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Chattanooga firefighter makes sensory kits for fire trucks after learning son's diagnosis

Firefighters encounter all kinds of situations when they jump on the truck and head out to save lives. Now, they have a new tool on their trucks to help in some of the most sensitive situations, thanks to one dad, pulling double duty. (Image: WTVC)

Firefighters encounter all kinds of situations when they jump on the truck and head out to save lives. Now, they have a new tool on their trucks to help in some of the most sensitive situations, thanks to one dad, pulling double duty.

The sounds of an emergency can be overwhelming for anyone.

But for a child with special needs, Captain Skyler Phillips says, “it all compounds together, the bright lights, the smells, is enough to push them over the edge.” It's a reality that Captain Phillips lives every day. His family discovered his son Noah has Autism when he was three.

As he learned more about this son's diagnosis, Captain Phillips realized he'd had a lot of training before putting on his gear but something was missing. “I've had 14 years in the department, I’ve had paramedic school, I have a degree in paramedics, I've never had any special needs training.”

So this father started training his fellow firefighters, teaching them how to help some of the smallest victims of emergencies, whatever their needs. “We want to prevent them from taking their own way of getting away from the scene, and we want to give them a safe way to deescalate right there.”

Now a new resource, these sensory kits, donated to the department, and assembled by Captain Phillips small toys that can make a big impact when fearful hands need something to help them calm down. Each kit comes with a reference guide, information about different disabilities and how to help.

We tagged along as Captain Phillips delivered these to Chattanooga Fire Stations, stocking all the city's trucks.

“This SNAP program gave awareness to all of us first and foremost, and being able to have a flip chart to go by and do the right things,” says Fire Captain Kelly Simmons, one of the firefighters Phillips trained.

The right thing for Noah, and any child these firefighters may meet on their next call. “Having somebody that has some information, maybe some tools can really make all the difference in the world,” Phillips says.

Noah is six, and his dad says he is working through challenges and triumphing every single day. Thanks in part to his beloved service dog paid for by a fundraiser through the fire fighter's association.The reason, Captain Phillips says, he wanted to say thank you by giving back to every child with special needs that has to hear that fire truck coming their way.

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