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Special need registry launched to assist responders


Allegheny County has launched an online Special Needs Registry that allows residents with physical, mental health or intellectual disabilities to provide information to the Department of Emergency Services.

The voluntary information may then be shared with those responding to a home for a police, fire or medical emergency. The registry may be found on the county’s website at

“Allegheny County has a long history of commitment to inclusion, as well as strong advocacy efforts on behalf of those with special needs. There are over 159,000 people who have some type of disability and call Allegheny County home,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Since taking office, I have worked to ensure that all individuals can participate in the services and programs that Allegheny County offers.

“We’ve begun using sign language interpreters during press events, designated an ADA coordinator position, and held a Summit on Employing People with Disabilities to change the way we do business in this region. The Special Needs Registry is just one more step in ensuring the inclusion of all residents in the services that we provide.”

Information provided through the Special Needs Registry will be programmed to appear on the screen when an emergency call is made from that home. This will allow dispatchers to alert emergency responders that there may be a unique situation in the home involving a person with special needs.

The voluntary information provided by residents will be shared with 9-1-1, fire, police, emergency medical services, emergency planners and first responders in time of crisis. Providing the information does not guarantee the person will receive immediate or special aid in an emergency or disaster.

Municipalities may not be able to accommodate specific needs, but may be able to make reasonable accommodations. Knowing of any special needs and having all relevant information can make a difference.

Chief Alvin Henderson, Director of Emergency Services, said the launch of the registry is part of a larger effort on the part of the department: “We take every opportunity to equip emergency responders with as much information as possible to assist residents, including training and data. It’s why we have offered training to responders on autism, and are planning other offerings moving forward. Having this information is an important piece for us, but there is no substitute for personal preparation. It is important for all residents to make individual plans and preparations for their care and safety in an emergency.”

Any county resident who may require additional assistance due to special needs during an emergency may submit information to the registry. In the event the person with special needs is unable to submit the information on their own, a person who is authorized to act on their behalf may do so. Persons with any physical, mental health or intellectual disability that would keep them from leaving the home quickly if told to do so, or caused to do so, should register.

The Special Needs Registry is intended only for those who live independently, and not in a residential special needs facility such as a nursing home or group home, as those needs are already on record. The information provided through the registry will be shared with local, county, state and federal agencies for the purposes of emergency planning or emergency response.

The county will make efforts to respect privacy and confidentiality while, at the same time, providing for the needs of the people involved.


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