Showing posts with label first responders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label first responders. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2024

Public Safety Memorial a tribute to Windham first responders

By Ed Pierce

When Windham’s first responders and public safety members moved into their newly remodeled building on Gray Road in 2022, something was missing. Plans had been underway for several years to create and place a monument outside the building as a tribute to those who render assistance to the public when emergencies arise, put out fires, and keep residents safe 24 hours a day.

The new Windham Public Safety Memorial
was officially dedicated during a ceremony
on Memorial Day outside the Windham
Public Safety Building on Gray Road. The 
black granite monument honors current and 
past first responders, firefighters, police
officers, dispatchers, and emergency medical
technicians who have devoted their lives to
serving the town. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE    
Lengthy delays from the monument company prevented that from happening, but on Memorial Day, Windham’s Public Safety Memorial was unveiled and dedicated outside the facility. The monument recognizes the contributions that police officers and firefighters have made to the town through decades of service and is intended as a permanent way to say thanks to those who have served as a member of Windham Fire/Rescue, Police, Rescue Association, or as a dispatcher for the Town of Windham.

Surrounding the monument is a courtyard made up of benches to sit and reflect and special brick paver stones for families of first responders. The monument itself is black granite and stands 6 feet in height with white lettering and contains logos of the Windham Police and the Windham Fire/Rescue Departments, an eagle, and the American flag. Space is available on the monument to memorialize the names of police officers or firefighters should they perish in the line of duty in the future.

During the dedication event, Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield and Windham Fire/Rescue Chief Brent Libby shared their thoughts about the monument.

“Today’s activities are the culmination of two to two-and-a-half years of work,” Schofield said. “This recognizes people in public service to the community, and it means a great deal to all of us.”

Schofield introduced Karen Lewsen, the wife of the late former Windham Police Chief Richard B. “Rick” Lewsen Jr., whom he replaced as top law enforcement officer for the town in 2015. A granite bench in the courtyard is dedicated to Chief Lewsen, who died in 2022.

“We are grateful for the work that Nancy Graves, Fire Rescue Coordinator for Windham Fire Rescue did on this and for all those who placed the paver stones and worked on this monument,” Schofield said.

Windham Fire/Rescue Chief Brent Libby said the goal of the project has been to salute current and past public safety members, volunteers, and call company members, and hundreds of individuals who have served through the years with the Windham Fire Department and the Windham Police Department.

“Our goal is to dedicate and unveil this monument as a tribute and remembrance,” Libby said. “The space on the monument is reserved for those who give the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, but it hasn’t happened, and we’re committed to keeping it that way.”

Libby also pointed out that another of the black granite benches in the courtyard is inscribed “Honor Valor Sacrifice” and he said that exemplifies the mindset of everyone who serves as a firefighter, police officer, or emergency medical technician in Windham.

“Those are core tenets that police and firefighters live by every day,” Libby said.

Rev. Tim Higgins of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church said he recognizes the courtyard and the new monument at the Windham Public Safety Building as a sacred and meaningful space.

“When you come to this space to be quiet and sit and remember those who came before us, it’s really like visiting a sacred space,” Higgins said. “Sacred space is critical in our community as it is holy.”

Higgins then offered a blessing to those to whom the new monument is dedicated.

“Bless them and bless their safety,” he said. “And bless the holy space.”

He then led those attending the monument dedication in reciting the Firefighters Prayer and the Police Prayer.

Additional paver stones are available for the Public Safety Building courtyard and may be purchased by calling Nancy Graves at 207-892-1911. <

Friday, September 17, 2021

Never forget: Veterans remember 9/11 victims and those who have died in Afghanistan

Veterans from American Legion Post 148 and
VFW Post 10643 gathered at the Windham
Public Safety Building on Saturday, Sept. 11
to remember those lost on 9/11 and in
Afghanistan and pay tribute to first
responders in Windham. COURTESY PHOTO 
By Collette Hayes

The late U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said, “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.” On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States last Saturday, veterans from American Legion Post 148 and VFW Post 10643 in Windham gathered at the Public Safety Building on Gray Road and stood in tribute to those who have paid the high price of freedom.

A contingent of veterans stood in silence for 15 minutes to reflect and to remember service members lost in the 20-year war including the 13 service members fallen in the recent events in Afghanistan and for those first responders lost in the tragic moments when the Twin Towers fell in New York City on 9/11.

On the solemn 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, veterans as well as representatives from Windham’s local police and fire departments gathered outside the Windham Public Safety Building to honor those fallen while serving to protect America’s freedom.

