The MLO Minute: By JIllian Zacks, Esq.
As a parent or caregiver of an individual with a disability, we often worry about all of the “what ifs?”. What if something happens at our home, what if we are in a car accident? The worry increases when the individual does not speak, uses non verbal communication or can be perceived as aggressive in stressful situations. We wanted to highlight some of the ways in Pennsylvania that you can alert first responders of the needs of an individual with a disability.
In Allegheny County, there is a special needs registry which is a voluntary registry of information by those with a mental or physical disability. The information is provided to the Department of Emergency Services and it is a way for emergency responders to receive helpful information about residents who have special needs. The information is programed to appear on the 9-1-1 Operator’s screen when an emergency call is made from the individual’s home. The registry is open to any Allegheny County resident who requires additional assistance due to special needs during a police, fire or medical emergency. If a person is unable to provide the information, it may be submitted by a person authorized to act on their behalf like their guardian or power of attorney. The link for more information about the registry can be found at https://www.alleghenycounty.us/emergency-services/911/special-needs-registry.aspx.
In Philadelphia, you can complete the Philadelphia Police Department ADA registration form to inform them of anyone in your household who has a disability or medical condition. In addition to identifying information, nature of the individual’s condition and medication, you can provide the preferred way to communicate and suggestions of how to approach and calm the individual. The website for more information is https://www.phila.gov/services/safety-emergency-preparedness/apply-for-the-911-program-for-people-with-disabilities/
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation also has a program called Yellow Dot. You can place a Yellow Dot decal in the rear window of the vehicle in which an individual will be traveling to alert first responders to check the glove compartment for vital information. More information to complete the participation process can be found at https://www.penndot.gov/TravelInPA/Pages/Yellow-Dot.aspx.
If you live outside of the Pittsburgh or Philadelphia areas you may contact your local municipality to find out if there are similar programs in your area.