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County Hosts Emergency Management Disability Awareness Training for First Responders & Disability Advocates
Latest in series of awareness training for first responders

Published: 9/11/2019

For More Information Contact:

Colleen Pillus, (845) 486-2000

Poughkeepsie… September is National Preparedness Month and Dutchess County continues to “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” about the needs of everyone, of every ability, particularly in emergency situations. This week, more than 30 emergency service personnel and professionals within the special needs community attended a two-day Disability Awareness Training provided by Niagara University and hosted by the Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response. Participants learned new ways to better incorporate the needs of those with disabilities, as well as access and functional needs, into existing emergency planning, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. The training was free to attend thanks to a grant from the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

Niagara University's David Whalen speaks to training attendees at Dutchess County Emergency Response.

Niagara University’s First Responders Disability Awareness Training Program project director David Whalen speaks to first responders and professionals in the special needs community at the two-day training hosted by Dutchess County Emergency Response Sept. 9th and 10th.

“We continue to provide Dutchess County residents the tools and resources necessary to make a plan and be prepared for any kind of emergency. This training helps ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone, of every ability, especially when mobility or access limitations could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency,” said County Executive Marc Molinaro. “We are very proud to host this vital training as part of our commitment to teaching our community to ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ about those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The training was taught by Niagara University’s First Responders Disability Awareness Training Program project director David Whalen. Each training is designed to help identify the responsibilities of both emergency service personnel and advocates within the disability community during an emergency and how to be more inclusive when planning for a disaster of any kind. For more information, visit the Niagara University First Responders Disability Awareness Training website.

This training is the latest offering for first responders to assist them in relating to those with disabilities or who may be experiencing crisis. More than 400 first responders, from across Dutchess County, have been trained how to respond to someone with autism in an emergency through the Autism Awareness Training.  In May, the County hosted the first Autism Awareness Training for Families to teach relatives and caregivers of those diagnosed with autism what to expect in an emergency and how to effectively communicate and build relationships with first responders.

Additionally, more than 300 state and local law enforcement officers have completed the five-day, 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, which teaches law enforcement how to effectively interact with individuals who may be in crisis due to behavioral health or developmental disabilities and divert them from the jail and/or emergency room to the resources and services they need, such as the County’s Stabilization Center. Several CIT trainings are hosted throughout the year thanks to a partnership between Dutchess County Government, the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health (DBCH), the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department, and PEOPLe, Inc.

The father of a daughter living on the autism spectrum, County Executive Molinaro established the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative in 2015 as a call to action for Dutchess County – its residents, civic groups and organizations, businesses and government – to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since then, more than 100 towns, cities and villages have embraced the initiative, passing “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” resolutions and pledging to support those of all abilities. More information about the initiative and community resources, including a calendar of upcoming inclusive events is available on the County’s award-winning website,