Participants of the 2019 Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy this week have simulated breaching doors, clearing rooms of hidden gunmen, and carrying injured people to safety – all the real-life duties and threats for which their instructors regularly train.
Members of the elite Morris County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT), the Morris County Special Operations Group (SOG) and the Morris County Office of Emergency Management have partnered to offer academy participants hands-on instruction on how fitness, teamwork and many hours of training give those specialty response teams the ability to respond and serve the public.
The 34 participants spent part of Tuesday – the second day of the week-long academy for youths in grades 9 through 12 – in the burn building and other structures at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy that specifically were built for law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical services responders to practice life-saving skills.
In a building known as the Tower on the Public Safety Training Academy grounds, SERT Team Leader and Sheriff’s Office Corporal Jamie Rae had youths wear night vision binoculars as they prowled pitch-dark rooms for a missing person.In the burn building – which doubles as a training ground for firefighters and police practicing active shooter scenarios – Morris County Sheriff’s Officer and SERT Team Leader Frank Perez and Bureau of Corrections Corporal and SERT Team Leader Matt Cilurso showed the youth Academy cadets how to effectively work as a team to clear rooms of active shooters.
In a massive firehouse-like structure on the Academy grounds, OEM Director and SOG Commander Jeffrey Paul worked with SERT member and Morris County Park Police Officer Christian DiGiralomo and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Systems Analyst Jane Recktenwald in helping youths navigate a complicated obstacle course that emphasized fitness, speed, clarity of mind, and agility during an emergency.
The obstacle course involved youths dragging a sked rescue device bearing a wounded mannequin, moving a heavy tire with a sledge hammer, carrying a Sheriff’s Office SERT ballistic shield while dashing around cones, carrying a second mannequin to safety, completing an eye-hand coordination game within 30 seconds, and then scurrying up a staircase to hoist a fire hose from the ground to the top of the staircase.
Morris Township Police Officer and SERT Member Whitney Burk showed participants how to lift, carry and swing a steel ram to breach a door. For some, the task was more difficult than it looked.
“The Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy is an outstanding, eye-opening forum for young people to learn whether a career in law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical services, or emergency management is a path they want to pursue. Beyond that decision, the academy offers a rare glimpse into the hazards these professionals face every day to keep people safe,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.
The Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy is sponsored by the Board of Freeholders and is free of charge to cadets. The Academy is a distinctive program that exposes cadets to the myriad facts of the public safety field. Sheriff Gannon will be the keynote speaker at the cadet graduation on Friday, July 26.