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Behind the lights and sirens
Platteville Citizens Academy gives inside look at police, fire, EMS
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PLATTEVILLE — At some point, every child has wanted to be a police officer, a firefighter, or a paramedic. Many have wanted to be all three.

Nine people got the chance to sample all three public safety jobs in the Platteville Citizens Academy, which concluded Wednesday.

The eight-week program allowed participants to sample the work of the Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Medical Service. The 2012 class was the 17th to participate in the Citizens Academy, which is now a biennial program.

Police Chief Doug McKinley described the academy as “having folks walk in our shoes a little bit. It helps remove the mystique of the three services. You try to get people in the community, high-profile folks, who can be advocates in the community. It’s been a real successful endeavor for us.”

Participants started with a fire search and rescue simulation in a “smoke house,” including wearing firefighters’ turnout gear. They also got to use the Jaws of Life as would be used in a car crash.

The police segment featured defense and arrest techniques, including how to approach a car in a traffic stop, and emergency vehicle operation.

The EMS segment featured skills EMTs use, including patient evaluation, CPR and use of a defibrillator, splinting, administering IVs, and ambulance equipment. The EMS segment included an exercise in which participants were told to report the color of a door at a specific address, to show how EMTs have to find an address from a 911 call.

Karl Boyle of UW–Platteville appreciated “the hands-on experience … because you can talk about it, but until you really do it, you don’t know what’s going on.”

“Probably one of the highlights is I went to coffee and told them I got to handcuff the city manager,” said Tom Fiedler.

The EMS program had to be modified because the night of a scheduled car crash simulation, one of the ambulances was out of the area on a patient transport.

Similar programs elsewhere usually are run by police departments or fire departments. McKinley said this Citizens Academy is one of the few in which all three public safety services participate.

“So much of what we do is working together,” he said.

“It’s amazing how all three services come together to get people to the hospital and get the scene investigated,” said EMS Administrator Brian Allen.

The program has helped to pique interest in service as well. One participant in the previous Citizens Academy in 2010 became a firefighter, and another became an EMT.