By Joe Beck
Woodstock residents got an up close look at the world of police, fire and emergency medical services in their community Saturday.
The police dog demonstrations drew some of the larger crowds for the 2nd Annual Community Safety Day, an event held to forge stronger ties between emergency response agencies and the public. Dogs from five police agencies sniffed around for tell tale signs of drugs and arson. One chased a fleeing suspect in well-padded clothing who was actually a police officer playing the part of a fugitive.
But safety day was much more than demonstrations created to inform the public. Some of the activities produced immediate, tangible contributions to the well being of those in attendance.
Valley Health's mobile van allowed people to stop by and receive basic health screenings for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.
Some of the screenings conducted by staff from Shenandoah Memorial Hospital revealed what Woodstock police officer Josh Wilberger described as "critical" ailments requiring quick attention.
Fara Moore, Valley Health's mobile services outreach coordinator, said she recommended one patient undergo a further blood pressure check at a nearby ambulance after the hospital staff recorded an alarmingly high reading.
Moore said the 32 people who had visited by 2 p.m. constitued a good turnout for an event at which people often aren't in the mood for receiving potentially bad news about their health.
"They're here to have fun and eat," Moore said. "They don't want to know."
Other exhibits included child safety fingerprinting, identification number etching on vehicle windows, personal and sensitive document shredding, a bicycle rodeo for teaching riding skills to children, and landings and takeoffs by police and AirCare medical evacuation helicopters.
No one had any complaints about the Southern California-like weather. Police Chief Eric Reilly estimated the turnout at more than 1,000 by mid-afternoon, a big improvement over last year when sleet marred the inaugural safety day.
"This is really one of the largest events of its type in our area," Reilly said. "For a department of our size, it's a huge undertaking."
The bicycle rodeo operated by Woodstock and New Market bicycle patrol officers handed out more than 30 certificates of completion to participants by mid-afternoon with dozens of other youngsters lining up to take their turns on the playground course.
Woodstock officer Matt Glovier said he was giving away free headlights and rear blinking bulbs for bicycles at a brisk clip.
"I'm about out of them, and I had several boxes and bags of them," Glovier said.
Michelle Dugan of Woodstock brought her 3-year-old son Maddox to the police dog demonstration conducted by K-9 officers with the state patrol, Frederick County Fire Marshals Office and Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office.
Dugan asked trooper Adam Waybright whether his tracking dog, Argo, could get distracted by dogs when tracking a suspect.
"We train these dogs around distractions," replied Waybright. "If they're locked in to what they should be doing, their head should be down, and they should be ready to go."
Dugan was one of many parents who attended the event with their children. She praised the police dog demonstrations and other activities for helping break down barriers between police and children.
"I think it's awesome around here with the officers, so they don't fear them but come to see them as their friends," Dugan said of the youngsters.
Woodstock Lt. Aaron Pattie said he was gratified to learn members of his department had collected 75 to 80 pounds of unwanted prescription drugs from members of the public at a booth set up as part of National Drug Take Back Day. The program, which is conducted under the supervision of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, accepts the prescriptions anonymously with no questions asked.
This is the third year Woodstock has participated in the program, which is held each spring and fall.
"We've had really good success with it," Pattie said. "It helps ensure prescription drugs don't get into the hands of teen-agers or are put to other illegal uses."
Pattie said those who missed the drug take back can still drop off prescriptions at the Woodstock Police Department or Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org