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Brunswick County Emergency Services launches new program for special needs population

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

Specially trained Brunswick County paramedics will visit more than 200 residents on the county’s special needs registry during coming weeks as part of the emergency services department’s newest initiative.

To ensure all county residents with special needs are identified, Brunswick County Emergency Services Director Randy Thompson said beginning next week, 12 specially trained county paramedics will be doing home visits to gather information about residents’ needs.

“It’s a new venture for us,” Thompson said. “It’s an opportunity for us to engage directly with the special needs population as they register as an individual—letting us know they may need some type of assistance in an emergency.”

Thompson said information gathered by paramedics would be secure and won’t be shared with any other agency.

Part of the secure data collection process entails residents receiving an identification card to be used in the event of an evacuation.

“In the event that we do have to evacuate, we would already have them in our database,” he said. “We have very general information. We want to make sure we have a little more extensive information.”

The initiative, funded through a state grant, prepares residents and emergency officials for an evacuation, Thompson said.

“What we’re trying to do is go above and beyond the basic pre-planning—have a more advanced plan so that we would be able to implement it and cover all our bases.”

In March, Thompson unveiled a special needs evacuation plan that ties in with the latest special needs initiative.

The evacuation plan, which could be initiated as early as 96 hours before a storm’s impact, involves transporting residents with special needs to the Brunswick County Evacuation Coordination Center before moving residents to an inland Regional Special Needs Center, Thompson explained.

The coordination center will be set up at Brunswick Community College’s Odell Williamson Auditorium.

The Regional Special Needs Center is part of a statewide effort, Thompson said, made up of officials from the state emergency medical services department, the state emergency management and community college system.

“What we’ve tried to voice to the state is the transportation from the home site to one of those relocation facilities,” Thompson said.

Thompson said emergency management officials have worked with the county school system, the health department, social services department and the area hospitals to develop a transportation plan.

With the new initiative—and all residents with special needs identified—emergency officials would identify the residents and their various needs through their identification card.

To collect appropriate information for the registry and for identification cards, Thompson said paramedics would begin visiting residents’ homes.

“They’ll start next week and start making contact,” he said. “They’ll call them and make pre-arrangements. If anybody has questions about it, they can certainly call our office. They’ll give them a phone number for our office, and they can call back to our office to verify it’s a Brunswick County initiative.”

For more information on the special needs registry, or to register, call 253-5383, or visit www.brunsco.net. Registration forms are available at most municipal offices and can be requested through the emergency services department or on the Web site.