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Individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) may be more likely to seek or accept help from law enforcement personnel and other emergency responders if they have already met in a friendly, non-emergency setting.
This is the idea behind the Scott County Sheriff’s Office’s first Sensory-Friendly Safety Day scheduled for Saturday, August 10th at the Spring Lake Town Hall Community Center, 20381 Fairlawn Avenue, Prior Lake. This free event will bring together law enforcement personnel, firefighters and emergency responders from across Scott County to meet children, adults and teens with I/DD and their families.
Molly Hoffard of New Market Township, recently approached Sheriff Luke Hennen with the idea for this event. “As the parent of a child with autism, safety is my biggest concern,” said Molly. “My son does not have an appropriate understanding of danger, so it’s important to me to make connections with local law enforcement and learn what to do in case of emergencies like wandering.”
This event may even help determine some anxiety-causing issues with loved ones that were previously unknown. For example, the sirens of a firetruck or loud squelch of a police radio may be very startling the first time they are heard. Imagine how this could escalate an emergency situation when an I/DD individual is already in a heightened state of anxiety.
“This event will provide participants the opportunity to approach and explore vehicles and personnel on their own terms can make possible future encounters much less frightening and ultimately safer,” said Sheriff Hennen. “For us, it's all about awareness,” he added. “Our goal is to make people feel comfortable being around first responders and create these positive experiences before they are in an emergency situation.”
Several local agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, local police departments, fire departments, and emergency medical services will be participating in this event. There will also be a cookie dough food truck.
There will be an optional opportunity in the last half hour of the event where lights and sirens will be turned on. Some people with special needs get overloaded by noise or flashing lights, causing them to shut down, so activating lights and sirens on a squad car or firetruck in a safe setting may help alleviate stress in the future.
Other resources will be available for residents with I/DD, including information on Project Lifesaver/SafetyNet and the new Vitals App. The Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) will also have a resource table set up for visitors. Emergency alert window decals for a variety of conditions will also be available for families to take home.
This event is being hosted by the Scott County Sheriff’s Office. If you have any questions or concerns about what to expect, feel free to contact Scott County Sheriff’s Office Community Engagement Deputy Amy Lueck at (952) 496-8862 or ALueck@co.scott.mn.us.
Scott County Sheriff's Office Sensory-Friendly Safety Day Flyer
Various Emergency Alert Window Decals, like the one shown above, will be available at the event