During one of Scott Lepper’s first duties as an EMT with the Virginia Beach Emergency Medical Services, he responded to a call from an elderly woman who had fallen on her garage floor and couldn’t get up.
“She lived alone and had no relatives nearby,” Lepper said. “When I asked, she explained she could not afford a traditional help alert service.”
Sadly, that scenario is not an uncommon one.
“We go on a lot of senior calls with a lot of falls in the middle of the night,” said Lepper, a volunteer EMT with the Sandbridge Volunteer Rescue Squad and the Marine Rescue Team.
While most systems rely on outside companies to respond to calls, Lepper came up with an idea for a medical help-alert service that stemmed much closer to home in January 2013.
In June 2014, he registered his company, RescueTouch.
The 49-year-old hails from Illinois and now lives in Virginia Beach. His reach – with RescueTouch – is expanding well beyond the area.
He joined forces with Tom Franks, founder of LifeGuardian, an early industry help alert service founded in 1988. Franks saw the potential in Lepper’s device – one considered revolutionary in the industry – and wanted to get on board.
Lepper said Franks believed in his product so much, he shut down LifeGurdian, rebranded with RescueTouch and is a 50/50 partner.
The RescueTouch S.O.S. Caller device, which can be used for emergency or non-emergency situations, tracking, communication and safety, stands out from the others because it does not require call center monitoring. It also allows family, friends and caregivers to call the wearer, never before available in the help alert industry
Additionally, with the number of non-emergency related calls known to bog down the emergency services system, RescueTouch can help alleviate that problem.
“The other systems have one number when you push the button, and it’s to either a monitoring center or 911,” Lepper said. “Both of those contacts will send out paramedics, a fire truck or ambulance to see if you’re OK.”
Instead, it can be set to call a son, daughter, other family member, neighbor, friend, front desk at an assisted-living facility or a non-emergency response vehicle.
“That would save on unnecessary 911 calls, which are expensive for the city,” Lepper said. “Families would rather handle it internally when they can.”
The system is not just usable within the home, like most health-alert systems. Users can take the system wherever they go – either outdoors or cross country.
The RescueTouch device, which is available in four colors, costs a one-time fee of $99 with packages starting at $19 per month for one number and $29 per month for five numbers.
It also can be enhanced to include fall detection, GPS location and family text alerts for additional costs.
Lepper is offering a $5 discount for those he calls “heroes,” such as first responders, military, nurses and police officers.
To date, Ocean Park and Sandbridge Beach Volunteer Rescue Squads, Primeplus Norfolk Senior Center, 900 Acqua Senior Apartments, 101 Mobility and Fire Rescue TV have all become affiliate partners.
RescueTouch donates 10 percent of every membership to senior centers and first responders.
Retired Deputy Chief Bill Kiley, who served on the city of Virginia Beach’s Emergency Medical Services for 35 years, became the first appointee to RescueTouch’s board of advisers.
Kiley, too, saw the need for such a device especially with nuisance 911 calls a growing problem.
“The device notifies the family members and 911 if they really need emergency care,” Kiley said.
Lepper sees his device as a win-win for all involved.
“This can offer peace of mind to families,” Lepper said.
By Sandra J. Pennecke