Auburn Fire Dept. starts Autism response program | News

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Auburn Fire Dept. starts Autism response program

AUBURN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Firefighters in Auburn want to know where people with Autism live, and how they can better serve them.

The Auburn Fire Department has launched an Autism database with the Lewiston/Auburn 911 Dispatch Center.

Fire Chief Frank Roma said it will give emergency responders an opportunity to serve people with Autism in the best possible way.

"More importantly, we can provide them the same level of service as anyone else would have," said Chief Roma.

According to the Executive Director of the Maine Autism Alliance, Heidi Bowden, sirens and flashing lights can trigger a sensory overload in people affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Bowden said signs of a meltdown include:

  • The person putting hands over ears
  • Crouching down
  • Freezing position
  • Running away
  • Harming self or other person

Roma said if his department knows they are responding to a home where someone has Autism, they can do things like turning off the sirens and lights, and following the guidelines set forth in a personal survey.

Participation is voluntary, and requires information about the Autistic person's address, potential triggers, favorite topics of conversation, among other personal information.

Once a person or family registers with the database, a red flag will appear in the 911 center's software to alert emergency responders.

Fire Prevention Officer David O'Connell said he came up with the idea for the database after meeting with children who have Autism and their guardians.

He said it's important to have information on file, even if the person requesting assistance isn't the one affected by Autism.

"We still have to recognize that child on the scene, and make sure they're being taken care of," said O'Connell.

Chief Roma said once they begin to build the database, they will work with Autism specialists to learn techniques for working with people with Autism.

People can register with the Autism database by calling the Auburn Fire Department at 784-5433.


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