Firefighter Develops Special Needs Program

Charlie Jones of Dillon County Fire Station Nine had developed a program to educate families of special needs persons about fire safety.
This program is intended to help educate the families of special needs children/family members about fire safety, fire protection, how to escape a fire and to help assist in fire survivability in the event that they become trapped in a fire. The program will include going to the family home and conducting a survey of potential areas of fire ignition, potential fire flow path, informing the family of ways to escape the home in a fire, inform the family on ways to increases their survivability in a fire if they become trapped, assist in the escape planning process for the family, show and perform the escape process with the special needs individual(s) until the family and individual is comfortable with the execution of the fire escape plan. There shall be a Maltese Cross emblem placed in a visible area on the residence that shall inform the responding fire department as to the bedroom location of the special needs family member(s). The sticker should be placed in an area as it can be easily seen by responding units as they arrive on scene. The emblem will include, in the middle, which side/corner of the home these individuals’ rooms are located. An example will be: AB/ BC/ CD/ AD/ A/ B/ C/ C/ D. If there is a BC in the middle of the emblem, the bedroom should be located at the BC corner of the residence. The dispatch center should also be given this information as to inform the responding units that they are responding to a special needs residence and give the location of special needs bedroom according to the above sites: AB/ CD, ect..
Special needs individuals (SNI) are described as: a person with a disadvantaged background or a mental, emotional, physical disability, or a high risk of developing one. Some examples would be: People with autism, fragile-x syndrome, Down syndrome, dyslexia, blindness, deafness, learning difficulties, ADHD or cystic fibrosis.
1. Identify the type of special needs/disability of the individual(s). Each person may have a different type of issue which may require a different approach to the program. It is to be noted that all special needs individuals may not have the capability or understanding to comprehend what is being done or presented to them. Some may not be able to perform the escape due to being bed ridden or have limited mobility. In this case, the family will be informed of ways to increase the survivability of the individual.
2. Based on the needs and the approach of the individual(s)/ families, there should be a rough draft of an escape plan and as to the approach of the special needs individuals prior to going out the home.
3. Once at the home/residence, fire fighters will properly introduce themselves to the family and explain what is to be expected from the program.
4. Firefighters will inspect the home/residence for the potential fire hazard, potential fire flow paths, look for fire extinguishers- if there are none- inform the family of where they can purchase one and where to place them in the residence/home, look for smoke detectors, if there are none-arrange for instillation of smoke detectors and placements of detectors. Firefighters will also locate and document the bedroom location of the special needs family member(s) so the appropriate sticker can be placed in visible area on the residence/home.
5. Assist the family with a fire escape plan: Escape routes, meeting place outside, who will call 911, who will go to a neighbor if not able to call 911 themselves and how to use fire extinguisher.
6. Firefighters will show and explain equipment used by firefighters at a residential fire. Firefighters will don all gear, including SCBA for the special needs individuals to see the firefighter as they will be going inside the residence. It will also allow them to hear the SCBA being used prior to a fire incident.
7. Firefighters will help the family and SNI (special needs individuals) practice the escape plan. In a trapped scenario, the firefighters will practice going in after the trapped SNI, so that they are familiar with firefighters coming in after them in FULL PPE.
8. In the case that the SNI is bedridden, firefighters will assist the family in a plan as to get the SNI out of the residence in the event of a fire. Firefighters will inform the family on ways to improve the SNI survivability if they are unable to get them out due to their weight of their inability to get the SNI removed from the fire.
9. Once the escape plan has been established and practice with the family and they are satisfied with it, the proper Maltese Cross sticker with the SNI bedroom location should be placed in an area that can be easily seen by first arriving responders.
10. The dispatch center will be given information about the location of the SNI family and stick information with SNI bedroom locations(s). They will be instructed to give this information when a call is dispatched concerning the SNI, especially in a structure fire with entrapment of the SNI.
11. This residence/home with the SNI information shall be included in fire department preplans as well.

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