Used cell phone drive to give 911 access to DTES seniors

Dec 19 2017, 8:59 am

TELUS, Free Geek, Vancity, the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Department and the PHS Community Services Society are launching a campaign to give DTES seniors without phones access to 911 emergency call service. Vancouver residents are being asked to donate old cell phones and chargers—without the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card— so senior residents can have access to 911.

“By donating your old phone and charger you can give a DTES senior citizen access to 911 and peace of mind, which seems like a lovely gift to give this Christmas” said Liz Evans, Executive Director PHS Community Services Society.

Sarah Blyth, manager of a PHS residence that houses primarily seniors, says many of their residents do not have either a landline or a cell phone. Medical alert devices need a phone in each room to work so they are not an option for the senior’s residence.

“Staff regularly check on people, but privacy concerns and the timing of the daily rounds make it is easy to miss seniors who could be in distress,” she said.

“Some of our residents are well into their 90s,” said Blyth. “A couple of times, one of them has been injured or gotten ill and had no way of contacting anyone without physically walking to the lobby.”

Staff recently found out that cell phones can still make emergency calls to 911 even without the SIM card that contains account, personal information and contacts.

Together, the partners are hoping to collect 500 phones and chargers, with the help of donations from TELUS and the City of Vancouver and with Vancity providing drop box locations for cell phone donation. Free Geek will be ensuring all donated cell phones are wiped of any data before they are reused, as well as hosting workshops to teach seniors how to use the phones.

“Many cell phone users have multiple generations of outdated cell phones in their drawers at home, so a campaign to put those phones to use seems like a perfect solution,” said Blythe.

The program was launched on December 2, 2013. Phones and chargers can be dropped off in orange and teal boxes located in downtown Vancity branches and both Creekside and Roundhouse community centres before Christmas.


Image: Bakalusha / Shutterstock