Local EMTs give training on assisting the disabled

BY LAUREN MORTENSON Correspondent

Disaster is around every corner — sometimes with warning and sometimes without. Most just need an emergency kit or evacuation route to prepare, but for those with disabilities or special needs, it often takes more than that to assure their safety.

Carina Marzec, of Lincroft, faced the need to familiarize herself and other EMTs with the treatment of patients with disabilities in 2001, when Marzec sustained a traumatic brain injury while working as an EMT. While recovering, she began to realize how important it is for EMTs and caretakers to know how to assess, treat and transport people with disabilities in emergency situations.

“I got hurt on the job,” Marzec said. “I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences, and those bad experiences are what [brought] it home for me.”

Marzec said there wasn’t enough information and training in a concise fashion for emergency care of people with special needs.

Marzec brought her program to Mark Moskaluk of Metuchen. Moskaluk is a paramedic with over 30 years of experience. He is also the owner of Community Safety Consultants, which provides training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid and safety, with hands-on training for anyone interested in learning.

Together, they developed unique training aids to simulate the skills required to provide emergency care for individuals with disabilities. Marzec said she includes specific steps that help take the classes “above and beyond.”

Marzec, along with her colleagues, developed interactive training for emergency responders to increase their knowledge and comfort in interacting with individuals with disabilities.

“An Introduction to Patients with Disabilities” is the first in a series to familiarize the EMT with common disabilities, adaptive equipment and special considerations for communication and care of patients who have disabilities.

Moskaluk, along with Marzec, presented “Emergency Preparedness for Special-Needs Populations” on Aug. 13 at the FEMA Region II Urban Hazards Forum V Conference in New York. Marzec presented a 90-minute break-out session that allowed others to share their stories and ideas for better emergency training.

The federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Its mission is to lead and support the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system so that the loss of lives and property is reduced. The system teaches preparedness, protection, response, recovery and mitigation.

Individuals with disabilities include, but are not limited to, hearing, mobility and visually impaired; medical conditions; intellectual disabilities, and dementia. There are even additional steps for individuals with special needs, including single working parents, non-English-speaking people, individuals without vehicles, and people with special dietary needs.

Individuals with disabilities and individuals helping with their assistance can learn the precautionary steps to take in case of a hazard or emergency. Steps include checking for items around the house that can cause injury during or after an incident, such as bookshelves or wall hangings. It also suggests being ready for evacuation. Have a plan to leave the house, asking for assistance if needed. Create a network of friends, family and co-workers. Furthermore, keep specialized items close in sight, such as wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication and health care information. It may also be a good idea to wear a medical alert tag to identify the disability.

Marzec is working on writing a class specifically geared toward firefighters. She is also writing a class for specific emergencies that are unique, such as autonomic dysreflexia, which deals with injury to the spinal cord.

“Unfortunately, there is a stigma associated with having a disability,” Marzec said,

Her goal is to prevent the stigma from spreading, and instead, spread the awareness of how to help. Marzec also suggests that anyone with a special need or disability should register so that their local authorities will know where to find them in an emergency situation. They can register online by going to http://ready.adcouncil.org/.

“An Introduction to Patients with Disabilities” is being offered through the Community Safety Consultants of Metuchen. Marzec will also travel to others locations if other towns are interested.

Those interested in taking the course should contact Mark Moskaluk at 732-548- 4269 or Carina Marzec at 908-902-1746.

Contact Lauren Mortenson at

Lauren_Mortenson@yahoo.com