Salina police launch alert system to help first responders with emergencies involving those with special needs

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SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Kansas dispatcher is paving the way for how police respond to emergencies involving those with special needs.

Amber Pfiefer, lead dispatcher with the Salina Police Department, has answered many emergency calls over her 12-year career but there’s one call a few years back she’ll never forget.

“We responded to a call with a citizen with special needs,” said Pfiefer. “At that time, we didn’t realize he was special needs and he was being just non communicating, not responding to what the officers were wishing him to do.”

She said police ended up tazing the man. Something she feels could have been avoided.

“And maybe that would have de-escalated that situation if we would have known as we were responding and would have had a different outcome.”

As a mother with a 7-year-old Autistic son, it pulled at her heartstrings.

“If there was ever a time that law enforcement would be interacting with him could the same thing happen or how would we know the information about him,” said Pfiefer.

This all sparked her interest in finding a way the department could be proactive in these situations. For the past two years, she helped spearhead the department’s efforts to create the S.A.Id. program (Special Needs Alerts and Identification). It officially launched Thursday.

The program provides local first responders with the resources to identify and assist individuals with special needs who find themselves in emergency situations. Parents, caregivers, or individuals can fill out a form listing the person’s condition and needs. It’s then stored in the department’s communication database. If a call comes into dispatch involving someone in the program, a S.A.Id alert icon will pop up on their profile and officers can reference it quickly.

“When the person can’t provide the information we would already have it,” said Pfiefer.

One aspect Pfiefer really likes about the system is that it allows the public to list any triggers.

“So when it comes to my son, he really loves Christmas and Santa, and Christmas lights,” said Pfiefer. “So that could be something the officers could mention to de-escalate what might be going on.

Pfiefer said they’ve already received at least 20 forms on the first day the program launched. The program serves Salina and Saline County.

You can fill out the form in person at the Salina Police Department or online here.

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