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Published: August 01, 2008 06:01 am ShareThisPrintThis
'Are You OK' system saved local woman's life
By Joe O'Connell

SALEM - Thanks to a computer program, 76-year-old Carlene Comings can continue to enjoy Bingo Night at the Salem Senior Center.
Comings, who lives alone in Salem, fell at her home on the evening of July 16. She was unable to get up and remained on the floor for the entire night.
"I came home around 7 p.m., went to put my things away, I stepped on a box and then - whoop," Comings said.
Luckily, Comings was part of the "Are You OK" program offered for free by the Salem Council on Aging through the Police Department.
Every day, a computer with an automated voice message calls senior citizens who sign up for the program to make sure they are OK. If the person does not pick up the first time, the computer calls again five minutes later. If that call goes unanswered, a third call is made; and if they still do not answer, a three-tier response team is dispatched to the person's home.
The computer is at the 911 desk at Salem police headquarters, where a dispatcher gets results from the phone calls.
The calls are usually made between 6 and 9 a.m., although they can be made at anytime during the day that works for the seniors. In Comings' case, the calls are made in the morning.
"The next morning I remember the police yelling my name, and I was telling them to break the window because that was they only way they could get to me," Comings said.
She was rushed to Salem Hospital, where she spent some time in the ICU. One doctor credited the program for saving her life.
This is the sixth year the program has been offered in Salem, and 22 seniors are signed up. The program is being updated by Innovative Computer Courses of Saugus.
"This is the way I feel like I am giving back," said Dennis Liberge, president of the company. "If more people knew about this, they would use it."
While the system is being worked on, Sandy George, the Council on Aging staff member who runs the program, has personally called all the seniors in the program, and she was on the other end of the calls that Comings was unable to answer.
"I am still calling every day," George said. "It has never not been in service since we started."
Comings will now serve as the program's spokeswoman, with plans to go around and inform seniors about the benefits of signing up.
"Thank God I knew about it," she said.
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