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Public observes tax dollars at work, for the sake of safety

Garry Shaffer of the regional Three Rivers Water Rescue team aids in demonstrating the capabilities that a lifejacket has, using a throw bag with rope to escape potentially dangerous currents. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
September 29, 2010
The third annual Belknap County Public Safety Day brought public safety departments and agencies together to offer a close-up look at their services, staff and equipment.

Hundreds of families took a stroll through the displays set up at Belknap County's Public Safety Day, held at the Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion, with plenty of room for New Hampshire State Police helicopters, fire engines, police cruisers, and Bomb Squad robots.

Children toured antique fire trucks, a Marine Patrol boat and high tech police force vehicles. Many booths offered safety tips for children, whether buckled into a vehicle, on their bikes, or doing their part in preventing forest fires with Smokey the Bear.

Emergency service departments from all over the Lakes Region, including Gilford, Belmont, Sanbornton, Laconia, and Meredith, took time out of their busy schedules to take part in the event and answer any questions the public had about their jobs or equipment.

Matt Partington of the New Hampshire State Explosives Disposal Unit had a popular display at the event with a collection of bomb squad robots.

"We use the robots in a lot of different ways. The purpose of the Bomb Squad is to do surveillance and pick up and move things without endangering lives," explained Partington.

He said the robots can also be utilized in situations with the SWAT team rather than putting a person in danger. Certain equipment can also be strapped to the robots, including a gas meter.

The monitored robots may enter a potentially dangerous or hazardous scene before an emergency response team, but Partington assured the public that the SWAT team has strong training background in such practices. Technology just offers a safer way to assess these situations.

Special clothing and protective suits were also on display for calls involving the threat of bombs within a hazardous environment, both which would require the heavy duty, durable clothing and robots.

"We have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using equipment," said Partington. "We do stay quite active."

He said his unit is also assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration's meth lab team and deals with related hazardous environments.

"Today offers us a chance to put people at ease with our capabilities we have, and a chance for them to see where their tax dollars go. They see that we have the resources to respond to various situations," said Partington.

The unit is also certified in working with the FBI, the Secret Service, the DEA and other agencies.

"It creates a good relation and cooperation between other teams in the region, including regional SWAT teams and fire departments," said Partington.

Autism 911 worked in conjunction with Homeland Security this year, which brought along its mobile command vehicle.

Commander Mike Therrien explained that the vehicle has been to the scene of Hurricane Katrina and is often deployed in other natural disasters, search and rescues. It is also used as a form of protection at political events such as presidential inaugurations.

Radio airway frequencies are used inside of the vehicle to stay in touch with situations and officers all over the country, as well as satellite capabilities.

Children toured the inside of the high tech mobile and also had a blast at the Three Rivers Water Rescue teams hands-on display area, made up of a regional swift water rescue team.

The team offered public education last Saturday during their demonstration and allowed children to "save" a person from drowning or being swept away by currents with the use of a PFD or a lifejacket and a "throw bag."

Children would fling the throw bag in the water to Garry Shaffer of the rescue team, who would grab the rope attached to the bag, allowing the kids to easily pull him into shore from a bright orange swimming pool, used to represent larger bodies of water.

Other departments and agencies at Public Safety Day included Belknap Regional Police Special Operations, the Lakes Region Emergency Response Unit, the Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team of the Belknap County Sheriff's office, the New Hampshire State Fire Marshalls Office, and more.

This year, the DEA also collected any unused or expired medications for safe disposal.

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