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Teaneck Firefighters Look Out For Seniors

Brendan Sterbinsky, a Teaneck firefighter of five years, calls seniors in the morning to check that they are okay.
Brendan Sterbinsky, a Teaneck firefighter of five years, calls seniors in the morning to check that they are okay. Photo Credit: Aliza Chasan

TEANECK, N.J. – The first person some local seniors talk to every morning is a firefighter, thanks to the Teaneck Fire Department's Good Morning Check-Up phone call program.

After more than three decades, the program is still going strong.

“Good morning, fire department. Just checking in, everything okay,” Teaneck firefighter Brendan Sterbinsky asked a Teaneck senior over the phone early one March morning. “Alright, excellent. Have a nice day.”

If a senior doesn’t pick up on the first call, a firefighter waits a few minutes, calls back and then visits the person’s home if there's still no pickup.

“Sometimes they’re just in the shower,” Sterbinsky said. “That’s why we give them a little time before sending someone over.”

Over the years, firefighters have found several seniors who couldn't get back up after falling down -- as well as those who've died.

“If you live alone, you have somebody. You don’t have to be a shut in and have nobody else,” said Lt. David Barrett, who’s run the program for more than 10 years.

The department interviews new signees to get their medical and emergency contact information. A home safety inspection is also done.

Most of the 35 people signed up gave the fire department keys to get into their homes if necessary, but the department sometimes has had to break in.

The program is also available for younger people who live alone and have a medical issue.

One woman of them had seizures, Barrett said. She called a fire house one day, but was unable to speak because she was seizing.

“The people below just thought she was stomping her feet upstairs,” Barrett said.

A firefighter recognized the number from the Good Morning Check-Up Program and firefighters visited her apartment, then took her to a hospital.

For more information or to enroll in the program, call 201-387-2085 and ask for Lt. David Barrett or Lt. Richard Burchell.

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