New 911 service aims to protect the disabled -

New 911 service aims to protect the disabled

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Thanks to a new Illinois law, families can now share information about loved ones who have disabilities with their local 911 call center.

Under the program, if a 911 center has the proper technology, it has to accept information on people with disabilities and share that information with police, firefighters and paramedics in an emergency.

Being able to share that information meant that when 6-year-old Rhiannon Schmakel wandered away from her suburban Chicago home, responders knew that she had autism and had to be approached carefully.

She was eventually found playing nearby.

Her mother calls the program "fantastic" and says it makes first responders even faster.

Others say it can help save lives, particularly in situations with people with autism or Alzheimer's disease.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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