MARINA DEL REY, CA — A specially painted lifeguard tower at Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey is promoting the Los Angeles Fire Department’s new Sirens of Silence program, which helps raise awareness and acceptance of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The program is a partnership with the county fire department, Fourth District County Supervisor Janice Hahn and the Department of Beaches and Harbors. The goal is to consider care for people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“Our first responders know that keeping everyone safe cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach,” Supervisor Hahn said in a statement. “The approach and protocols that work for one person may not be appropriate or helpful for an adult or child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
The department has developed new training with help from parents of children with autism, to give firefighters, paramedics and lifeguards more tools on how to treat someone and give them the best care possible.
“This newly painted lifeguard tower is beautiful, and it sends a message to parents of children with autism across the county that our LA County Fire Department cares for their children and is prepared to serve them and keep them safe,” Hahn said.
The temporary mural was designed and painted by Ocean Lifeguard Scott Snyder of the Los Angeles County Fire Department and represents a flurry of vibrant hearts, exemplifying an exuberance of joy, love, and kindness. The design has a special meaning, too. All the colors together signify our unified effort, in partnership with the county in this campaign: the light blue represents the blue in the County’s logo as well as the color of the ocean connected to our LACoFD lifeguards; the darker blue is associated with the uniforms worn by first responders; and, the red and gold hearts symbolize the LACoFD’s official hues, providing communities in care with the gold level of service.
“Our firefighters and lifeguards interact with special needs families every day and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to provide the best care possible,” Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby said in a statement. “As first responders and community helpers, we are here to protect and provide thoughtful service to everyone in our care – and the Sirens of Silence program helps us enhance our ability to do that.”
Supported by the LA County Fire Foundation,
Sirens of Silence is supported by the Los Angeles County Fire Foundation and is comprised of three components:
- Education and awareness for the Department’s first responders through a mandatory training module as well as access to visual aids and informational materials with advice and practical tips on how to approach, respond, and communicate
- Special needs-friendly events for residents to meet and interact with first responders in a welcoming and sensory-sensitive space
- Safety-related and sensory-sensitive items for patients
“Autism is invisible. For many, including my older son who is high-functioning, you would not notice until you interact with him,” said Karen Zarsadiaz-Ige, LACoFD Communications Manager and creator of the Sirens of Silence program. “If I am unable to be with my child when something happens, I want to make sure someone can understand what he is experiencing and respond appropriately. As parents, we rely on our ‘village’ of caregivers – and first responders are an integral part of that ‘village.'”
The department’s picture board and visual schedule for the Sirens of Silence program, exclusively drawn by Los Angeles-based artist Millie Velasco, are useful tools for not only special needs individuals but can also serve as means of communication with victims of trauma or violence (i.e., elder abuse, child abuse, sex trafficking victims, etc.); patients with medical conditions or challenges (i.e., stroke, dementia, etc.); and, non-English speakers.
Officials say this new program will evolve even more as more people from the ASD community provide feedback.
Materials developed for the LACoFD’s Sirens of Silence program are available for use by first responders, therapists, educators, parents, caregivers and others. Visit the website to learn more about the Sirens of Silence program and to download materials.