“American Legion stands for 100 percent Americanism and to remember all wars,” said David Tanguay, American Legion District Two Adjutant and Field-Allen Post 148 Adjutant. “We are here to honor those first responders to the 9/11 attacks who did not run from the tragic events but ran forward to save lives. Each day we should thank our first responders for their sacrifice and for protecting our communities. The cry at the time of the 9/11 event was ‘We shall never forget.’ I pray that on this 20th anniversary of the attacks, the nation will again come together and remember.”

The group recalled all first responders that lost their lives when they entered the twin towers and more than 300 others who have perished as a result of lingering health issues from that day.

“We are honored that American Legion veterans are thinking of us on the 20-year anniversary of 9/11,” said Brent Libby, Fire and Rescue Chief for the Town of Windham. “Three Hundred Forty-Three firefighters and over 72 police officers gave their lives. These individuals should definitely be acknowledged and remembered for their sacrifice.”

Throughout the tribute, 13 veterans stood in a flag line holding United States flags in memory of the most recent fallen.

“I would like to take a moment to remember the 13 service members lost on the last days of the drawdown of troops in the protracted war in Afghanistan,” Tanguay said. “The flag line today is in place to remember their service as well as to honor all service members lost in the 20-year war as well. I ask the flag line to stand in silence for the next 15 minutes,” he said. “We would like to honor this time with prayer, reflection and remembrance for their sacrifice and also to remember their families in this time of grief.”

Navy Seal Jeff Cook, now retired after 26 years of military service, was 40 years old when he first went to Afghanistan.

“I was part of the group that was sent to build the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan which was the epicenter of the war against the Tailban and al-Queda for 20 years,” he said. “During this time, many military service young men and women tasked with this job, died. It is important that we remember them for their sacrifice.”

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, those attending the event reflected, remembered and honored all Americans who have acknowledged that freedom isn’t free and responded to President Kennedy’s request to “Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” <

Friday, May 7, 2021

‘Slow Down Move Over’ violators put first responders’ lives at risk

Drivers in Windham and throughout Maine are ignoring the
'Slow Down Move Over' law first enacted in 2007. It mandates
that motorists slow down or pull over if they encounter a 
stopped or parked emergency vehicle and violators are 
posing significant risk to first responders.
By Ed Pierce

Every day, drivers in Windham and throughout Maine ignore the “Slow Down, Move Over” law posing a significant risk for first responders and other emergency personnel.

Enacted in 2007, the law mandates that drivers slow down and or pull over if they encounter a stopped or parked emergency vehicle. If drivers see flashing lights and fail to respond appropriately, they can be issued a summons and fined $326 for not doing so under the law.   

Under Title 29-A §2054-9 MRSA, drivers passing a parked emergency vehicle with its emergency lights activated must pass in a lane that is not adjacent to the vehicle or, if doing so is unsafe or impossible, must pass at a careful and prudent speed. In this context, “emergency vehicle” includes, but is not limited to, police cruisers, ambulances, fire trucks, tow trucks, wreckers, and highway safety vehicles. 

This law helps to ensure our safety. When working at an emergency scene, we often have to move around our apparatus to get the equipment needed,” said Brent Libby, Windham Fire-Rescue chief. “We also are moving around the scene to treat patients, remove debris, contain spills etc.  which can be spread out larger than it may seem. The move over law ensures that we have a safe space to operate in.”

Libby said many first responders witness drivers who disregard this law and violations happen on a daily basis.

“Whether it is a medical call, a motor vehicle crash, or a grass fire, motorists are often trying to squeeze around our apparatus, which often creates a blind spot for them,” he said. “The law applies to all emergency vehicles on all roads and requires the drivers to use the other lane to get around.” 

According to Libby, unfortunately there just aren’t resources available to enforce the law.

“Often law enforcement is involved in and committed to the incident we are on. In extreme scenarios someone can get the license plate and report it but otherwise we simply have to remain vigilant,” he said. “I will say there are many instances where we will simply close a road down completely for our safety and the safety of those involved knowing that due to traffic volume and inattention, moving traffic through a scene would just be too dangerous.”

Kyle Snyder, Road Assist Emergency Services operations manager, said that every single day, he or one of his technicians are on the side of the road helping a stranded motorist and most motorists do not understand that by slowing down, and moving over, this provides them with the protection to do their jobs safely.

“This law is in place for police, fire, EMS, and yes, even tow providers. At the end of the day, we want to go home to our families, and we cannot do that if we are injured or killed by someone not paying attention and not following the law,” Snyder said.

Snyder said that out of the 131 calls that he completed in April, he counted 60 times that a driver failed to slow down or move over for him.

“That is 46 percent of calls that I have personally completed. We have forward and rear facing cameras in our trucks that record our work areas. As the operations manager I am constantly reviewing footage and making sure my drivers are following our safety protocols,” he said. “I have watched quite a few videos that would make any normal person who does not do this job shake their head in disbelief. Now imagine your job is to be on the side of the road every day, and in the back of your mind, you are wondering if it is your last.”

