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LINCOLN - When you call 911, the information at the emergency dispatcher's fingertips about you may help save your life.

That's the reasoning behind a committee formed last month in Logan County. The special-needs advisory panel was formed to identify people with special needs and to collect information as part of the county's upgrade of the 911 emergency dispatch system.

The group will visit Oasis Senior Center next month as part of a larger campaign to ask people about their special needs. For example, rescue workers may need to know if the caller is diabetic, has impaired vision or uses a wheelchair.

"This was absolutely necessary in Logan County because, like most communities, around 20 percent of Logan County residents have special needs," said Dan Fulscher, director of the Logan County Emergency Management Agency. "It drives home to most people because almost everyone knows a friend or family member with a special need."

Fulscher is working with Logan County Health Department Administrator Mark Hilliard, and Fern Pinkley, the chairman of the Lincoln's Mayor's Disabilities Committee, to collect the information.

The group also will have a booth at the Community Health Fair on April 1 at the Lincoln Park District Indoor Sports Complex. A publication will be issued later in April to reach the rest of Logan County's special-needs individuals.

"We decided to go one-on- one at first so we don't get overwhelmed and this way we can stay ahead of the game," said Fulscher.

The project goes hand in hand with the changes to the enhanced-911 system.

The county learned earlier this month that it will get a $250,000 federal grant to help with a $1.1 million upgrade that involves replacing aging radio equipment and creating a dispatch center.

It also involves having someone help enter all the new personal data and keep it up to date weekly. Fulscher's wife, Fran, has volunteered to do this work.

"There are going to be many hours of upfront to get this under way, and even after that it will be a weekly ongoing task forever," said Dan Fulscher.

The new panel was paid for with a $1,500 grant from the Illinois Public Health Association, Hilliard said.

"There is a need for something like this everywhere. We really needed some sort of system where agencies and individuals with special needs can be registered," said Hilliard.

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