COLUMBIA, MD – The Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS) is partnering with the Howard County Autism Society (HCAS) on a progressive training program that teaches personnel how to respond to emergencies involving individuals with autism.
This comprehensive training will be included in the department’s virtual academy and will be required for all firefighters and paramedics to complete. The training will include facts about autism and the characteristics of autism, tips for helping people with autism in emergency situations, and effective examination methods. In addition to preparing first responders with adequate knowledge of autism, the training will address some of the difficulties that may be encountered in a rescue situation.
“As an organization, we are always striving to deliver the very best service to the entire community, including those with functional needs,” said Fire/EMS Chief William Goddard. “This new innovative training will be a great benefit to our personnel. We are excited about this partnership.”
The software presentation will include a pre-course knowledge check with critical thinking questions about autism facts and emergency response challenges. After firefighters and paramedics complete the training, a post-course quiz will be given to reinforce content comprehension. Interviews with families will be interspersed throughout the presentation. There will also be an interactive forum for feedback and questions between HCDFRS, HCAS and a panel of local parents in the community, of which more than 700 reside in Howard County as a result of the supportive school system.
“Courses like this are critical to our development,” said Captain Tony Concha. “As first responders we want to be able to recognize and anticipate the unique aspects of interacting with members of our community. Joint training such as this, increases our awareness, and comfort level when providing care during emergency responses.”
This training expands the efforts of HCAS to work alongside all first responders in the county in an effort to “help them help us.” In the spring, HCAS launched a new program with the 911 Call Center by giving residents the option to voluntarily “flag” their addresses in the system. For families who have enrolled, the 911 Call Center now has first-hand knowledge that an individual with autism resides at a given address and that he or she may be nonverbal, oversensitive to sirens, unaware of danger, prone to elope, or exhibit other noteworthy behaviors. This information will be forwarded to first responders prior to their arrival on the scene.
For more information on this program and others, visit www.howard-autism.org.