Snyder said he feels 95 percent of drivers violating the law is because of distracted driving.

"Drivers are not keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. If they are distracted by the phone, or using their touch screen/GPS, it takes 27 seconds for you to refocus on the road after stopping that distracting activity,” he said. “During that 27 seconds, you are already in our work zone. I also think that 5 percent stems from some people not understanding that the law pertains to yellow flashing lights as much as blue and red. However, this law is not new, it was passed in 2007, some 14 years ago and all 50 states have some version of this law.”

About 10:30 p.m. April 24, in dry and clear road conditions, Snyder was assisting the Maine State Police, Rays Towing, and Maine DOT at a crash on I-95 North Bound in Scarborough.

“There were two Maine State Police cars, a DOT truck, and two tow trucks on scene blocking the left and middle lanes. Numerous people were not paying attention and were moving over at the very last minute,” Snyder said. “I had three cones and three flares behind my vehicle, the DOT truck was to my left, and the MSP was in front conducting their investigation. My cones got hit a few times, and numerous tractor trailer trucks went by us at a high rate of speed.”

As police conducted a crash investigation, EMS workers treated injuries, DOT checked barriers for structural damage, and tow companies cleaned up the crash scen. Snyder said the story could have ended very differently for him.

“I was standing on the driver side of my emergency vehicle when a vehicle came right at me, taking out two cones and three 3 flares before finally stopping between my unit and the DOT unit,” he said. “This driver was cited for DUI and arrested. If I would have hesitated for even a second, I would not be here today to tell this story. That is the kind of stuff emergency responders deal with every single day, and so we ask the public to do their part.”

Snyder said he thinks the law needs to be strengthened and enforced better.

“Lives are at risk here when someone does not follow this law. People think that they can get away with it because they are never caught,” he said. “Whenever you are on the road, you have other people’s lives in your hands. In a work zone, we don’t have a cage protecting us, so one mistake can cost a life. We have seen a couple of instances in the last few years. A DOT worker was killed in 2018 while moving traffic cones in a construction zone. Detective Ben Campbell of the Maine State Police was killed honorably in the line of duty from a tire that separated from a truck. Things happen that we can’t predict, but drivers moving over or slowing down is something that we all can do to save a life.”

Chief Libby said many times working in the roadway is as dangerous for firefighters and EMTs as it is working on a fire.

“We do our very best to clean up an incident as quickly as possible to get out of the road. We ask that people are patient, be aware of what’s going on at the scene as there is always a lot of movement,” Libby said. “Look for someone doing traffic control providing you with instructions. I can’t tell you how many people we see driving through a crash scene with their phone out getting pictures and video. It is imperative that people approach and pass by a scene very slowly with a defensive posture ready to stop on a moment’s notice. Put down your devices and slow down.”

Libby said that as a first responder firefighter, one of their most dangerous and frustrating jobs is directing traffic.

“People in this role are our first line of defense for those working on the scene and people just do not pay attention,” he said. “We also challenge people to know more than one way to get where they are going. People often stop to ask directions when we are blocking a road. This further complicates safely moving traffic.” <

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Knights of Columbus salute Windham public safety with special lunch

Windham's Knights of Columbus provided
Windham First Responders and Public Safety
personnel with a catered luncheon to thank
them for their caring efforts on behalf of the
community at the Public Safety Building on
Pope Road in Windham on Dec. 22. 
The Windham Knights of Columbus surprised Windham First Responders and Public Safety Staff and families with a catered luncheon at the Public Safety Building on Pope Road in Windham on Dec. 22.

The Knights provided sandwiches, snacks, cold drinks and desserts for more than 100 people in appreciation for the sacrifice and work performed by public safety staff members of Windham.

"It has been a rough year for our first responders and their families, and this is a small way of saying thank you," said Knights of Columbus Deputy Grand Knight Richard Drapeau. " Church, community, family and life are the four cornerstones of Columbianism and we are glad to celebrate community here today together."

Expressing their gratitude for the event, among the many public safety staff members in attendance were Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield and Windham Fire Chief Brent Libby.

Drapeau also expressed appreciation to wives, family members and loved ones of all Windham public safety personnel for the sacrifices they make on behalf of the community.

Representing the Knights were Grand Knight Charlie Bourgie; Deputy
Grand Knight Richard Drapeau; Treasurer Mike Roy; and members Robert Carter; John O'Brien; and Robert Morin.

Among public safety personnel attending the event were Police Chief Kevin Schofield; Police Captain Bill Andrews; Captain Ray Williams; and Patrol Officer Ernest MacVaine; Fire Chief Brent Libby; Deputy Fire Chief John Kooistra; and Firefighter and EMT Dane Gomberg. <