August 26, 2021
PELHAM, Alabama ---- A homegrown initiative could make a big difference in the way first responders serve the people of Pelham. S.A.F.E.R. stands for Special Awareness for Extra Risks. The purpose of the program is to help police, firefighters and paramedics interact and communicate more effectively in an emergency situation. It is specifically designed for people with physical, intellectual or developmental abilities, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism spectrum disorder, mental illness, chronic disease, or mobility impairment.
The S.A.F.E.R. Program is the brainchild of Dispatch Supervisor Laura Ehrhart, who says the idea came to her, not only because of the nature of her job, but also because she has family members with Down Syndrome and other chronic illnesses. Triggers and risk factors can affect the way a person with special needs reacts an emergency situation. “By using information provided ahead of time, first responders can know how to interact with and calm the individual, and hopefully they won’t feel scared," Ehrhart said. “The more knowledge police, firefighters and paramedics have going into a situation, the better. The goal is to make sure everyone stays safe during a call for service."
Pelham Chief of Police Pat Cheatwood is very proud of the program Ehrhart created. He says Ehrhart has a servant’s heart, and hopes the initiative will not only benefit Pelham, but other cities, as well. “S.A.F.E.R. will help build better relationships and serve the community,” Cheatwood said. "If we can prevent one bad interaction, it will be worth all of the time and effort Laura put into the program's development,"
Pelham Fire Chief Mike Reid believes S.A.F.E.R. is a game changer. “Anytime we can plan or be prepared going into a call for service, it gives us the ability to provide people with the best possible care. Knowing what triggers someone, either negatively or positively, can provide a better outcome,” he said. The S.A.F.E.R. program is especially valuable to the Fire Department in the event of fire. “Having a plot plan of the house and knowing where the resident might be sleeping or spending time could save lives.”
The program is voluntary. It is open to residents of Pelham, along with those who frequently spend time in the city, such as school or church. S.A.F.E.R. is also open to people who are employees of Pelham businesses.
To register, the candidate or authorized family member must answer all questions on the registration form. Information may also be given over the phone to the S.A.F.E.R. Coordinator. Questions include name, birthdate, home address, physical description, diagnosis, communication method, emergency contacts, and more. There will also be an option to submit a photograph, which is vital for first responders when attempting to identify the participant. All of this information will be housed on a secure server inside the Pelham Police Department and will only be used in an emergency situation.
A decal will be provided to display on the front of the home or the back of a vehicle, should the person enrolling wish to do that, and it will immediately alert first responders to the presence of a S.A.F.E.R participant.
Online Registration or Download the Application
Laura Ehrhart, S.A.F.E.R. Coordinator | 205-620-6550 | Send an email