Group seeks cell phones for seniors’ 911 needs

Posted April 14, 2009, at 7:52 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Boxes are being distributed throughout Waldo County for the collection of old cell phones, which will be exchanged for special 911 phones for senior citizens and victims of domestic abuse.

Waldo County TRIAD, a coalition of senior citizens, community agencies and law enforcement, is sponsoring the 911 Cell Phone Project. The old phones will be used for a “recycling” credit to supply the emergency phones at no cost to senior citizens and abuse victims.

Town offices and middle and high schools in the county will accept cell phones for use in the 911 Cell Phone Project. The cooperating company, RMS Communications, will not charge customers or TRIAD for the service. All phones collected that cannot be used in the emergency cell phone program will be recycled.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to support TRIAD with their cell phone recycling effort,” Police Chief Jeffrey Trafton said Tuesday. “Since many of our residents and students have cell phones to recycle, we know their support will really make an impact on the efforts to collect 911 phones.”

Trafton said the phone will call only 911 and cannot be used for regular calls. Each phone will have its individual charger. He said that in the event a person calling 911 is unable to communicate because of a medical or other problem, aid still would be forthcoming because the Waldo County Communications Center has the ability to pinpoint a call’s location through GPS technology.

Numerous law enforcement and victims services agencies across the country operate independent 911 cell phone programs. Many, like Waldo County TRIAD, use the 911 Cell Phone Bank emergency cell phone program. The program allows those agencies to focus on helping the community, Trafton said, rather than spending time testing cell phones or charging batteries.

“Millions of cell phones are retired every month in the U.S. alone,” said project organizer Paul Sheridan. “This recycling effort will help divert some of those phones from landfills and help us stay focused on the needs of the community.”

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