Front row, from left: David V. Whalen, project director of Niagara University’s First Responder Disability Awareness Training, and Karen McMahon, New York state assemblymember. Back row, from left: Dr. Tim Ireland, Niagara University provost and vice president of Academic Affairs; John Askey, Amherst chief of police; Brian Kulpa, Amherst superintendent; and Dr. Deborah Bucki, Amherst council member.

Niagara University’s First Responder Disability Awareness Training (NUFRDAT) program has received funding to provide training for the Town of Amherst, N.Y. The funding of $15,000, which was secured by New York State Assemblymember Karen McMahon (D-Amherst/Pendleton), educates first responders and helps ensure proper, proactive response to include Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.

“Our first responders find themselves in extremely challenging situations on a daily basis, and ensuring that they are able to do their jobs effectively and provide the best care to those who need them is paramount,” said Assemblymember Karen McMahon. “I’m proud to have secured this funding to provide training services to emergency responders so they can help anyone with any disability or condition.”

Law enforcement training was conducted earlier this month, and NUFRDAT is now scheduled to work with firefighters, EMS, 9-1-1 tele communicators, municipal employees, and parents of and people with disabilities. Training will begin on Feb. 5 and will conclude on March 31, the end of the fiscal year in New York state. It is open to any first responder across Niagara and Erie County.

“Everyone needs disability awareness training,” said David V. Whalen, project director of the university’s First Responder Disability Awareness Training. “However, first responders have found themselves in challenging scenarios that can be addressed with this specialized training. While many have yet to receive the program, we applaud Assembly Member McMahon for addressing the need for this training in Amherst.”

The training will take place in the Amherst Police Community Policing and Training Facility. The 50,000-square-foot facility includes classrooms and a virtual reality training center and classrooms. An indoor rifle range is slated to be completed by the end of the year.  The former Harley-Davidson dealership is also designed to allow the department to stage real-world training exercises, including those involving elementary and high schools. The facility opened earlier this year.

"The Town of Amherst Police Department would like to thank Assemblymember Karen McMahon and Niagara University for their efforts in facilitating this training. We are always looking for ways to improve services, and I can think of no more important objective than to better serve and collaborate with individuals with disabilities," said Amherst Chief of Police John Askey. "I would also like to thank Supervisor Brian Kulpa and the entire Amherst Town Board.  It is because of their enthusiastic support that we have this facility and that we are implementing projects and programs that will benefit the Eggertsville community, the Town of Amherst, and neighboring communities for years to come."

NUFRDAT program is customized for each first responder discipline – emergency management, firefighters, 911 operators/dispatchers, emergency medical services (EMS), and law enforcement. Established in 2010 and created in cooperation with all major first responder associations, councils and state offices, the training is designed to give first responders the knowledge necessary to best serve and respond to individuals with disabilities. It is the only program in the nation that provides fully comprehensive training for first responders on how to respond to emergencies involving individuals with disabilities, including mental health issues.

New York, South Dakota, and Missouri have contracted NUFRDAT’s full training program, while Virginia, New Jersey, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas have contracted it in various capacities. The Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), the largest in the United States and universally recognized as the world's busiest and most highly skilled emergency response agency, has also contracted NUFRDAT for training. In 2014, the program received the Forging Pathways Award from the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

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