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RCBC and local public safety organizations host Calming Sirens event for special needs community members

Photo: emergency response vehicle

No actual sirens will be used in Rowan College at Burlington County’s new event, “Calming Sirens,” which is specifically geared to help  familiarize the special needs population with emergency and support services in a non-threatening and understanding setting.

Calming Sirens will be held at the RCBC Mount Laurel Campus on Saturday, May 6 from noon to 2 p.m.

“Calming Sirens will bring the Burlington County community together, increase awareness and potentially save many lives in the process,” said Burlington County Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio. “Creating these scenarios where our selfless public safety servants and community members with special needs can interact in a welcoming, educational, and compassionate environment will help proactively build trust and understanding.”

RCBC Criminal Justice Instructor Dr. Amber L. Ciccanti, who is also a former police officer and mother of a special needs son, is spearheading the event.

“I am in a unique position to see both sides and truly understand the need for this type of event,” said Dr. Ciccanti. “The special needs population reacts differently to emergency responders. They may run or hide and can be afraid of lights, sirens, and uniforms. This event will give them a 360 degree experience with public safety personnel before they need them in an emergency.”

An array of police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and equipment from several municipalities will be on display in the college’s parking lot so that community members can have a hands-on, up-close-and-personal experience.

“RCBC is proud to host this important event and connect the underserved special needs population with life-saving responders and support,” said RCBC President Paul Drayton. “We strive to create an inclusive and supportive community that allows all students to thrive. Partnering with first responders will help extend this culture in a way that will build positive relationships among children, emergency responders and the college.”

RCBC’s Office of Student Support and Disability Services, the Paramedic Science Program and other local organizations will be on hand to discuss available services and resources.

"The college’s Office of Student Support and Disability Services gives students the tools to strengthen their academic skills through adaptive technology, counseling, and academic accommodations,” said Donna Kaklamanos, Office of Student Support Director. “Our office in particular works to provide programming that will support students and all members of the community in their ability to self-advocate and lead successful lives.”

The Burlington City, Mount Laurel and Willingboro Police Departments, Burlington County Sheriff’s Department, and Willingboro and Westampton Fire Departments will also be on hand. Virtua, one of RCBC’s most visible Classroom to Career partners, is bringing its ASAP all-terrain vehicle that is used during special operations like parades, rescues in the pine barrens and sand dunes, and mass gatherings. Other community organizations represented at the event include the Peak Center for Autism, Beyond Balance, and We Rock the Spectrum gym in Mount Laurel.

RCBC is also providing a quiet room, located away from the event’s activities, for participants. Calming Sirens is free and open to the community.

For more information about this event, please contact Dr. Amber L. Ciccanti at 856-222-9311, ext. 2710 or aciccanti@rcbc.edu.