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Saving lives focus of Southern Sussex County Safety Forum

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Efforts to prevent Sussex Countians from falling victim to criminals or suffering a premature death were discussed at a recent forum that drew more than 50 people to the Millsboro Fire Company.

The forum, which was jointly sponsored by State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro; Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View; and Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett brought together representatives of the Delaware State Police, Sussex County Emergency Operations Center, county paramedics, Millsboro Fire Company, and Delmarva Power to make brief presentations and take questions from the public.

Delaware State Police Cpl. Michael Trestka, a community response officer for Troop 4, said phone scams targeting seniors continue to be a problem. Two of the most popular approaches for con artists are to pose as an IRS agent demanding payment for overdue taxes; or someone claiming to be a grandchild that needs money immediately for legal expenses. The latter one, often referred to as "The Grandparent Scam," is the one that is "getting everyone in the county," Trestka said.

Hocker said he had two people contact him within the last two weeks who were getting ready to send money to a phone scammer. Fortunately, he said he was able to stop both before they made the transfer.

According to Pindrop Labs, a company that markets technology and services to reduce phone fraud, about one in every 2,000 calls in the U.S. involves fraud.

For those that do fall victim to phone scams, there is little hope. "I'll tell you right now; we are not getting that money back," Trestka said.

Collins added that the IRS does not contact citizens by phone to demand payment.

Consumer advocates say scammers will make threats and use other tactics to pressure victims into taking hasty action. Citizens receiving such calls are advised to stay calm, ask questions, and if a scam is suspected to simply hangup. Most importantly, citizens should never provide an unsolicited caller with credit card, checking account, or Social Security numbers.

The dozens of attendees at the meeting also got an overview of the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center from Director Joe Thomas. "We took roughly 111,000 9-1-1 calls last year," he said. Thomas told seniors they should consider retaining their land line phone, noting that after the terrorist attacks in 2001 and the earthquake that struck the mid-Atlantic region in 2011, local cellular phone service was temporarily lost.

He added county residents can also help themselves and first responders by taking advantage of Smart911 - a supplemental data service that allows citizens to create a profile that can be seen by emergency operators whenever they call 9-1-1.

Using the free, voluntary service, citizen profiles can be created with details about medical conditions, medications, vehicles, pets and emergency contacts. The profiles can contain information about all members of the household and can be updated anytime. For more information go to

"This event really highlighted the great strides Sussex County has made in public safety," Collins said. "That is not to say everything is perfect, and there are not some frustrations, but we really have top-notch first responders, especially our paramedics, who are ranked among the best in the nation."

Jeff Cox, an education coordinator with Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, said those suffering from sudden cardiac arrest that are treated by the county's paramedics survive at a rate significantly higher than the national average. Still, the odds of a heart attack victim living beyond the incident are improved further if a bystander can promptly perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The problem, Cox said, is that too few people know CPR and many are unwilling to invest the hours it takes for formal certification. In response, he said county paramedics have changed their paradigm.

If paramedics are being sent to a football game or other event in a reserve capacity, they now setup to teach "hands-only CPR" to the public - a technique that takes about 10 minutes to learn. "We changed our paradigm," Cox said. "If we're sending paramedics to an event to stand by, they need to be teaching CPR."

Collins said he thinks the forum delivered on its promise to inform.

"I learned some things, and I think the people who came out learned some valuable information as well," he said.

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Original Publication Date: July 12, 2016

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