Brookfield wants emergency cellphones for seniors

? The Brookfield police and the Aging Well Council join forces to collect and distribute phones to seniors for 911 calls.

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As a result of a joint effort by the Brookfield Police Department and the Brookfield Aging Well Council, local seniors will soon be able to apply for free cellphones to use for 911 calls.

Although details of the plan are still being finalized, both the police department and the Aging Well Council are in the process of collecting used, out-of-service cellphones that will eventually be distributed to Brookfield seniors. Some 30 phones have already been donated for the program.

Officer Larry Kutella, the senior services officer for the Brookfield Police Department, is working as a liaison with the Brookfield Aging Well Council, a volunteer group of 15-20 residents who are working to implement programs, such as the File of Life, that benefit seniors.

"I'm hoping we get as many phones as we need," Kutella said. "The hope is to get a phone for everyone who wishes to have one."

The criteria for distributing the phones is not yet complete, but the goal is to get the phones into the hands of seniors who both need and will make use of them.

"We want people to use these as a resource," said Lesley Janusz, director of community based projects at the British Home and a member of the Aging Well Council. "We need to have people who are willing to take on the responsibility to keep them in working order and to take them with them."

According to Janusz, any working cellphone that has been in service at one time is capable of making 911 calls. In fact, she said, the federal government has mandated that cellphone companies respond to 911 calls, even if the phone is out of service. There is no charge to the phone user or the village government to make the call.

Once all of the ground rules for handing out the phones have been determined, seniors will be able to make appointments with the Brookfield Aging Well Council for distribution. Everyone receiving a phone will be taught how to use the phone, how to charge it and what happens when someone makes a 911 call. Appointments will likely take place at the Brookfield Village Hall.

Janusz also emphasized that seniors don't necessarily have to go through the program to be able to use a cellphone for 911 calls. People who are upgrading phones or replacing old phones, can simply give their out-of-service phones to family members who might be able to use them for emergency calls.

"People with family members don't have to go through us," Janusz said. "They can just give them the phones. It can be done within a family."

Anyone wishing to donate a phone for the program can drop it off at the Brookfield Police Department, 8820 Brookfield Ave., or contact Janusz at 387-2005. All phones must be in working order and should be delivered in a zip-lock bag along with the phone's recharger.

Those wishing to become involved in the Brookfield Aging Well Council can attend one of the group's meetings, which take place in the basement of village hall at 10 a.m. on the last Tuesday of each month.

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