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Fort Worth Maps Special Needs Patients to Aid Response in a Disaster

FORT WORTH, Texas--A tornado strikes a part of town where 100 people with special needs live. Police and firefighters can see on a computer map where those people live and can route them to a hospital. That s how the creators of the Special Needs Assistance Program envision their project.

The Fort Worth-Tarrant County Office of Emergency Management has started the voluntary program, which will tell emergency responders about participants disabilities. About 100 people have signed up since Sept. 1.

There s a tremendous upside to the program, said Calvin Brown, a Fort Worth emergency management officer and a creator of the program. Folks want to be a part of this. It benefits the community.

How does it work?

People with special needs can call, mail or e-mail the information. Online participants will set up an account, answer security questions and provide information about themselves. Participants can specify, for example, if they use a wheelchair, crutches or medical equipment that requires electricity. The information stays active for one year, after which participants must reregister.

Who s participating?

Fort Worth is working with other cities all over Tarrant County. Eventually, the program will expand to 16 North Texas counties.

The information could also become available to agencies such as the American Red Cross. They must agree to keep the information confidential and use it only for emergencies, said David Moss, a programmer analyst at Fort Worth Global Information System and the program s other creator.

What kind of response has the program received?

Area emergency personnel applaud it. It allows us, as emergency management personnel, and our first responders to have the information in case something unfortunate occurs, said Lt. Joe Kraft of the Euless Office of Emergency Management. We will know which special-needs persons need to be checked.

Officials at North Texas Special Needs Assistance Partners also like the idea. The organization is not related to the Special Needs Assistance Program.

Emergency responders would know about the disabilities of the adults who live in North Texas SNAP s housing, said the group s president, Rita Goodner.

It s a wonderful program, Goodner said. In fact, I m going to send out a notice to all our programs that this is available and you need to take advantage of it.

How to register

Register at www.snapforyou.org or 817-392-6144. You can also call 817-392-6144 to get a form; mail it to the Office of Emergency Management, 1000 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth, TX 76102.

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JESSICA DeLEoN, 817-685-3932

jdeleon@star-telegram.com

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