Mount Laurel using stickers to alert first responders to medical info
Last Monday, Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill that would establish a Statewide Yellow Dot program to be administered by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. While he supports the idea of a program, he does not believe taxpayers should have to pay for it, citing Mount Laurel's Yellow Dot program that is funded through a non-profit organization.
Yellow Dot programs have been established across the country to aid in motor vehicle accidents in which an injured person is not able to relay critical medical information to first responders. Drivers can voluntarily place the yellow dot sticker in the rear window of vehicles to alert first responders to check the glove compartment for vital information in the event of an accident. A yellow folder is provided to participants with a form to list medical conditions, recent surgeries, allergies, prescribed medication, preferred hospital, and emergency contact information.
Mount Laurel Chief of Emergency Medical Services and Emergency Management Coordinator, Francis Pagurek, first learned of the Yellow Dot program when a concerned resident came to the department and requested the township adopt the service after seeing it implemented in another state.
"Having a person's medical history is extremely important to first responders," Pagurek said. He explained the information in the yellow folder is vital to emergency medical providers during the "golden hour," the time from a sustained traumatic injury to the time treatment is received.
Pagurek contacted emergency medical and law enforcement agencies in other states to gather information about the program and proposed the idea to the Mount Laurel Emergency Medical Services Inc., a non-profit volunteer organization that supports the township's emergency services department through public donations and grants. They agreed to fund the project.
"It was just another way to give back to the community," said Deborah Rexon, President of the organization. The only cost for establishing the program was purchasing the 5,000 vinyl yellow folders, yellow stickers, and printing the material, according to the organization. The exact amount could not be provided.
The Yellow Dot program was launched in September of 2011 at the township's Fall Festival where the EMS department and the organization presented the folders and information while printing digital photographs to accompany the folders.
Aside from presenting the program at community events and senior programs, no other efforts have been made to publicize the yellow dots; therefore there were no additional costs. Pagurek said they have distributed 3,000 folders and stickers within the township of over 40,000 residents.
Pagurek said training consisted of adding information about the Yellow Dot program to training manuals used by first responders. For Mount Laurel residents, the yellow dot program materials are free of charge.
Program could be more useful if...
Pagurek and Rexon both expressed concerns that if an incident occurred outside of the township, first responders elsewhere would not be aware of what the yellow dot symbolized and the crucial information in the glove compartment would be useless.
"The important thing is getting it out there." Pagurek said. "If a state or county did it, it would get the word out." He said that if the bill had become law, first responders statewide would recognize the yellow dots and people would learn about the program.
Pagurek said the concern for personal privacy and the possibility that the yellow dots could attract criminal activity has been discussed, but the potential benefits outweigh those concerns. "We haven't seen predators or privacy to be a problem," he said. "Most of the emergency providers are covered by HIPPA, therefore they would protect the confidentiality of an individual."
The Mount Laurel organizers are now reaching out to seniors to let them know about the Yellow Dot program, although Pagurek believes the program could prove useful to all the township's citizens. He said the Yellow Dot program is similar to the File of Life program that the organization also funds. The File of Life program, which has been operating for 14 years, contains similar forms, but has a magnetic strip so it can be kept on a resident's refrigerator in case of an emergency in the home.
Gov. Christie recommended municipalities fund and organize Yellow Dot programs locally, and Pagurek and Rexon said they are willing to share information and materials with other agencies in the state that want to establish the program.
"It really can be a turnkey project," Rexon said. "It's just a matter of presenting it to a larger audience. If a community really wants to do it, I'm sure there is a way to make it possible."
Residents interested in participating in the program can obtain the Yellow Dot folder at the Mount Laurel Emergency Medical Services building at 201 Masonville Rd.