911 Service Aims to Protect Disabled

By ICare4Autism staff

city of chiago policeA new “premise alert program” in Illinois allows families to contact with their local police or fire department on a critical level. Residents can now submit information pertaining to family members that may require extra care in case of an emergency. This includes: a child with autism, a parent with Alzheimer’s, a hearing impaired teenager, etc.

One resident of land of Lincoln, Feller-Schmakel said, “I think it’s fantastic” then continued on to say, “In my opinion, it makes those first responders that much faster.”

On Aug. 28 the program was signed into law. The law states that the 911 call centers must accept information pertaining to people with disabilities. They then must share the information with police, firefighters and paramedics in an emergency. The seemingly basic structure revolves around the idea that police will know when they may encounter a deaf man who subsequently will be unable to hear their sirens and commands.

The unfortunate denominator to the law is the use of the wording “if a 911 call center has the proper technology.” Fortunately, according to reports and comments, most call centers seem to be equipped to accommodate the data. As of October 2008, 85 of Illinois’ 102 counties had enhanced 911 service but just a few local agencies have offered the alert program.
Itasca deputy police chief Dean Myles, serves on the board of the Autism Society of Illinois. Myles said that the service could help prevent potentially fatal encounters between police and disabled people, including one in 2005 that killed Hansel Cunningham of Des Plaines.

After police responded to a call that he’d attacked a caregiver at the home where he was living, Cunningham, 30, ran from police, who wound up using pepper spray and a Taser, tackling Cunningham and handcuffing him. He suffocated to death while being held face down on the ground.

The deputy police chief responded by saying that the police should have known more about autism. This includes knowing what they might encounter during the call.

According to an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune, “Chicago police tried to question 16-year-old Oscar Guzman while he was standing outside his family’s restaurant. Relatives said Guzman, who has autism, wouldn’t answer questions and eventually walked away from the police.”

The article continued on to say, “The officers followed, prompting Guzman to run into the restaurant, yelling, “I’m a special boy!” as he fled. Relatives said one of the officers hit Guzman with a baton, causing a serious gash.”

The emergency alert service is also widely available in Pennsylvania.

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