App helps disabled people communicate with first responders

An app called Vitals Aware Services helps first responders such as law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency services navigate encounters with disabled individuals and people with special needs. More than 30 police departments have started using the app since it was launched in August 2017 in the Twin Cities area.

The Vitals Aware Services app is available at no cost to disabled people and their caregivers. Users can fill out a personal profile, which includes medications, emergency contact information, and other important information police officers should know, such as whether the person is non-verbal or disturbed by lights or loud noise.

After the user creates a profile, Vitals Aware Services issues a fob, called a “beacon,” to people with special needs. When emergency personnel comes within 80 feet of a Vitals Aware beacon, they are alerted by phone.

If the app user requires assistance, first responders can personalize the encounter by calling the individual by his or her first name. First responders can also avoid triggering behaviors and call the disabled person’s emergency contacts. The app’s creators hope the service will lead to smoother encounters between law enforcement personnel and people with special needs.

The beacon can also help law enforcement officers find a missing person, although the app’s creators emphasize that the Vitals Aware beacon is not a tracking device. However, if a person with a condition like autism or dementia goes missing, app users will be able to pinpoint the fob on a map and locate the person wearing it.

Vitals Aware Services partnered with the Autism Society of Minnesota to create the app. According to the company’s website, Vitals Aware fobs can be helpful to individuals and families dealing with a wide range of conditions, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, mental health challenges, developmental and intellectual disabilities, schizophrenia, and behavioral disorders.

Ashley Herzog

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