Answer Man: IDOT aims to help save lives with Yellow Dot Program

News-DemocratJune 12, 2013 

Q. I swear I read a story recently about the Illinois Secretary of State starting a program that enables drivers to place a yellow dot on their cars. In case of an accident or other emergency, that dot alerts police and EMTs that the driver has a medical condition requiring special attention. I want to get one for my car, but when I renewed my driver's license at the local secretary of state's office, they said they had never heard of it. Did I misread something?

-- E.M., of Belleville

A. Emergency responders call it the "golden hour" -- those first 60 minutes after a traumatic event when proper treatment could mean the difference between life and death.

So, to help responders try to save more lives, the Illinois Department of Transportation (not the secretary of state) in 2011 decided to go for the gold -- or the closest color to it, I suppose.

It's called the Illinois Yellow Dot Program, and it's an easy way of quickly furnishing lifesaving medical information when you are unconscious or otherwise incapacitated in your vehicle. Originally introduced in Connecticut in 2002 and funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, here's how it works:

First, obtain a Yellow Dot kit at your nearest county health department. In the kit, you'll find a small information sheet that asks for your name, emergency contacts, personal doctor, medical conditions, recent surgeries, allergies and current medications. Fill this out, paste a small snapshot of yourself on it and place it in your glove compartment.

Then, take the yellow-dot decal that comes in the kit and place it in the lower left-hand corner on the driver's side of the rear window. Trained emergency responders who see this yellow dot should know to immediately look in the glove compartment to find the yellow folder with your information. It's simple, but it could save your life.

"Time is critical in an emergency situation," said Dr. Craig Conover, former acting director of the state's Department of Public Health.

"If paramedics and emergency medical workers know what medications a person is taking, if the person has allergies or a chronic condition, they can make better decisions about treatment. Something as simple as having your medical information on a yellow card in your glove compartment can potentially make a big difference in the emergency care you receive."

And don't stop with yourself. Officials encourage you to include separate information sheets for anyone who might regularly drive or ride in your car, young or old. According to www.yellowdotillinois.org, kits are available at the St. Clair, Madison, Monroe, Clinton, Randolph and Washington county health departments as well as St. Elizabeth Hospital in Belleville, the East Side Health District and the Center for Autism in Maryville.

Marilyn Vise, of the St. Clair County Health Department, 19 Public Square, Belleville, said they do have some available and can order more. If others draw a blank, you might have them contact Marianne Hankins at IDOT in Springfield to replenish their supplies.

Q. About every two or three days my hummingbird feeder is empty at dawn after having ample liquid at dark the night before. Any idea what the culprit might be?

-- H.F.M., of Fairview Heights

A. Trudy Moore would like to have a word with you: raccoons.

"Squirrels will come to it, also woodpeckers -- and if you're really lucky, an oriole," says Moore, of Wild Birds Unlimited in Swansea.

"But anytime somebody says it happens overnight, 90 percent of the time it's a raccoon problem. They may say, 'Oh, we don't have raccoons,' but they just don't see them."

Two ways to stop this nocturnal varmint's quest for a midnight dessert: Either use a baffled pole or take the feeder in the house every night.

"Oh, Lord, yes, they're very clever," Moore said. "They don't have anything else to do. They don't have to clean their house. They don't have to check their emails. Their job is to feed themselves and feed their babies. That's it. A baffled pole is really, truly the only way to stop them."

Today's trivia

OK, equal time: How did Chicago's NHL team come to be called the Blackhawks?

Answer to Wednesday's trivia: In 1924, Boston grocery tycoon Charles Adams convinced the National Hockey League to allow him to start the NHL's first U.S. team. He hired Art Ross as his general manager and told him to come up with a nickname that would symbolize a quick, cunning, untamed animal. Ross hit on Bruins, an Old English word used for "brown bears." ("Bruin" is Dutch for "brown.") Bruin also was the name of the bear in the medieval Reynard the Fox series of fables. It didn't hurt that the nickname went along with the team's original colors of brown and yellow -- matching those of Adams' First National stores.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 239-2465.

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