Last updated: October 29. 2013 5:12PM - 929 Views
Taylor Pardue Staff Reporter

Buddy Lawson of the NC Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 5 K-P unit holds Canine Leif while Boonville Elementary children walk by and pet the dog.
Buddy Lawson of the NC Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 5 K-P unit holds Canine Leif while Boonville Elementary children walk by and pet the dog.
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BOONVILLE — Students at Boonville Elementary learned about safety and the careers available in emergency services on Friday.

The school partnered with several emergency services, including the Boonville Fire Department, to bring vehicles and gear to the ballfield. Professionals talked to children about what the equipment did and the qualifications needed to get a job with the different agencies.

“We call it safety day so the kids can become familiar with people who may help them in an emergency,” Principal Annette Johnson said. “We’ve also let them learn about if they’re going to have a career in the medical field this is what you need to do.”

“Not only are we able to promote safety for the kids but also career opportunities, because there are so many careers that have been (represented) here today,” Boonville Fire Chief Danny Smith said. “Anything from the fire department to flight medics to nurses to EMTs.”

Included in the day were two AirCare helicopters. Smith was able to coordinate with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to get the helicopter from Elkin to sit down on the baseball field, but minutes before the event was scheduled the helicopter had to fly to Hickory.

A second helicopter was flown in from Martinsville, Va., about 9:15 a.m. and stayed until the original helicopter could arrive, giving students two different opportunities to see a helicopter at their school.

“What we did is we treated it like we had a victim that had gotten hit in the head with a baseball bat that would require air transport,” Smith said. “There’s many different reasons that you would use air transport from here to Winston, if there was bad traffic — with one being in Elkin they’re only two minutes, three minutes away.”

The Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office was set up in the library and several emergency vehicles were scattered across the campus.

The Thomasville-based North Carolina Task Force 5 canine urban search and rescue division was as popular, if not more so, than the helicopters.

“From what I’m told the teachers have said that you hear a little bit about the fire truck, a little more about the helicopter, and then every other sentence is about the dogs,” James Whiteheart, director of the canine division, said.

The team set up at the playground and let students come by in a long single file line and pet Canine Leif, a yellow Labrador Retriever who works with the team.

“It’s a specialized group that is trained for structural collapse, water recovery, tornadoes, earthquakes, anything that could require a higher level of training than what most rescue personnel go through,” Whiteheart said.

The group was created following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and have greatly aided the agencies they work with.

The handlers stand outside of damaged buildings and give hand and voice commands to the dogs, who go in and locate injured or deceased individuals.

A drowning search that may take three days and $300,000 in cost with divers can be done with the dogs in as little as five-and-a-half hours.

The school has happily seen the event grow from a fire-themed day to an all-inclusive emergency activity.

“In October we always have fire safety and the fire department comes. Then we started talking and we were able to add the search and rescue dogs out of Thomasville,” Johnson said. “Then the sheriff’s department wanted to be involved and they did a stranger-danger Halloween safety workshop for kids. It’s evolved into a much bigger event than we normally have.”

“If they’re never introduced to these kind of things and they never see it then they may not know till later in life,” Smith said about the careers available.

Reach Taylor Pardue at 835-1513 or at tpardue@civitasmedia.com.

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