Community safety event gets public hands-on with law enforcement, public safety officers

A Life Flight medical helicopter landed at the Gregg Township Volunteer Fire Company carnival grounds Saturday afternoon.

People were outside a perimeter, but the wind generated from the propellers knocked down two Amish children.

Their father helped them back up, and when it was safe to approach the chopper, volunteers with the Gregg Township fire company gave the go-ahead to mingle with the pilots and medics, and see how the bird is operated.

It was one of multiple activities Saturday that allowed the community to get a glimpse into a day in the life of public safety officials and law enforcement officers.

The message with the event, Assistant Fire Chief Brandon Young said, was to show people that they’re there to help, not to harm. It was also a way to show the public just what their services include.

“We want to be approachable,” Young said. “We’re all here to help, and we want the public to know that, and know what our capabilities are.”

On the last day of the three-day carnival, Gregg Township Volunteer Fire Company hosted the community safety fair.

It was an event organized by the fire company, and included U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, Centre County Sheriff Bryan Sampsel, state police community service officer Jeff Petucci, members from Penns Valley EMS and leaders from Gregg Township.

“With all the things going on in this world, I think this event will help people understand us,” fire company President Charles Stover said. “Many of the activities explain what we do firsthand.”

Stover came up with the idea about a month ago and got approval from the board.

In less than a month, Stover and others, organized the fair that didn’t attract many community members but still performed its mission.

“I think there is room to grow from here,” Stover said. “We only had a couple weeks to get this going, and I think we’re happy with what we accomplished. There has been positive feedback so far. We did what we needed to do, but I think it’s a chance to bring it back next year with more stuff.”

Fire company members hope to add mounted patrol to its list of officials involved next year.

The highlight of the event came toward the end when fire officials conducted a rescue mission. It was a demonstration of a car crash that featured the use of new tools obtained this year.

About $2,000 worth of equipment was bought from the Centre Hall Fire Company to give Gregg Township Fire Company the chance to do their own rescues.

“This is the first time in our company’s history that we have this kind of equipment,” Chief Doug Young said.

When called to an incident like a vehicle crash with entrapment, Gregg Township firefighters would respond to the scene, but a rescue company from an outside department would be called to help.

“This allows us to do a lot more in serving the community in times of need, though we work well and have a great relationship with other departments,” Young said.

The company works mostly with Miles Township, Centre Hall and Millheim fire companies, and generally responds to about 15 serious auto crashes annually, Young said.

Some of the new equipment acquired included spreaders, an oak cutter and a power unit that lets the users pry open smashed vehicles and cut through the vehicle when needed.

The annual carnival is the company’s biggest fundraising event of the year.

Young didn’t have an estimated amount of what was raised, but he said the department operates on a $35,000 to $40,000 annual budget.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo