Seniors learn awareness tips at Camp 911

REED CITY — A group of senior citizens in Osceola County now know better ways to protect themselves and how to be prepared in emergency situations thanks to Camp 911.

The all-day event, hosted by the Retired Senior Volunteer Program for Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties, is a collaborative effort among local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, EMS, American Red Cross, emergency managements, senior service providers and senior citizens.

"This is our disaster preparedness activity for senior citizens so they can be prepared in an emergency," said RSVP Director Sandy Dalrymple. "We want to reassure them not to worry in some situations, that we're training them what to do."

The program offered a number of informational displays and presentations from local first responders as well as pamphlets and booklets on senior citizen safety and resources in time of need. Topics included prescriptions, fire safety, natural disaster preparation, police information, how some medications can affect driving, scams, identification theft and more.

The Osceola County Sheriff's Department and Cadillac Police Department were on hand with K-9 pups in training and a seasoned dog unit. Sheriff department deputies Jed Avery and Mark Moore talked about their young Dutch shepherd dogs Blaze and Ryker, educating seniors about why the dogs are needed, how they are selected and trained, and what purpose they serve in the community. The pair answered questions, let attendees greet the dogs and demonstrated a bite simulation. Cadillac PD officer Lance Taylor introduced his dog, Sage, a Belgian Malinois.

"It's good to be a part of something like this program because if a senior citizen gets lost or wanders, they won't be afraid of us or the dogs," Moore said.

The exercise also shows attendees the dogs are very well trained and not aggressive.

"It's fun because we work really hard on the dogs' craft, so we like to show it off, especially because we're training them ourselves," Avery added.

Camp 911 also allowed Reed City Police Chief Chuck Davis and Osceola County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Baumgartner the opportunity to inform seniors about new scams and ways criminals steal identities. A short video helped list how people of all ages can protect themselves from identity theft and what steps to take if it does occur.

"We want them to be aware of scams over the phone and through the internet that target seniors," Dalrymple said. "We're teaching them not be afraid to say no when someone asks for personal information."

Davis stressed the importance of not carrying a Social Security card unless you need to take it to or from a place where it will be needed. In addition, seniors should not give out the number over the phone, unless they are sure they know who they are talking to. The IRS will never ask for the number during a phone call, he said.

"It's not necessary to carry these sensitive items with you," Davis added. "You have to avoid what you can avoid the best you can."