We want to make sure they want to be on the list,” he said.
Throughout Hurricane Sandy, calls were made to those on the list. If the police department was unable to get in touch, a police officer was sent to the residence, Paprota said.
Regina Discenza of Lacey also questioned the Committee if the township has a program to keep track of senior citizens who live alone.
Seniors who registered for the Lacey Township Police Department’s special program are expected to call daily, Township Administrator Veronica Lauriegh previously said. If a senior citizen does not, the dispatchers call them.
That program is different from the Well-Being Check List and was established more than 20 years ago, Paprota said.
“But what about people who don’t sign up for the list,” Discenza said, recommending the township screen voter registration for residents over 90 years old. “Because we have to avoid what just happened. I have a couple of neighbors in their 90s and we keep track of them for that very reason.”
The Well-Being Check List is not simply limited to medical needs, Laureigh previously said.
To be added or to add a loved one to the Well-Being Check List, call the Lacey Township Police Department at 609-693-6636.