Ramsey County residents with disabilities and their loved ones will get extra help in emergencies through a new program. An emergency response form is now available for people with disabilities. This form, which can be completed online, will help the Ramsey County Communications Center, law enforcement and medical personnel provide accessible and adapted emergency services.
It is the first program of its kind in the region and is the culmination of more than two and a half years’ work by volunteers. The voluntary form was developed by the St. Paul Mayor’s Advisory Committee for
People with Disabilities and the Ramsey County Emergency Communications Center. County residents can fill out the form, which the communications center will keep on file. The form indicates any special conditions, allergies and/or medications that emergency responders need to know about. It also informs the communications center of medical contacts and of any trusted individuals that can assist police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency personnel; in entering or securing the individual’s home during an emergency.
People filling out the forms can let emergency responders know everything from what a person’s disability is to where a door key may be found. The form is entirely voluntary, said Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom. “We’re not telling people they have to do this.” But he and other emergency responders, as well as advisory committee members, said the forms could help save a life.
The form was unveiled April 18 at St. Paul Fire Station One, by members of the advisory council and other Ramsey County and St. Paul emergency services personnel.
“This is our gift to people in Ramsey County with disabilities,” said Scott Coleman, chair of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities.
“It took a lot of talking, a lot of pleading, a lot of promises to get to this stage,” said Mark Hughes, a member of the mayor’s council. “Our hope is that in the next year, this program can save one life.”
The advisory council raised the idea of the forms during discussions with Bostrom prior to the republican National Convention in 2008. At that time Bostrom was with the St. Paul Police Department. “It’s important to get complete, accurate, real-time information about the people we’re trying to service,” Bostrom said.
The communications center handles hundreds of thousands of 911 calls each year, said Ramsey County Emergency Communications Center Director Scott Williams. He said the center is pleased to be part of this program. “We handle a wide range of calls and we have a lot of surprises. One thing that should never be a surprise is someone’s disability or a disability in a household.”
The forms’ information will be in a computer system and will be seen only when a call comes in for a specific address. The information will then be relayed to the emergency responders. St. Paul Fire Department makes more than 40,000 runs a year for emergency medical services, fires and rescues.
“One thing we have learned in the past is that having information ahead of time saves a lot of time and effort,” said Fire Chief Tim Butler. The forms would help emergency responders bring the right equipment and medications. Butler said the forms will provide a “significant boost” to emergency medical efforts.
Hughes said he got the idea while traveling via Metro Mobility past high-rises and other places where people with disabilities live. “I just wanted to make things better,” Hughes said. “I wanted to help the disability community.”
Connect to the form at www.co.ramsey.mn.us/ecc/ Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Residential Emergency Response Information Form. It is for Ramsey County residents only but advocates note it is an idea that could be implemented in other cities and counties as well.