Any firefighter, paramedic or police officer who has responded to a vehicle crash can tell you that knowing more about the people they're trying to help is critical.
The Illinois Department of Transportation recently unveiled its "Yellow Dot" program to do just that.
Motorists can pick up a folder at area public health departments to put in their glove compartments. The folder contains basic information on who the motorists are and their medical backgrounds.
"As a first responder, it's huge," said Tolono Fire Chief Dale Grimm, whose department is often dispatched to accidents on Interstate 57.
"There are a multitude of reasons why any information we can get about a patient's history or current medication is really important," said the 24-year firefighter, who's also a trained paramedic.
"It's especially difficult when you can't communicate with a patient because it's much harder to assess what's going on. The basics you can assess. But once you get past airway breathing and circulation, if they're unresponsive, you're starting to look for other reasons. If you can read it from a piece of paper, that's a big advantage."
Grimm likened the Yellow Dot program to the Vial of Life, in which folks are asked to store medical information in a vial in their refrigerator.
The Department of Transportation says the first hour following an injury is the most crucial, so the more information first responders have, the better they can do their jobs.
Grimm said sometimes there can be a language barrier, be it a foreign language or a person's inability to speak clearly.
He gave the example of someone with a food allergy having consumed a homemade goodie he thought was safe to eat but instead had the killer nuts in it.
Joining IDOT in the federally funded program are the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Aging and county health departments, where the packets are available for free.
The packet contains a simple, bright yellow decal for the vehicle and a corresponding yellow folder. The decal should be put in a conspicuous and consistent place — the lower left-hand corner of the rear window on the driver's side.
The yellow dot lets the first responders know that there is a folder in the glove compartment containing the following medical information about the motorists: participant's name, close-up photo, emergency contact information, patient's physician information, medical conditions, recent surgeries, allergies and a list of current medications.
The packets can be found at the following locations in East Central Illinois:
— Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, 201 W. Kenyon Road, C; 217-352-7961
— Douglas County Health Department, 1250 E U.S. 36, Tuscola; 217-253-4137
— Ford-Iroquois Public Health, 114 N. Third St., Watseka; 815-432-2483
— Edgar County Public Health Department, 502 Shaw Ave., Paris; 217-465-2212
— Vermilion County Health Department, 200 S. College, Danville; 217-431-2662
— DeWitt-Piatt Bi-County Health Department, 910 Route 54 East, Clinton; 217-935-3427 or 217-762-7911
— Coles County Health Department, 825 18th St., Charleston, 217-348-0530
For more information, go online to: http://www.yellowdotillinois.org .
The Yellow Dot program, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, was introduced in Connecticut in 2002.