Photos by Mary Kate McKenna, LFC Class of 2015
Whew, what a day! Eight action-packed hours that every Law & Order or NCIS fan would love to be part of. But when I finally got home and relaxed a bit after experiencing Leadership Frederick County’s Public Safety Day, I was struck by how emotionally spent I was.
Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some great full-day experiences prior to this, but while the topics on those days were interesting, none of them were as raw and indicative of the fact that each of us can be faced with a life-or-death situation at any time. We simply take for granted that the odds of that happening are slim to none, and that if we ever do need to be protected or cared for, it will just amazingly happen automatically. Some Prince –or Princess– Charming is just going to pop up in the street, alley, highway, store, office, or home where we are in harm’s way, and POOF, everything will be all better!
So today’s experience taught me that there’s not just one Prince Charming out there, but an entire community of folks who will work tirelessly to protect me if and when the time comes. Yet even they are challenged to fight the bad guys (and bad budgets) effectively. So here’s my account of the emotions I felt during this action-packed day!
SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW, WAY UP HIGH…
It’s 0’dark thirty in the morning, and my GPS is telling me to turn right on Plant Road, which looks like it goes straight up into The Blair Witch Project‘s woods. Of course I drive by it first and then find a farm lane where I can turn around. After making it back and up over the mountaintop, I am relieved to see a police training center tucked away in a location no one would ever find on their own.
GOOD TO KNOW!
So after I reconnect with my classmates over breakfast, a presentation is given by top public safety officers. From Emergency Management we learn Mother Nature is the main culprit when it comes to putting this department into action. Floods, winter storms, and natural disasters in general all wreak havoc on our lives and those trying to save us.
Glad to know that we have the Frederick Police Department, County Sheriff’s office, Maryland State Police, Thurmont and Brunswick Police Departments, and the Department of National Resources to help us humans when we’re in need, and Animal Control to help our four-legged family members. And it’s amazing to know that about 15% of our residents keep all of these first-responders busy.
Hearing shots fired before my morning caffeine kicked in and while seated with the top policemen in the area made me feel like I was going to be part of an action movie scene without a director telling me what to do. I soon learned that the practice firing range was behind the building, and this sound effect would play a huge role in adding reality checks to the rest of the day.
There are 120,000 calls answered by 911 each year, with 10,000 hang ups that need to be investigated. Maryland’s protocol makes me feel safer than having operators and dispatchers act based on gut instinct and training. However, the fact that callers can get a busy signal worries me.
FIRE AND HAZMAT: MORE MEN IN UNIFORMS!
Ok, I have to admit that one of the things I most appreciated about the day was looking at bright, shiny helicopters and vehicles and being educated by bright, shiny men in uniforms. I’m a girl… what can I say? But what was equally satisfying was knowing that in an emergency, these guys (and gals, though we didn’t meet many) are willing to get themselves and their vehicles dirty, damaged or destroyed just to save me. I felt very special to say the least! Move over, Prom Queens!
Undeniably, the most bizarre part of the day was the panel discussion regarding the Ferguson, MO shooting and subsequent rioting. Aside from the overzealous, activist attorney declaring that a murder had gone unchallenged and the furor created over his “F bombs”, what really struck me was the passion and conviction from people who act as if they know all of the facts about the case. The people who were not near Ferguson and reside in Frederick County who are adamant their perception of the case is the right one, and the only one that matters. This part of the day unnerved me and made me realize how little the race issue has progressed since the early ’60s.
The day ended with my favorite types of “experiential entertainment.” We got to see and handle the guns, belts, and weapons used by police officers and learn how to drive a Segway to apprehend a suspect (as long as she or he isn’t running any faster than 12 miles per hour). But, the most interesting activity for me was the video simulations that put the players right in the midst of the volatile situations that police officers find themselves in every day. The split-second decisions and accuracy needed to protect the innocent, to disable the perpetrators, and to save the officers made me realize that life-and-death decisions often happen as quickly as the blink of an eye.
GRATEFUL, THANK YOU!
So at the end of Public Safety Day I had renewed respect for the men and women who risk their own lives to save mine. I thank them profusely for their service as I heat up some hot chocolate and watch an episode of Blue Bloods with renewed interest…