Los Banos Fire Department adds new tool to help those with special needs

LOS BANOS, Calif. (KFSN) -- Los Banos firefighters are adding a new tool to their engines aimed to help people with special needs.

It's one of the first fire departments in the area to introduce these cards to firefighters in hopes of improving communication.

Fire officials say it's just another tool to help save lives while raising awareness.

In an emergency communication is critical and the Los Banos Fire department is taking the extra step to give many folks a voice.

The department is introducing these icon cards to help in communicating with people who may be non-verbal.

Rachelle Ciuffo is an administrative clerk at the department and says her nephew has autism.

She learned about an Ohio mom who made these icon cards for her local fire department, so she decided to reach out to her and see if she can bring the cards a little closer to home.

"The first responders if they come across anybody that is non-verbal or speaks another language, hopefully, our firefighters can get the basic needs these individuals will need," said Ciuffo.

The cards are separated into different categories, each depicting pictures of basic commands, emotions, and more.

Dr. Nikko Da Paz with Cares Consulting says kids who are non-verbal are already being trained with cards like these, so it's a familiar way to communicate.

"Whenever you have an emergency, that's the time you need to communicate. That's also the time our children will be in meltdown mode. It's going to be crucial, it's going to save a life," said Dr. Da Paz.

There'll be a deck of icon cards on each engine so firefighters will have them on hand.

Chief Mason Hurley says there are many times that communication is a challenge, and this is another tool that could help save a life.

"If they aren't talking to us or aren't able t0 communicate or verbally communicate with us, we can use them to open that door and get them to communicate with us," said Chief Hurley.

Fire officials say shortly they hope to get firefighters trained on how to interact with children who are non-verbal.

If its able to help one person, it's worth all the training.

Firefighters say each deck of cards cost about 25 dollars.

They're hoping this will have a trickle effect, and that other organizations and departments start thinking of how they can better communicate with children who may be non-verbal or autistic.
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