March 22, 2018
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Brewer middle-schoolers learn the ropes of public service

Kate Collins | BDN
Kate Collins | BDN
Nick Charalambous, 13, of Brewer, takes evidence photos as part of the Brewer Youth Public Safety Academy on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, at the Brewer Public Safety Building. The week-long program is designed to introduced children to the work of first responders such as police and fire personnel.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — A LifeFlight helicopter took off from the Eastern Maine Medical Center helipad as Brewer Youth Academy cadets arrived at the Bangor hospital last week to learn about the aircraft, which can respond in minutes to emergencies statewide.

“They had to go out on a call, so we got to see them take off and fly back,” 13-year-old cadet Teddi Gardner of Brewer said Wednesday.

While the LifeFlight crew headed to a car crash in Detroit, a trip that takes about eight minutes each way, the 11 cadets were given details about the emergency call: Three teens had been injured and one needed immediate medical care.

“We kinda made made our way to the roof and watched for them to come back,” said Gardner, who took part in the two-week academy last year and decided to sign up again this year.

There are 23 middle school students enrolled in the Brewer Youth Academy. The cadets are broken into two groups that spend one week with the fire department and one week with police to learn the ins and outs of public service.

“It’s cool,” said Gardner, who was in the fire department group last week and this week is learning how to investigate crimes.

“I think it would be a cool career path — a detective or something like that,” she said.

The public safety academy includes some classwork, as well as field trips and presentations from local law enforcement agencies such as the Bangor Police Department’s bomb squad, the Orono Fire Department’s hazmat team, Dirigo Search and Rescue, Forest Rangers and others, said Brewer police Officer Dan Costain, who co-directs the police program with Cpl. Steve Boyd.

“It gives them a real thorough idea of what we do here,” Costain said.

The students visit the Penobscot County Jail, sit through court at the Penobscot Judicial Center, get gun safety and drug-sniffing canine demonstrations, go through a smoke-filled training facility, and get to check out the inside the Penobscot County Emergency Response Team’s command vehicle.

They also learn the basics of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, are introduced to self-defense, get to put out a small fire, conduct a simulated traffic stop, and use extrication equipment at a local junkyard.

On Wednesday, the fire department cadets went on a field trip to visit the Penobscot Regional Communications Center in Bangor, Air National Guard Fire Department and LifeFlight.

“Right now they’re at PRCC getting the dispatch tour,” Assistant Fire Chief Chris Dore said at around 10 a.m. “Last week, they got to witness a couple [of 911] calls.”

Fire Capt. Brent Melvin was scheduled to provide rope rescue training to end the day for the fire department cadets.

“They really like the hands-on stuff we do,” Fire Chief Gary Parent said.

The police cadets spent Wednesday morning learning how to break down and catalog evidence during a criminal investigation and the afternoon putting their skills to the test at a mock crime scene.

Gardner said her favorite part of the academy has been the field trips, including “getting to see the inside of the jail and courts and seeing things most people don’t get to see.”

“It was kind of a cool experience,” the soon-to-be eighth-grader said. While touring the county jail, “we learned how the jail functions and stuff that happens there and why you don’t want to be in there.”

Drug forfeiture funds pay for the relatively low cost of the academy, with the Fire Department’s union pitching in for a day of play at the Acadia Fun Park in Trenton and a graduation barbecue and student fireman’s muster scheduled for noon Friday.

Most of the cadets are from Brewer, but one comes from Bangor and one is from Orrington.

“Six of these 23 are returnees from last year,” Parent said. “That says a lot. For kids to give up two weeks of their summer to learn about public service — that’s pretty cool.

“Maybe we’ll create some future firefighter or police officers,” he said.

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