Changes proposed to Safe Haven Law

Published: Jan. 22, 2023 at 8:44 PM CST
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BROOKLAND, Ark. (KAIT) - – A change is being proposed to Arkansas’ Safe Haven Law to make it easier to turn a newborn into emergency personnel.

Under Arkansas’ Safe Haven Law, a newborn less than 30 days old can be dropped off with personnel in emergency rooms, fire stations, or police departments.

Excluded from that list are volunteer fire departments, which Brookland Assistant Fire Chief John Burns said hurts many counties.

Arkansas HB 1098 could change that. The bill states that it will “clarify that a volunteer fire department may operate a newborn safety device under certain conditions under the Safe Haven Act”.

“There are counties in the state of Arkansas that only have volunteer fire departments, they don’t have full-time fire departments,” he said.

The change in the law will allow volunteer fire departments across the state to add what is called a Newborn Safety Device if they meet requirements.

Burns said some fire departments, including the one in Brookland, may have trouble with them.

First, the fire department must have two firefighters always monitoring the device. Burns said many volunteer fire departments simply don’t have the personnel or the hours, but that the department in Brookland is hoping to change.

Second, the device must be located within a mile of a medical provider or law enforcement agency. The Brookland fire department is located across from the police department.

Another reason Burns hopes the change can be made into the law is that installing a newborn safety device will allow a parent dropping off a newborn to do so anonymously.

The law only permits a parent to make a drop-off in person if it is not done in a newborn safety device.

Burns said that even though the drop-off is supposed to be anonymous, a parent may be more comfortable dropping the baby off in the box.

“They may not want to go into a large town to do it. They may want to do it in the middle of the night in a small town and that alert will go off, two firefighters will be notified, an ambulance will be notified,” he said.

Burns said that even adding one box per county will add 75 more locations in the state, something that can mean the difference between life and death.

He said if the amendment is made to the law, the Brookland Fire Department will hope to add a box once it can meet the requirements.