LANCASTER, Pa. -- A local ambulance association is trying to make it harder for people to injure themselves in falls.
This month the Manheim Township Ambulance Association will begin its Fall Prevention Initiative.
With the help of the Lancaster County Office of Aging, retirement homes and community residents, it will compile a list of people at risk for falling and then consult with them on steps they can take to minimize both their chances of falling and their risk of injury should they fall.
People on the list will receive regular visits from association staff members and have increased access to information about fall-prevention devices.
"We're taking things in a different direction," said James Weber, the association's community outreach and education coordinator.
"There aren't a lot of organizations out there that are looking into prevention."
And prevention, Weber said, is crucial. He said that 7.3 percent of the nearly 6,500 calls the association responded to last year were for falls, many of which could have been prevented by handy grab bars or properly positioned oxygen tubes.
Severe falls, Weber, said, can have devastating consequences.
"It's disheartening to see someone who's spent their entire life having mobility and to see them come to realize, in a split second, that they are not as mobile as they thought they were," Weber said.
"If you can imagine looking into someone's eyes and seeing that they're not what they once were, it's sad."
Weber plans to work with the Northampton-based Webb Medical Systems to help show people that simple tools, such as fall grab bars, can make a big difference in their quality of life.
Sharon Webb, vice president of sales for Webb Medical Systems, said the details of the arrangement haven't been ironed out yet but that the company is looking forward to helping the ambulance association raise awareness of the importance of fall prevention.
"There's so much out there to help people that they're not aware of: ramps, stair climbs, motorized wheelchairs," Webb said.
The ambulance organization is breaking some new ground in establishing a fall-prevention plan for Manheim Township's roughly 36,000 residents. There are only a couple others in the United States.
Weber estimated that the program would cost $30,000 to $40,000 a year, depending on the demand. He said he's currently preparing grant applications to seek project funding.
Weber said the Manheim Township Ambulance Association's fall-prevention initiative is just one of several programs it would like to offer promoting prevention.
This February, the ambulance association will join the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, an organization that works to promote CPR and resuscitation awareness, among other things.
"It was a no-brainer for us to actually align with them," Weber said. "It. . .gives us some fundraising ability to bring together the medical community so we can really do everything possible to improve resuscitation."
Weber said that within the next three years the association hopes to teach at least 15 percent of Manheim Township's residents how to perform CPR and use defibrillators. Weber said the association is applying for a grant that will allow it to place 15 or more defibrillators at "at-risk places," such as stores, throughout Manheim Township.
Township residents who want more information on how to refer someone to the Fall Prevention Initiative can call Weber at 569-6622.