In The Politics of Autism, I write about the everyday struggles facing autistic people and their families -- including safety during emergencies.
A release from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA):
Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today introduced the bipartisan Information Sharing and Advanced Communication (ISAAC) Alerting Act to improve 9-1-1 emergency response for people with disabilities.
“The idea of this legislation was brought to me by an amazing mom and advocate named Holly from Spokane. She’s an ability advocate in memory of her son Isaac, and she’s made a difference in our community with the ISAAC Alert System, which is currently helping emergency responders in Eastern Washington and Idaho better aid people with disabilities,” said Rodgers. “Far too often, first responders lack critical information and training when responding to people with disabilities. This can put families, first responders, and people with disabilities at risk during emergency situations like the wildfires currently burning across our communities. By requiring the FCC to examine the feasibility of implementing a 9-1-1 disability alerting system, the ISAAC Alerting Act will help identify and address the challenges first responders face in these situations. It will improve the overall quality of care when a first responder enters a home and may need to provide unique assistance to someone with a disability.”
The ISAAC Alert system currently operates in cooperation with Spokane County Dispatch and the Spokane Fire Department. The namesake of the Isaac Alert is Isaac Lytle, a Spokane resident with Autism Spectrum Disorder who passed away in 2007. Isaac inspired his mother, Holly, to help families who were struggling with the hardships of having a loved one with autism.
“I feel very fortunate that Spokane County has the technology, infrastructure and support from local first response agencies to make ISAAC Alerts available to our disability community,” said Holly Goodman, ISAAC Foundation Founder. “There is a tremendous amount of comfort knowing first responders arriving at your home have important information to help them navigate an emergency more effectively with your loved one with a disability. Seeing our information sharing system implemented nationwide would be a dream come true.”
Today, the ISAAC Foundation provides educational, emotional, and financial support programs to families affected by autism in Spokane, Stevens, Lincoln, Whitman, and Kootenai Counties. The ISAAC Foundation worked with Spokane County Dispatch to create the ISAAC Alert system to inform law enforcement if there is someone with a disability in a residence they are responding to.
The ISAAC Alerting Act would assist in expanding that alerting system nationwide, as well as direct the Federal Communications Commission to prepare a report on a 9-1-1 disability alerting system to identify improvements that need to be made.
Cathy was joined in introducing this legislation by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12).
“We have a responsibility to ensure law enforcement agencies and first responders have vital information they need when responding to emergency calls to keep themselves and the public safe,” said Dingell. “With this legislation, we will take a critical first step in ensuring law enforcement and first responders are better equipped to respond to 911 calls from households with an individual with a disability.”
NOTE: Cathy first learned about the ISAAC Foundation in 2016 and was inspired by Holly’s commitment to honoring her son, Isaac, through outreach and engagement in the autism and disability communities. Understanding the value the ISAAC Alert System has brought to families and first responders in Eastern Washington, as well as the challenges communities across the country have faced when trying to implement a similar system, Cathy sought to create a pathway for a nationwide disability alerting system. The ISAAC Alerting Act is the first step in this process.
CLICK HERE to read the bill.