Special needs: First responders do a better job with more info

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Allegheny County’s new registry for individuals with special physical, mental or intellectual needs is a smart tool that will better prepare emergency responders for their work.

Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced the launch of the registry on Tuesday and encouraged people in the county who live independently but have disabilities to sign up.

The registry makes sense.

Imagine, for instance, that a police officer answering a call doesn’t know that the home’s occupant is hearing impaired or unable to get around easily. Without that knowledge, the officer might get impatient if it takes a long time for someone to answer the door. With the pertinent information, the officer knows what to expect and how to proceed.

In the case of a blaze, firefighters who have been supplied with correct information will arrive at the scene knowing they’ll face different challenges in trying to save a person who uses a wheelchair or has limited vision.

Information provided by residents about any disabilities will appear on an emergency dispatcher's screen if a call for assistance is placed from their homes. Responders interviewed by the Post-Gazette’s Kaitlynn Riely welcomed the registry. 

Most of them already are trained in handling special circumstances associated with various conditions, but getting advance notice that they’ll need to put their specialized training into action is bound to make a difference for the good.

Some municipalities already maintain similar records, but having the information available on a countywide basis will be an improvement, especially because emergency calls often are routed through the county’s operations center before local authorities are dispatched.

Participation is voluntary, and residents who need assistance should sign up at www.alleghenycounty.us/​specialneedsregistry.

The registry is one way for residents and first responders alike to be prepared.

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