Allegheny County’s District Attorney Stephen Zappala and police officers from the area announced countywide efforts to help families with members with cognitive brain issues such as Autism and Alzheimer’s disease.
Ten police departments in Allegheny County — Aspinwall, Bethel Park, McKeesport, Millvale, Moon, Monroeville, Northern Regional, Munhall, Elizabeth and the city of Pittsburgh — will be training police officers to use a radio transmitter reader that, when activated, can track bracelets issued to those with special needs.
“First you have to have the prospensity to wander and then meet certain cognitive brain disability criteria. And then as long as they are willing to involve themselves in the program and meet the certain criteria that there are then they are more than willing to join,” said Officer James Williams, from Munhall Borough.
Using a bracelet wearing volunteer, he demonstrated the technology, reminiscent of a metal detector that picks up intensity the closer you are to the person wearing the bracelet.
“Hear the chirp? Every second? So he is outside of his house and as I turn, every second …but the intensity is going to go down,” Williams said.
The departments will issue 20 bracelets per year. They’re battery powered and have a radio transmitter – better for the tunnels and hilly topography here. It also works underwater. Residents are also welcome to purchase them on their own as long as they fit the criteria. The bracelets cost around $300 dollars.
The premise hazard alert is the first phase of this project and ongoing. Those with a household member with special needs can fill out a form at the 911 dispatch. When a call comes in at an address where someone has autism, firefighters can use special protocol.
Scott Bailey, an Aspinwall and Millvale Police officer and a 911 dispatcher for Allegheny County is also the father of two teenage boys on the autism spectrum.
“The dispatcher would remind all disciplines of whoever is responding to that location that there may be a child there that has Autism that does not like to have lights or sirens and may run so you may want to go to a silent approach. Pretty much it’s a head up for the first responders to respond to a location,” said Bailey.
People can give specific instructions to first responders. Somebody with autism for example, may want to run back into a burning building.
“You might want to put on there that if there is a house on fire my son may want to run underneath the steps because that’s his safe place so you might want to direct the firefighters into that stairwell to make sure the son is there, “ he said.