A new tool on city fire trucks will help first responders to calm people with autism spectrum disorder and de-escalate the scene of emergencies.
The “sensory bags” are designed to help reduce the anxiety felt during an emergency situation or the noise and bright lights from fire vehicles. The bags will be kept with EMS equipment on each truck.
The 10 kits, donated by the chamber of commerce, contain a number of items intended to distract and soothe, including noise-reducing headphones, objects with a variety of soft, smooth and spiny textures, and activities that require concentration, such as a Rubik’s Cube and fidget spinner.
The bags were designed to address the unique ways that people with autism spectrum disorder calm themselves in a loud or intense environment, officials said. The objects are intended to keep hands busy, reduce noise and foster communication with first responders.
According to Chris Bolinger, deputy chief of the Maricopa Fire/Medical Department, the sensory bags will simply help the city do its job better.
“It is our mission to provide high quality service to every member of the community with whom we interact,” he said. “These bags will give us a simple tool that can help us address some of the unique needs that community members who are challenged with autism face, whether as patients or bystanders. By attending to their emotional needs, we can reduce the stress and impact that emergency scene operations can create.”
The chamber presented the Fire/Medical Department with the sensory bags during an April 1 ceremony at Fire Station 571, 20945 N. Porter Road.
Mayor Christian Price, City Manager Rick Horst and Assistant City Manager Jennifer Brown were scheduled to attend the event on behalf of the city.