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Community meets first responders at Public Safety Day

Makayla and Gavin Bennett of Gilford stand in the bucket of the Meredith Fire Department's Tower 1 truck during Belknap County Safety Day. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
September 12, 2018
Families had the opportunity to meet first responders in a fun, friendly environment during the annual Belknap County Public Safety Day.

Police, fire, and rescue personnel from across the state set up their vehicles at Gunstock on Saturday for the public to see along with a number of demonstrations to show what they do.

The event was organized by the Belknap County Sheriff's Department. Jennifer Schillinger, an administrative assistant for Sheriff Mike Moyer, said the concept behind the event is to give the public an opportunity to meet their first responders in a casual environment.

"We want kids especially to be able to (meet) police, firefighters, EMS, and know they don't have to be afraid of them," Schillinger said.

Schillinger said they had representatives from police and fire departments in every Belknap County community. They also had vehicles and representatives from the State Liquor Commission, Marine Patrol, Dartmouth Hitchcock Advanced Response Team (DHART), the Belknap Regional Special Operations Group, and Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid.

She said they try to expand the event a little every year.

This year, they held a raffle and provided live music.

Police motorcycles did an obstacle course. The Gilford Fire Department did a Jaws of Life demonstration with wrecked vehicles provided by Rusty's Towing of Tilton.

The Belmont, Alton, and Gilford Police Departments did a K-9 demonstration with their respective dogs.

"That's our goal — to get it a little bit bigger — and I think we did," Schillinger said.

Schillinger also thanked Gunstock for offering their facility and providing some raffle prizes.

Lt. James Leach of the Gilford Police Department said he has done this for a couple years and he loves being part of it.

In addition to showing off the vehicles, Leach also showed their body cameras and how the images can connect to a phone app.

"I enjoy this, I think it's a great event," Leach said. "Kids love it; it's a perfect opportunity for us to have that connection."

He said it was a good opportunity for kids and parents to have a positive encounter with the police and fire departments.

In addition to letting kids explore the cab of the truck, the Meredith Fire Department also lowered the bucket of its Tower 1 truck and let kids take get inside it.

Lt. Jason Haines of the Meredith Fire Department said it was a good day overall, a great opportunity for public service and give the kids an opportunity to check things out and maybe get interested.

"It's very good community relations for everybody," Haines said.

He said with the fire and police out there that day, it shows that the first responders are out there to do good.

The displayed a helicopter and gear during the event, talking with the public about the work of DHART.

Flight Paramedic Jeremy Stebbins with DHART sid they enjoy being part of this.

"We have an opportunity to be with the community," Stebbins said. "Rather than on an emergency basis, it's a public relations basis."

He said a lot of people ask questions, such as where they go and what they will transport.

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Varney Smith
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