A family in Wapato can now celebrate after a bill was signed into law today that will help individuals with special needs during emergencies.
Travis King, a 12-year-old boy with autism and the bill’s namesake, joined his family and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Gina McCabe, in Olympia for the signing. House Bill 1258, otherwise known as the Travis Alert Act, was originally crafted with Travis and other individuals with autism in mind, until the bill was expanded to address all persons with special needs. Now that the bill has become law, Travis says more lives will be saved.
“The Travis Alert Act will help save lives like mine,” said Travis.
The bill calls for an assessment of the resources necessary to improve the Enhanced 911 program so information pertaining to an individual’s disability or special need can be available to first responders before they arrive to the scene of an emergency. It would also require the Department of Health — in concert with other agencies — to review existing procedures and create a training program for first responders, providing instruction for how to best respond to emergencies involving individuals with special needs.
Threasa King, Travis’ mom, says she can rest easy knowing fire departments and emergency medical service personnel will be provided critical information tailored to an individual’s specific disability or need when responding to emergencies.
“[The Travis Alert Act] is going to give me peace of mind when Travis is older,” she said. “I know this law will help him when I’m no longer around.”
McCabe began work on the bill after the 2015 legislative session, when the King family reached out to her with an idea to alert first responders of the presence of an individual with special needs at the scene of an emergency. The Kings had already adopted their own alert system by painting a blue-colored puzzle piece on their mailbox, a symbol often used for autism awareness.
“House Bill 1258 is a major and necessary step in the right direction for the safety of individuals with special needs,” said McCabe, R-Goldendale. “I’m so thankful the Kings asked me to join them on this journey. They are proof that if you have an idea for how to make your family or community safer and stronger, all you have to do is get involved.”
The bill will take effect in July.