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Kings County Sheriff's Department Upgrades 'R.U.O.K.?' Program

 

Kings County seniors who sign up for the CARE service will receive calls to ensure they are OK (maybe not from this model though).

The Kings County Sheriff's Department will be upgrading its RUOK ("Are You OK?") program in the near future. The decision was made to replace the system it has been using to serve the needs of its seniors for the past 18 years with a Call Reassurance (CARE) service.

CARE is a telephone service that contacts the elderly and handicapped to ensure their well-being. The program can also be used to check in on latchkey children to make sure they are OK when their parents are at work. When necessary, the program can provide emergency notifications to all those who sign up.

"Call Reassurance does some of the same things that RUOK did, but with 21st century technology, it's much better," said Kings County Sheriff's Department Commander Kris Zuniga, adding that the new system allows the department to reach seniors during the kind of "horrendous heat" the South Valley has been experiencing this summer. "We can send out reminders to all seniors to stay indoors and drink plenty of water.

"RUOK was antiquated and the person who runs it has no intentions of changing it," he continued. "I can't say that the RUOK system wasn't a success for us, but it wasn't keeping up with technology."

The county's program is a service offered free of charge by the Kings County Sheriff's Office "to contact senior citizens and/or the disabled that live alone and may not have a family member living locally that can check on them every day," according to the Kings County webpage at http://www.countyofkings.com/services/are-you-ok-ruok-program.

Users have been able to select a time of day for the RUOK computer to dial your phone number. "All you need to do is pick up your telephone and listen to the prerecorded message," according to the county website. "The computer assumes you are okay if you answer the telephone. Should you be using the phone or could not get to the phone in time, the computer will attempt to make two more calls. If the phone is not answered an "alert" will be issued in the Emergency Dispatch Center and your emergency contact person will be notified to check on you."

The new CARE system from Database Systems Corp. will soon also replace RUOK in many other cities and counties, according to Jerry A. Pizet, vice president and CARE Program Manager for Database Systems Corp.

"There are many obvious differences between the first generation RUOK system and the next generation of 'Call Reassurance' by our company," he explained before listing the main features that "instantly jump out" to him:

• The IMOK feature allows subscribers to call in indicating their wellbeing - instead of waiting for scheduled call. (If they forget to call in, they'll get their scheduled call as usual.) RUOK cannot handle inbound calls - so this function is not possible in RUOK.

• Telephony cards are used in CARE, which means that the software can detect answering machines, so subscribers' answering machines do not need to be turned off.

• Custom and personalized greetings along with multiple calls per day are available for any schedule possible.

• The system can grow to 48 lines. RUOK would require 48 systems.

The new system is included in the county's new budget, which was signed earlier this month. The budget takes 30 days from the time it is signed to go into effect.

"As soon as that happens, we will get the computers here," said Zuniga, adding that the Call Reassurance system should be running after another two or three weeks, and an effort to get Kings County seniors to sign up will begin at that time. "We prefer that people wait to sign up to make sure it's running. We will then make sure all persons on RUOK sign up."

When the system is running, the Sheriff's Department will make presentations to the senior centers in the county. Part of the publicity effort will be to clear up a misconception that some seniors have about the program.

"This is not exclusive to unincorporated areas," Zuniga explained. "It is open to every senior in Kings County. If you are a resident of Kings County and a senior, you are eligible. We have people who are signed up in Hanford and Lemoore."

 

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