By Sadie Hunter
Later this month, the City of Lawrence’s public safety departments will collaborate for the 17th year for its annual Community Safety Day.
“We started this event in 2000. The first year we had it at the small fire station (at 6477 Oaklandon Rd.), and we outgrew it within the first hour it was open,” Lawrence Fire Chief Dino Batalis said. “From then on, we moved it to 59th (Street) and Lee (Road).”
The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fire Station 40, 9530 E. 59th St., and showcases many different aspects of public safety, including police, fire, 911 dispatch, the Explorers program and more.
Throughout the day, each group will take part in live demonstrations.
“What’s nice about this, for police and fire, is we put everything in slow motion,” Batalis said. “We explain to the crowds before the demonstrations start that we’re slowing it down to see the mechanics of what’s being done.”
“The SWAT team will come out in full gear to demonstrate what they do. They set up a little fake family room and house floorplan,” Police Chief David Hofmann said.
“You’ll also be able to see SWAT weapons,” said LiAnn Wolfe, event organizer and Lawrence’s director of 911 dispatch. “During the demonstration, they basically show how they enter a home with the flash bangs and everything.”
Other demonstrations include K-9 officers, tasers, auto extrication, a medical helicopter and an aerial ladder rescue.
“The LifeLine helicopter flies in from the north,” Hofmann said. “It takes a few minutes for them to land, and once they do, people can peek in and get up close. There will be an officer acting as a ‘bad guy’ who will have a bite sleeve on for the K-9 demonstration. The K-9 officer will give commands and release the dog. Kids also will get to operate an actual fire hose that’s charged with water at a real, controlled fire.”
Wolfe said mostly local families attend the event each year. They often see people of all ages.
“We typically have anywhere from 400 to 500 people show up,” she said.
In addition to operating a fire hose, visitors can enjoy a bicycle safety course, where bicycle helmets will be given away all day, along with face painting, the Indiana Pacers fan van, McGruff the Crime Dog, a U.S. Army asset trailer, dunk tank, car smash, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Dept. horse trailer and music by Tracey Cantrell, an LPD captain and DJ. A free hot dog lunch will be offered to all guests. Local businesses and organizations also will set up booths and tents for other giveaways.
Approximately 50 to 75 public safety officials – made up of police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, Explorers and the entire SWAT team – will be on-site, interacting with the public.
“It’s really a good day for the community organizations to get out there and for the citizens to see what police and fire do on a day-to-day basis,” Batalis said. “There are public safety officials there all day to interact with kids. There are very few events that encompass this many things going on that are free.”
WINGIN’ IT WITH FIRST RESPONDERS
On June 30, the Lawrence police and fire departments planned to hold their annual “Wingin’ It With Our First Responders” event, a wing-eating contest where the two departments compete against each other.
But the event was rained out and will now take place on Community Safety Day, Aug 12.
The event will raise money for the Susan Jordan Legacy Fund and Lawrence Township Schools Foundation.
In its inaugural year, the event raised $1,258 for the fund, created in honor of the Amy Beverland Elementary School principal who died after a school bus jumped the curb in January 2016. This year’s donation check will be presented by Lawrence city officials at the Sept. 1 varsity football game between Lawrence North and Lawrence Central high schools.
During the event, police and fire will face off with five-man teams representing each department, anchored by Police Chief David Hofmann and Fire Chief Dino Batalis.