Code Red

Westporters had a variety of reactions to today’s noontime “CodeRED Reverse 911” phone calls from the Police Department, asking for help locating an 82-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.

Some people were worried, or curious.  Others were annoyed at the intrusion.

Linda Gramatky Smith was alert.  And then she was satisfied.

Here’s the longtime resident’s story:

I love the new emergency alert system that Westport started in the last six months, and today I got personally involved.  I’m helping plan our Staples 50th reunion for September, and the brother of a deceased classmate called unexpectedly from San Francisco.  We spoke for a long time, and I stood in the kitchen making my lunch.

As we talked about our neighborhood, I gazed outside.  Absentmindedly I watched an elderly gentleman trudge by on Roseville, going south towards the Post Road.  I think I noticed him because cars speed by on Roseville, and only the heartiest joggers brave the traffic.  This man wasn’t fragile, but he wasn’t jogging.

Soon after I hung up, the phone rang again.  It was a Code Red alert.  A man with Alzheimer’s, the police recording said, had been downtown, around Town Hall, and disappeared.

As I heard the description — 80s, salt and pepper hair, brown pants and jacket — I immediately thought of the man I’d seen walking by.  I picked up the phone to call the police.

I told the woman who answered that I was afraid the man might have walked too far away, but she said a cruiser would be sent immediately. Imagine my delight when another call came in 15 minutes later, telling town residents that the gentleman had been found!  He had walked on back roads from downtown — a long distance.

I’m not sure if I was the one who gave the info that the police needed to find this man, but it brought back memories of when my mom lived with us.  She had dementia for the last couple of years.  I feel so happy that our town has this wonderful system in place — and that today instead of having my eyes fixed on the computer screen upstairs, I was fortunate enough to look out as a man walked by our house.

8 responses to “Code Red

  1. That’s a great story. Brava to Linda Gramatky Smith!

  2. The Dude Abides

    Kudos to Ms. Smith as well as a system that can alert the entire town in a matter of minutes. Hardly an intrusion. But this is the second instance of an Alzheimer patient wandering off. I realize the nature of the disease but it would seem that some kind of GPS tracking device could be utilized to prevent further mishaps.
    Until then, I certainly don’t mind answering the phone and taking a look see in the neighborhood.

  3. Wendy Crowther

    Way to go, Linda! I always love your observations, no matter what the topic of discussion is. In this case, your observations may have saved a life.

    Code Red is an invaluable service and I totally do NOT mind the phone call. For all three Code Red Alerts issued thus far for missing persons, the follow-up call reporting “the find” came within 15 minutes of the original alert. Clearly, the system works. Plus, it feels really good to be part of a rescue operation even if it just means looking out my window.

    I’ve also appreciated the two Code Red Alerts I’ve received regarding emergency road closures. Knowing to avoid these spots saves us all time and allows emergency services to keep the scene more manageable.

    My phone and I welcome the opportunity to be of help .

  4. Linda Gramatky Smith

    A follow up story told a great tale of a woman who pulled over by Winslow Park to get her phone messages from home on her cell phone … and heard the description of the man. Then she saw him sitting on the stone wall of the park on Compo Road and called the police and the cruiser immediately came there. I guess he walked down the Post Road from Roseville to Compo. We are a “village” looking out for our neighbors, aren’t we? Thanks to all who got involved.

  5. This is great to see that our CodeRED emergency notification service is being used in such a positive way. It’s always good to have a “good ending” in situations like these.

    Mike Ellis
    Emergency Communications Network

  6. Detective William Harsche

    The Westport Police does have a device that can track people who wander off. It is called Project Life Saver. For further information please contact me at my office at 203 341-6023.

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