by Lisa Tome
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
Jane Biggers, 85, will soon be a hero among heroes.
Biggers has myriad of health problems. Those problems have caused emergency responders to come to her Elkton home on numerous occasions. In an effort for medics to provide care, the door to her home has been broken down so responders could render aid.
She worried about having a key outside. Her brother, who lives in Arizona, told Biggers about Knox Boxes. A Knox Box is a secure way to keep a key outside your home. Authorized fire company officers have a key to the box. They can access the key to a home and can also view other emergency information that is kept inside the box.
Biggers then took the idea of having a Knox Box to Sandra Rogaskie, senior case manager for Cecil County Senior Services. Rogaskie has been assigned to watch out for Biggers for the past 19 years.
Rogaskie then began researching Knox Boxes. She took the idea to officials at Cecil's Senior Services and Singerly Fire Company.
Rob Muller, a lieutenant with Singerly Fire Company, and assistant Chief Michele Debold started looking into the issue. Muller said that businesses which have opened in the last few years, such as Chili's and Olive Garden, have the Knox Boxes. "It's a secure way to allow the fire company access to your property when you can't provide it," said Muller.
Senior Services staff began looking for funding. The boxes cost $210 each. They found funds to pay for 21 boxes for people in need. The criteria is that the recipients are people who have a senior care worker, are left alone for long periods of time, and those who live at home, are frail, 65 and older, and who meet medical and income guidelines. The boxes will also be returned to Senior Services when the person no longer needs it. They can then be assigned to someone else.
"There's always been a need. People would leave a key under the mat or behind a rock," said Rogaskie.
Muller said from the first responder perspective, the patient gets more expedited care. No one has to wait for a key holder, building superintendent, or break down a door to reach a patient.
Other county fire companies will soon join the individual senior services Knox Box program.
Muller said he hopes the program appeals to individuals and businesses that don't already have them.
Gary Blazinsky, a chief in Cecil's Senior Services, and a partner in the Knox Box project, said this also offers seniors piece of mind. "This will be a huge benefit that we can supply these and make a difference in their lives."
It's already made Biggers feel better and given her a sense of security. She's had a heart attack and three strokes. She is also confined to a power chair. She wears a Life Alert device where she can alert 911 with the touch of a button.
Rogaskie explained that the goal of the case managers is to help seniors remain safe and independent in the community for as long as possible. The Knox Boxes will be a key component in that process.
"I know I'm going to sleep better," said Biggers. "I feel safe now. When I call somebody, they can get in the house."