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Prepping for emergencies: File of Life system alerts Fishers Fire Dept. of special needs, medications and more

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The Fishers Fire Dept. recently launched the File of Life. Stacey Oldham, left, and Capt. John Mehling. (Photo by Sadie Hunter)

By Anna Skinner

When Fishers firefighters and EMTs encounter an incapacitated person, it’s difficult to learn which medications the patient is allergic to or what specific disabilities he or she has. The Fishers Fire Dept. recently launched a new program which might help its firefighters discover the patient’s immediate needs quicker.

The File of Life packet comes with a front door sticker and a paper for families to fill out medical information and copy for each family member.

File of Life contains a form listing allergies, medications and special needs as well as a sticker placed on a home’s front window to alert first responders that the patient has a File of Life magnetized packet on the refrigerator.

“(The File of Life packet comes with) a card you stick in a pouch, and that goes on your refrigerator,” said Capt. John Mehling, public information officer at FFD. “You can change it, erase or add medication or insurance or next of kin and it’s always current, and then when we have to be at your house, we see that on the refrigerator and pull that off and it gives us all the basic information. So if someone found you laying in your yard and you had a heart attack or stroke, we can go into your house and see that on the refrigerator, and that speaks for you. If your spouse knows you have all kinds of issues but can’t really tell us everything that’s going on with medications, that’ll speak for you.”

The idea for adopting the File of Life program came from the Fishers Disability Roundtable discussions. Fishers roundtable featured many events during Disability Awareness Month in March.  The program doesn’t require technology and is easily updated through erasing old information and writing new. The File of Life program is nationwide and in approximately 18 million homes.

Stacey Oldham serves as a co-chair on the roundtable and was active during the Fishers Disability Month Awareness events. She also has MS and was one of the first Fishers residents to participate in the File of Life program. She, her husband and her son all have a file in the refrigerator packet.

“The quicker (the fire department) can respond, the easier it is,” Oldham said. “The way they respond isn’t different. The difference is that if I can’t recall something or I can’t speak or what have you, that’s going to be the ingredient that could be lacking in many cases. Having that information there is something to go off of.”

So far, a few hundred Fishers residents have stopped by the FFD headquarters and picked up packets. Over the next few months, Mehling said the department will feature the program at various events.

“We highly recommend anyone with any type of medical history to partake in this because you never know when you’re going to become incapacitated, and this just assures the right informaiton is getting to the doctors, particularly for those times you can’t speak for yourself,” Mehling said. “The danger to the program is that you get out what you put in, so if you don’t update the information, it’s not going to be very useful.”

To pick up a File of Life, visit Fisher Fire Dept. Station One at Two Municipal Dr. or visit fishers.in.us.

stacey Oldham and Capt. John Mehling discuss the File of Life program at Oldham’s Fishers home. (Photos by Sadie Hunter)

Special Needs Database 

In addition to launching File of Life, the Fishers Fire Dept. and the City of Fishers Disability Awareness Roundtable collaborated on launching a special needs database during March Disability Awareness Month as well.

Fishers residents can provide the FFD with any special needs information, such as oxygen dependency, mobility issues, cognitive barriers and more. The information is important for firefighters responding to a house fire, or something more widespread, such as a hazardous incident,  weather destruction and more. The database has a list of addresses for residents who might need special assistance quickly.

For more, visit fishers.in.us. To sign up, visit tofgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/GeoForm/index.html?appid=d9fa1fb09d4e4e5d8c8b2010f3306185.


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