Call from Groton emergency pull box credited for saving two lives

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GROTON – An emergency pull box in Groton became a lifeline Monday night.

Diana Hernandez told FOX 61 her 14-year-old son George Lopez pulled the lever on a box in their apartment complex on Poquonnock Road after witnessing two people overdosing. He didn’t have a cell phone available at the time.

“He came across this situation had no ability for communication and took it upon himself to take action, which we encourage,” said Poquonnock Bridge Fire Chief Joseph Winski.

The call came in around 11:15p.m. on Monday. The two victims were taken to the hospital to be treated.

But because the pull box had the word “fire” on it, Lopez was nervous. He told emergency responders he was somewhat afraid to use it.

“This person was so concerned he was going to get in trouble. And he should be praised. He could very well have saved two lives by pulling that alarm,” said Chief Winski.

The chief learned through this incident that there are many others who don't know the purpose of the red emergency boxes. There are likely hundreds of them around Groton alone, and they work.

“Don’t hesitate just because it’s not a fire. You have an emergency. You’re going to get help,” he said.

He explained the pull boxes, which are found on buildings, street poles and standing alone, signal an immediate response at Groton dispatch and at the nearest fire house. You are guaranteed that a police officer and fire truck will respond every time.

Chief Winski says it’s a great back up system when technology fails. In times of extreme weather or natural disasters, phone lines and cell towers can go down, but this two-wire telegraph system likely won’t.

Captain Brian Kiely remembers when all the phone lines went down during Hurricane Gloria for about a week back in 1985.

“They put it out on the radio that if you have an emergency, if you need police, fire, ambulance, to go out and pull the closest box to you,” said Capt. Kiely.

Chief Winski said, “It’s a very solid system.”

He added if you have the option of calling 911 that is still the best way to go. Dispatchers will be able to get more information from the caller, and send the proper units to respond.