By Kathryn Rice
“I saw a need,” said Caitlin Kinman, Maryville Public Safety (MPS) dispatcher since September 2015. “I saw a potential problem area for the department and the citizens of the community.”
To address that problem area, Kinman developed Communication Awareness and Safety Procedures for Emergency Responders (CASPER).
“As the number of individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities increase, we at MPS would like to become more informed and trained on the best approach to situations that may arise,” she said. “Emergency responders continually go through a great deal of training to keep our beautiful community safe.”
With the CASPER program, MPS will have more extensive training and education for dispatchers and emergency responders. Using the information submitted voluntarily for cognitive and developmental disabled individuals, MPS can customize safety tools that benefit both the CASPER member and emergency responder.
CASPER members or their loved ones are asked to voluntarily provide information which will be kept within the MPS dispatch center’s computer system. Vehicle and address information for these individuals will allow dispatch to inform responders that an individual with cognitive or developmental disability may be present.
Information such as triggers, dislikes, calming techniques and reactions to adverse stimuli will allow the responder to avoid meltdown behaviors.
Kinman developed the acronym CASPER after “a long, long night.”
“It fits,” she said. “A lot of the symptoms are ghost like. Responders have the risk of interaction with someone who is putting their or their partner’s life at risk. They need to know the individual is cognitively or developmentally disabled and how to respond in the situation.”
Her mother, Pat Kinman, taught Title I math for 30 years at Eugene Field Elementary. She grew up in the classroom during the summers learning to communicate with different individuals. This background allowed Caitlin to understand the dynamics of responders and the disabled in emergency situations.
Local families fear that in an emergency situation, their loved one would not react well, which could cause an escalating challenge for the emergency responders. For instance, if it is known that individuals like to hide in small spaces, then fire personnel will know where to look for them.
Or if a child likes to wander or if it’s known the places they go or like, finding them will be easier and faster. An individual has volunteered to map wooded areas and water in the area to facilitate emergency personnel’s discovery.
CASPER club members will receive a personal identification card, three vehicle cards and window clings, two home window clings and a CASPER Club T-shirt.
Kinman is hoping to raise $5,000 to get the project underway. She made her first presentation to the NOCOMO board of directors, who agreed to become Platinum Plus members by donating $500, plus $10 for each NOCOMO worker, who signs up.
Kinman is willing to talk to parents, schools, service organizations and churches about her program and to seek financial assistance. She wants the program to be functional by the time school starts. She plans to be at the Nodaway County Fair to spread information about CASPER.
The CASPER packets are available at Maryville Public Safety, 222 East Third Street, Maryville. For more information, contact Kinman at 660.562.3209 or email@example.com.