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Giving friends a house key can make the difference between life and death

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image Sun City Center realtor Richard Randall and Kings Point resident Dianne Green talk about the day they found their neighbor near death and fortunately were on time to save a life. Penny Fletcher Photo

Leaving keys with a friend or neighbor that’s easily accessible can save Hillsborough County Emergency Services the trouble of breaking down a door to save a life.

By PENNY FLETCHER

SUN CITY CENTER — It’s the small things that can often make the biggest difference.

Like locking a door. Or in some cases, leaving someone else a way to unlock it in case you’re incapable of unlocking it yourself when you need emergency help.

Leaving keys with a friend or neighbor that’s easily accessible can save Hillsborough County Emergency Services the trouble of breaking down a door to save a life.

“We always try every entry before we break in a door,” said Craig Lynn, assistant chief of operations for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. “Our slogan is ‘try before you pry’ but sometimes when we’ve gotten a 9-1-1 call, we have to get in any way we can. It’s always good when people leave keys with friends or neighbors for times like that.”

Although many think EMS must wait for a sheriff’s deputy to arrive before EMS enters a home where the occupant cannot open the door, that simply is not the case.
“We have a duty to act and if we don’t act, we could even be guilty of criminal malfeasance,” Lynn said in an interview July 16.

The permission to go inside by whatever means necessary is automatically given with either a 9-1-1 call or a request from a concerned citizen, he added.

Of course, sometimes the county does have to pay for a broken door if it turns out the break-in wasn’t necessary, but those times are few and far between and Lynn said EMS would always rather err on the side of the possibility of saving a life.

Keys were a major factor in a recent lifesaving event that involved Sun City Center realtor Richard Randall and Kings Point resident Dianne Green.

Both held keys to the apartment of William Schlott Sr., a neighbor of Green’s. Randall was the realtor who listed Schlott’s house.

Schlott’s son, William (II) said he and his wife Darlene had been trying to get his father, who is 82, to do certain things that would make him safer. One of them was to move to Georgia to be nearer to them.

“Dad wanted to stay independent,” the younger Schlott said. “But he was really struggling.”

The story came to a climax on Father’s Day when the Schlotts couldn’t reach their father on the telephone. Both said they had a feeling right away that something was wrong.

“It was between two and three hours before we could get through to anyone,” Darlene Schlott said.

Finally, they got through to two people almost simultaneously; Randall and Green.

Randall, however, a retired medical professional, also has a background in law enforcement.

“I knew the first thing to do was check inside and of course, I didn’t know what we’d find so I had my wife and Dianne wait outside,” he said. “I did my ABC’s. Airway, breathing and pulse (cardio). Naturally, I knew to put on gloves and control the scene.”

You never know if there will be an investigation, he explained. “So it’s always best to assume there will be, and touch as little as possible in case someone needs prints.”
The small cul-de-sac was suddenly filled with emergency vehicles.

“It was amazing to see the response,” said Randall. “There were three fire trucks, three deputies and a K-9 officer. When it came time for them to leave, they could barely turn around.”

Randall said that as realtors who sell only in Sun City Center and Kings Point, he and his wife have come upon unusual situations many times. And because of the often advanced age of their specific clientele, they like to do extra things for them, like notarize documents and give them emergency rides.

“One client had a nephew arriving at TIA (Tampa International Airport) after 1 a.m. and asked if I would pick him up,” Randall told me in a recent interview. “It would seem like a major inconvenience, but it isn’t because I get to spend time with so many interesting people. As it turned out the nephew was a pilot, and I’ve done some flying myself. And we both had police force backgrounds. It was an enjoyable ride. I even got to find out about the new 777s (new higher speed planes). I learn from everybody.”

In the case of the Schlott family, Randall learned (or rather enforced what he already knew about) the value of leaving keys with neighbors and friends.

“Often the realtor will have them but can’t be found in time. Leaving more than one set is a very good idea,” Randall said.

Almost a month later when I talked to the younger Schlotts who live in Georgia, they said their father was in a rehab center and that the actions of Randall and Green had undoubtedly saved his life.

His ultimate prognosis however, is not yet clear.

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