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Autism Risk Management - Information for first responders - Police, Fire, Ambulance

On June 14, 2009 - Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police - Simon Overland talked about new strategies and training to be provided for all of members.
    (eg. Sunday Herald Sun, June 14, 2009 - http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,,25598475-2862,00.html)
On June 30, 2009 Captain Bill Cannata of the Westwood Massachusetts Fire Department spoke at a special meeting of people from Victoria Police, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Ambulance Service on the subject of "AUTISM RISK MANAGEMENT". 

Captain Bill Cannata

Captain Bill Cannata

Contact Captain Bill Cannata via email at: firerescueautism@yahoo.com

Bill talked about the ways in which "first responders" (fire, police, ambulance) can be trained to respond appropriately to "Autism Emergencies" - situations where "a person in distress" has been identified as being "autistic".    He gave a brief introduction on how to assist a people with an ASD  - in situations ranging from - rescue from a burning building, involvement in a car accidents, through to a minor disturbance of the peace, or a widescale search and rescue operation for a child gone missing.
Examples from North America -
“Thirteen-year-old boy dies in Missouri home fire.”
“Firefighter injured rescuing 10-year-old boy.”
“Oregon couple sentenced for fire death of 19-year-old son.”

These actual headlines all involved individuals with autism. In each case, autism contributed to the child’s death. The 13-year-old boy refused to escape with his family; his body was found in the bathroom behind a locked door. The 10-year-old was safely removed by his mother but died when he ran back into his burning home seeking the sanctuary of his bedroom. The Oregon couple often locked their son in the apartment when they went out together because he had no sense of danger and would often wander away.

You can find more information about Bill and the work of his colleagues at the following websites -
Autism Safety and Risk - by Dennis Debbaudt - www.autismriskmanagment.com
Autism Safety Project - http://www.autismspeaks.org/press/autism_safety_project.php
Commissioner of Chicago Police talks about Autism - http://www.autismspeaks.org/press/chicago_pd.php
Mr Bill Cannata on TV - http://www.turnto10.com/jar/lifestyles/health_med_fit/article/health_check_autism_training_for_first_responders/13665/
Autism and Law Enforcement Education Coalition, ALEC, website - http://www.sncarc.org/alec.htm
Royal Canadian Mounted Police - Information about Autism - http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/gazette/vol71n1/sub-rep-autism-autisme-eng.htm
Fire Engineering Website - "Autism Awareness" - http://www.fireengineering.com/display_article/358451/25/none/none/Depar/Autism-Awareness-for-Responders

My involvement in this activity stems from the fact that I, as a father of a young man with autism, needed to know that when I called on Police for help (or as is more often the case - when other people would call on the police - to report me and my behaviour while supporting my son) that they would come with a good understanding of the situation and that they would act appropriately, towards me and my son.

To this end, I prepared information about autism, and about my sons special needs.  This information was been provided and discussed with senior officers at the major police stations in our area.  Subsequently I was contacted by Victoria Police and asked to contribute to discussions regarding their new strategy and policies for supporting people with a mental disorder.   Much of that information*, and the strategies I use with Luke, came from the work of Bills colleague Dennis Debbaudt at www.autismriskmanagement.com. When Dennis said that Bill was coming to Melbourne I jumped at the opportunity to have him meet with people from Victoria Police. The people from Victoria Police kindly offered the use of their facilities in Flinders Street Melbourne and have co-ordinated the attendance of people from the other services. 

    * Refer attached - "Procedures for Incidents & Emergencies - Information for POLICE (public version).pdf"
Happily, I can report that prior to providing this information the response of members of Victoria Polices has always been kind and appropriate**, and since issuing the information, I have not had cause to call on them for assistance.  However, it pays to be prepared.  I am hoping that this meeting will lead to further co-operation between members of our emergency services - particularly in their response to emergencies involving people affected by a mental disorder.
    **See - "Luke's Big Adventure" by Hannah Modra - http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2007/s2366140.htm