Best Practices - Vol. IV 

Mayor Rita Mullins

Five-Part Youth Anti-Drug Initiative

The Palatine Police Department's anti-drug initiative is a successful five-part effort directed at guidance and education for the community's youth, coupled with stringent enforcement and interdiction. The effort consists of the following programs:

DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) -- Being among the first handful of communities in Illinois to adopt and institute the DARE Program, the Palatine community has enjoyed the benefits of DARE since 1986. During the 11 years of the program, 10 officers have shared the program with the youth of Palatine, offering classroom instruction to the fifth and sixth graders, and spending the day with the children -- even going on field trips and camping trips with them.

GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) -- Following up on the successful instruction, education, and youth interaction of the DARE Program, the Palatine Police Department offers the GREAT Program to all seventh graders in the community. This program offers the junior high youth instruction in gang awareness, goal setting, responsibility, conflict resolution and cultural sensitivity.

Gang Interdiction Unit/Tactical Officers -- Tracking and identifying gang members is a valuable component of the anti-drug program of the Department. Drug dealing has become a chief source of income for gangs and strict enforcement plays a key role, along with the development of informants to reduce the drug trade within the community.

Northeast Metropolitan Enforcement Group (NEMEG) -- Palatine has been an active member of NEMEG for over 20 years. The Department has detached an officer to work full time within the group. This group acts on much of the information developed and passed along by the Gang Interdiction Unit and Tactical Officers and wirks with other communities in Northwest Cook County to reduce drug use and trade.

Police Social Worker Unit -- Realizing that drug use has an adverse impact upon the families and youth of the community, and that healthy families make for a healthy community, the Police Department has on staff a full-time licensed social worker. The social worker unit provides crisis intervention, assistance to patrol and investigations, short-term counseling and referrals for those referred to the office and those seeking assistance.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (847) 358-7500

Fire Department Life Safety Skills in Schools

For almost 20 years the Palatine Fire Department has been presenting fire and life safety programs to its 13 public and parochial elementary schools. What makes this program different from others is that, except for fifth grade, presentations are made in each classroom from kindergarten through sixth grade. The fifth grade program, detailed below, consists of a large hands-on event at the fire station that lasts for 90 minutes.

Due to the need to control the group involved, the number of kids is limited to 100 at a time. Often, this is all of the fifth grade classes from each school. The school picks up the cost of transportation by busing the kids to and from the fire station. Upon arrival, the kids are separated into three groups and sent to one of three educational areas.

The first area is a video that shows a furnished house set on fire. Using real-times and footage, it discusses the speed of fire, temperatures generated by the fire, time for smoke alarms to sound, and ways to protect yourself. A question and answer period follows.

The second area is known as "Mr Wizard." This is where children learn about what is needed to start and sustain a fire, how fires are extinguished, and how to survive a fire. Actual fires are set to show the need for someone to stop, drop, and roll if their clothes are on fire, and how to put out a fire in a pot left on the stove. Smoke is placed into a two-story clear plastic doll house to show smoke travel and the need to keep bedroom doors closed at night. Lastly, personnel introduce and demonstrate new fire service technology. Palatine received a gift of four fire helmets with thermal cameras mounted on them. These allow firefighters to "see" through blinding smoke and find trapped people or concealed fires. These $25,000 units operate on the principle of "seeing" the infrared energy that objects give off. To allow the students to see the demonstrations, the helmet is connected to a TV monitor.

The third area is practicing an actual home fire drill. Five kids at a time are taken into the bunkroom and each given a bed. When the smoke alarm sounds, they must roll out of bed, crawl to the door and determine if it is safe to exit. If it is not, they go to a first floor window. Once out, they go to a window that is elevated to simulate one on the second floor. Once through that, they go to a meeting place and discuss what information the fire department needs when they report their fire. They then must demonstrate the correct way to stop, drop, and roll. When finished with this, they go to an area that has actual burned items retrieved from fires, and pictures of the many jobs done by the Department. A firefighter is there to answer any questions.

Each area takes 25 minutes to complete. At the end of that time, the kids rotate to a new area. When all areas are completed, the entire class is brought outside for a visual wrap-up of everything they have seen and done.

A fire with much smoke is started on the second floor of the training tower (which firefighters explain is an "apartment building"). The fire is large enough to block anyone's ability to use the stairs. A firefighter is placed on the second and third floors. The second floor person, having an escape plan, knows what to do and escapes through a chain ladder mounted on the window. When on the ground, he goes to his meeting place and calls the fire department. The third floor person does not plan for a fire and must be rescued. This person becomes very animated and yells that he wants to jump. The emcee enlists the crowd to tell him to stay until help arrives. Once the fire department arrives, a ladder is raised to the window and the person is "rescued." Once this is done, a crew goes inside the building and extinguishes the fire.

While this program takes a minimum of 10 people, only two firefighters are off-duty. The rest of the help is from in-service fire companies. A major emphasis of the Department is prevention, and time and manpower are assigned to complete this and most of the other public education activities done by the Department.

The evaluations from teachers consistently say this is the best field trip they take all year, and they look forward to coming back. Parents needed as chaperones quickly sign up for this trip due to the positive reports of teachers and other parents.

Palatine is served by 77 sworn firefighters, over 50 of whom are also certified paramedics. Palatine's population is more than 57,000, and it has been over 11 years since there has been a residential fire death.

Contact: Lt. Robert Morris, Palatine Fire Department, (847) 359-9029

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