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West Hartford Holds Inaugural Public Safety Day

Touch-a-Truck WHFD Truck 3 – Apparatus Operator Scott Padua and Part-time Emergency Management Assistant Owen Kutscher. Courtesy photo

The West Hartford Fire Department, West Hartford Police Department, West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, West Hartford’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and the Office of Emergency Management combined for the town’s first Public Safety Fair Day.

WHFD Planning/Recovery Officer Bill Schappert and FF/PM Curtis Neff teaching members of the West Hartford CERT team hands only CPR. Courtesy photo

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford Fire Chief Greg Priest, who also heads the town’s Office of Emergency Management, said the town’s first-ever Public Safety Day Fair was a success – and an important opportunity for the community to connect with that department as well as the fire and police departments, the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, and the town’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

“It was a beautiful day for us to be out connecting with our community,” Priest said. Most of the interaction with the community over the past year or so has been pandemic-related, he said, so it was good to focus on other safety-related topics.

“While we are always internally considering opportunities to engage residents, today was sparked (pun intended) by a conversation with [soon-to-be] former Town Councilor Lee Gold. He was interested in methods to return fire extinguishers but was also hoping to expand on improving fire safety. Ultimately, we arrived at a broader-scoped plan to encompass more safety-related topics,” Priest said.

Members of the CERT team staffing the Fire Extinguisher Take-back table. Courtesy photo

West Hartford’s high vaccination rates and low infection rates allows a return to in-person events, and that personal connection with the community is important, Priest said. For safety the event was held outdoors, or attendees were masked.

“Today could best be summarized by partnerships,” said Priest. “We have an outstanding partnership with our town leadership who values and supports public safety. We also have a great partnership between the police, fire, emergency management, CERT team and Health District members. Most importantly, the robust partnership that exists between our community and public safety agencies is critical. We are ready 24/7 to respond but we also rely on the community to prepare and prevent emergencies.”

The Public Safety Day Fair was focused on building relationships to support that community partnership, Priest said, “and to offer resources, training, and tools to improve preparedness. Part of the relationship building is about making our personnel available to connect with all members of our diverse community as well as building trust and confidence. Further, it presents us an opportunity to encourage our residents, especially our youths, to consider a career in a public safety field such as police or fire, or for adults to get more involved in community preparedness such as joining our CERT team.”

Priest said he is proud of those who are involved in the town’s public safety operations, “who put their lives on the line daily to provide exemplary service to West Hartford. It is a tough job but connecting positively with our community to educate and engage is exciting and rewarding.”

He is also appreciative of the close partnership between the police and fire departments in West Hartford, and the partnership with and support of elected and town officials.

“A special thanks to FD Planning and Recovery Officer Bill Schappert, PD Officer Dominic Creaco, Health District Nurses Drohan and Flaherty, Deputy Emergency Manager McCue, Emergency Management Assistant Owen Kutscher, and our many CERT team members for their work and coordination to make today possible,” Priest said.

He said he hopes this type of outreach and community engagement can continue in the future.

Members of the WHPD and WHFD. Courtesy photo

Public Safety Day. Courtesy photo

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