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updated: 7/16/2013 5:19 PM

DuPage County focuses on senior safety as temperatures rise

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With temperatures reaching into the 90s this week, the sheriff's office is reminding DuPage County residents of a free service that aims to protect those most vulnerable to heat-related dangers.

Launched in 1997, Sheriff John Zaruba's Guardian System gives users the option of having police check in with them by phone on a regular basis to make sure they're OK.

When calls go unanswered, police reach out to secondary contacts and, if needed, send an officer to the participant's home for a well-being check.

The program is open to any county resident who is 62 or older, or physically or mentally disabled and living alone.

Zaruba said senior citizens who don't have air conditioning or fans can be especially vulnerable to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death.

"In warm weather, seniors tend to overdress, drink less fluids and not take the steps to cool down when needed," he said. "There are many seniors out there who need to be checked on -- and that's what Guardian is designed to do."

Users pick the dates, times and the frequency in which they wish to be contacted, according to sheriff spokeswoman Dawn Domrose.

"They could have it once a day, every other day, a couple times a day," she said. "They get to pick everything."

If a call from the program's automated system goes unanswered, police get in touch with a secondary contact provided by the user. If police still can't verify the resident's safety, a local officer or sheriff's deputy is dispatched.

The Guardian System likely has saved lives, Domrose said, with officers at times finding users who have fallen or been otherwise incapacitated.

More than 200 people ranging in age from their 60s to their 90s currently participate.

For more information, or to register, call (630) 407-2400.

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