Officials with the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency are continuing to reach out to families of individuals with special needs in hopes of providing better service to them.
EMA is encouraging residents to take advantage of the opportunity to have their children or adult family members added to the county’s Special Needs Registry.
“The registry is for people with disabilities, chronic conditions and special needs,” said Sandy Mackey, public information officer for Delaware County EMA. “What it allows is for the first responders to know their special need before they get to their home. They can formulate the right response for each case.”
Mackey said special needs is a broad term that encompasses people requiring certain types of medical assistance; those with physical or mental disabilities; non-ambulatory individuals; people with service animals; individuals with vision, hearing and speech impediments; as well as those who do not speak English or have limited proficiency with the English language.
The idea for the Special Needs Registry was first conceived in 2005 when Capt. William Piwtorak of the Liberty Township Fire Department was approached by the mother of a special needs child. She voiced concerns about how first responders would handle a situation in which they didn’t have specific knowledge of an individual’s condition.
“Between the two of them, they developed the idea for this program and got the wheels in motion,” Mackey said. “It was very popular (in Liberty Township) and then it went countywide and (EMA) started to administer it so it would get the proper attention that it needed.”
Delaware County EMA Director Sean Miller said that when the Special Needs Registry was established countywide, it was unique because of the number of agencies that banded together to make it work.
“It incorporated 911 dispatch and, to our knowledge, there really weren’t any other registries like that,” Miller said. “There were some sorts of static registries that might have been a list of folks printed off and kept on a truck that they’d check on their way out, but this one was developed internally for Delaware County. It was a joint effort by the (county) Auditor’s Office, county commissioners, our office, EMS, the fire departments, law enforcement – so it’s very collaborative in nature.”
The registry is maintained in a digital format, Miller said, so that when an emergency call is answered at the 911 center, dispatchers will see the address on screen and also see notification that an individual with special needs resides at that address. The type of special need is also listed on screen for the dispatcher.
Miller said the registry also allows EMA to better coordinate with local residents in case of a large-scale emergency that affects the entire county and might require evacuation.
“We can pull up that data and see, for instance, within that buffer zone we have 10 people on the registry that we have to provide additional assistance to evacuate,” Miller said. “We used it during the 2012 derecho. We pulled the primary phone numbers for each person on the registry and sent them to our CodeRED reverse calling system, and called all those individuals through an automated message.”
Mackey said the registry currently includes 800 addresses of people with special needs throughout Delaware County. The registry is a confidential program and adheres to the federal HIPAA regulations governing patient privacy.
To have an individual added to the Delaware County Special Needs Registry, contact Mackey at 740-833-2180, or visit www.delcoema.org and click on the Special Needs Registry tab on the left side of the home page.
Andrew Carter can be reached at 740-413-0902 and on Twitter @AndrewCarterDG.