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Belknap County Public Safety Day flies by



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Five-year-old Riley Marsh takes a seat on a medical helicopter. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
October 14, 2009
For the second year in a row, the Belknap County Sheriff's Relief Association, along with county wide departments and agencies, held a Belknap County Public Safety Day last Saturday as a way to let residents get to know their local public safety organizations.

Safety Day was held at the Meadowbrook Cellular Pavilion in Gilford again this year, with fire fighters, police officers, and law enforcement throughout the outdoor facility, giving children tours of their trucks and familiarizing residents with standard safety procedures.

State and medical helicopters, smoke demonstrations, and fire truck displays helped ring in the second annual year, which covered the entire spectrum of safety guidelines including underage drinking, boat safety, collision safety, home safety, and bicycling tips.

This year there was an emphasis on family and child safety. Mary Donnelly from the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Counsel used a "roll-over" model to demonstrate what could happen if a person, especially a child, did not use their safety belt.

The model was a car set up on a stand which motioned back and forth, and turned 360 degrees with "dummies" inside the vehicle to show what exactly could happen in a real roll-over accident without a seatbelt on.

"So many people still have to be reminded to use their safety belt," said Donnelly. "With the roll-over, kids can see even if you don't fall out, you can still be damaged inside the vehicle."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during a crash a car slows down yet a person continues at the same speed at which the car was traveling prior to impact. Without a seatbelt, a person usually crashes into the windshield or the dashboard as a result on impact.

NHTAA states that about 36 percent of the 43,443 people killed in motor vehicle crashes annually could have been saved by wearing a safety belt, and that children can be injured by an unbelted adult as well.

Fire was a main focus as well for children. Captain Brad Ober from the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department demonstrated smoke and fire safety for kids and their families in a specially designed RV set up as a house with a kitchen and a bedroom. Sprinklers were set up throughout the facility as well to show how affective they can be during a fire.

Ober said that "theater fog" is used when children take tours through the simulated home. This fog is also the closest thing to smoke his department could get their hands on, and it also rises, just as smoke does so children learn to stay low to the ground during a fire, said Ober.

Although he says they have fun pretending, he is relieved to know they will all learn something in the end. He talks to kids and families about safety around the kitchen, especially the stove, most prone to fires.

There's also a phone system for children to practice dialing 911 during an emergency, and a door that heats up so that the kids can understand what they are looking for and what is considered safe or not to do during a fire. There are smoke detectors and exit signs set up to help children familiarize themselves with certain alarm systems and safety procedures, said Ober.

"Our biggest feature is with smoke. We don't have to just tell kids, but we show them how it would really be," said Ober. "We can show them how quickly a room can be covered with smoke if they don't act fast. They really get a sense of what happens if they don't act quickly enough. Forty-five seconds can make a difference."

He said children also learn that when heat rises, there is still a trace of clean air that lingers near the floor for the duration of the time.

Ober pointed out that there was a see-through section also set up to demonstrate how residential sprinkler systems work during a fire. They used a garbage can fire as a demonstration to show how quickly the system reacts.

"It takes the myths out of sprinklers. Anything you see in a movie is not as accurate. Not all fire sprinkler heads react during a fire. They sense the heat and react where needed," said Ober.

Jeff Dade from the State Police Bomb Squad demonstrated how to use two different models of robots for bomb disposal. He moved a small and large robot with a remote and explained that they could be utilized beyond their main purposes.

He said that they could help "compliment" SWAT and fire department teams since they have cameras and the ability to sample or monitor various chemicals. Dade said the robots are used a fair amount for safety precautions when deemed appropriate.

"The idea is to limit the number of people in harms way. There are some limitations to robots," said Dade.

He added that hefty bomb suits are the second option if the situation doesn't call for the use of mechanical objects.

Helicopters proved to be one of the main attractions that children and adults alike grouped together to observe. A state police helicopter stood on display as Tom LomBardi helped young kids into the plane to get a feel for a pilot's job. A medical helicopter from Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center landed in the middle of the parking lot and drew crowds as well with its perfect landing and massive propellers.

A fight team called Lakes Region Vale Tudo (Portuguese for 'anything goes') was also present on Safety Day. The owner, Jamie Fellows, said that he provides a large percentage of his gym facilities to law enforcement teams, and teaches them mixed martial arts and self defense, as well as children's classes.

Pamphlets were provided at most booths, including information on Autism 911, internet safety for children, and guidelines to follow in case of a missing child or a separated family.

Garnet Hill
Martin Lord Osman
Penny Pitou
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