No driver wants to see blue lights in the rearview mirror or hear a siren coming from behind the car, but kids appear to be fascinated by emergency vehicles’ colorful lights and blaring sirens.
Youngsters tugged on their parents’ hands Tuesday, leading them to the Georgia Cities Week public-safety display outside the Shuman Center. Friends Liam McArthur and Daniel Kelsey, both 3, showed off their new badges, awarded by Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Steven Teel, as they hurried over to the police cruiser.
“Kids love the noisemakers,” Hinesville Police Department Cpl. Jassen Garrett said with a chuckle as he showed Leon Bell, 7, how to turn on a siren. “It’s the same way with fire trucks. They want to blow that horn.”
Garrett allowed Bell and a friend in the driver’s seat while three more young boys climbed in the back seat, including Bell’s younger brother Logan, 2. The boys’ mom, Katie Bell, said her sons and a friend’s sons were eager to explore the police car.
An ambulance and three fire trucks also were on display, including a pink fire engine that Hinesville Fire Department Fireman Owen Kingsley said no longer is in service. The pink truck honors breast-cancer victim Carolyn Stevens, the late wife of Liberty County Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr.
Kingsley called the truck a “rolling billboard” that is used to raise funds and awareness to fight breast cancer. Carolyn Stevens’ picture and a short biography adorned the truck’s front bumper, just under her name. The sides of the truck are covered in handwritten notes and tributes to cancer victims and survivors.
The driver and cargo doors on another fire truck were open, tempting youngsters who asked to climb in and examine the equipment. A truck with a 100-foot ladder garnered similar requests, but the children were not allowed in for safety reasons.
“You can operate the ladder from up top or down below,” said HFD Engineer Jarad Huffman, who manned the truck’s rear control station. “Ultimately, the guy on the bottom is the one in control ... To become an engineer, you have to start out as a fireman then senior fireman then engineer.”
Huffman said if there is an incident requiring the “big ladder,” the truck is operated by up to four people. Although there are no skyscrapers in Hinesville, he said the truck has been used to put out fires in three-story motels.
A line formed near a Georgia State Patrol helicopter. Garrett Poole, 11, got a little help from his dad, Glenn Poole, co-owner of Izola’s Country Café, as he climbed in the cockpit.
“I was thinking about being a cop,” Poole said. “I’m just scared of the Taser test. I don’t want to do that.”
The middle-school student said that despite his concerns about Tasers, he plans to one day be a police officer and will pursue his goal further when he gets into high school.
Cpl. Jerry Pimentel, a state trooper and helicopter pilot, talked about becoming a pilot for the state patrol while explaining a peculiar-looking device mounted on the front of his helicopter.
“That’s a thermo-imager,” Pimentel said. “It’s a video camera that can provide thermo images like the ones you saw on the news this past weekend during the hunt for the Boston bombing suspects.”
He said one has to first “be on the road as a regular state trooper” for three years before going into aviation. Pimentel said he got his fixed-wing pilot’s license in 1987, then the state patrol taught him to fly helicopters. He said the state has only six helicopters and 14 pilots. Most of his missions involve finding missing children, Alzheimer’s patients or lost hunters, he said.
“I think displays like this really help out,” HPD Officer James Williams said, summing up the afternoon’s event. “It helps kids realize law-enforcement officers are friendly and gives parents information they can use to better protect their families.”