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Local programs showcased as secretary visits area
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Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran watches as city firefighters use a method known as Air Track Management to combat a controlled fire in a former railroad box car configured to simulate a residence. The city department is one of only two agencies in the state using the method, and Moran said that was a good reason for state officials to travel around the commonwealth and see what groups are doing. (Bulletin photo by Ben R. Williams)
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran visited Martinsville on Tuesday and saw a demonstration of a fire-fighting technique that he said created “a perfect example of why it’s important” for officials to visit different parts of the state.

Moran visited Henry County Public Safety’s firefighter training facility and Memorial Hospital in Martinsville.

At the firefighter training facility, he watched city firemen use a method known as Air Track Management to combat a controlled fire in a former railroad box car configured to simulate a residence.

According to city Deputy Fire Chief Kris Shrader, the department has been using the firefighting method for two and half years.

Air Track Management is focused on controlling the flow of air inside a structure to help extinguish a fire, Shrader said. Nine thermocouples inside the box car are used to measure how the temperature changes as air flow is adjusted.

“This is why you get out of Richmond,” Moran said. “It’s fascinating. Two and a half years they’ve been using this method. It manages the air flow, which has an enormous impact, as you can see from the thermal reading. ... We got to see a whole new training technique that Martinsville has adopted. It’s proof positive of how important it is to get out on the road, see things and visit the communities.”

Moran said Martinsville is one of two localities in Virginia — Prince William County is the other — that uses Air Track Management to fight fires.

Executive Director of the Virginia Department of Fire Programs Melvin Carter, who was traveling with Moran, invited city Fire Chief Kenneth Draper, Shrader and others in the department to host a joint presentation on Air Track Management with firefighters from Prince William County at the Virginia Fire Chiefs Conference in February.

Moran said firefighter training is crucial to public safety, and he always considers it time well spent. Air Track Management, he said, is “one of those tools in the toolshed. ... You’re always looking for new ways to improve firefighting. As a result of that experience, now we’re going to incorporate it at one of our meetings and others will have access and be able to observe it ... and adopt it.”

At Memorial Hospital, Moran was joined by Deputy Secretary of Public Safety Victoria Cochran. The two met with the hospital’s Crisis Intervention Team and local law enforcement officials.

Piedmont Community Services (PCS) Project Coordinator Marshall Farley, who works closely with the team, said the Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center at the hospital is a place where law enforcement in Martinsville, Henry County and Patrick County can bring people experiencing mental health crises. Once at the assessment center, the person in crisis can be evaluated and potentially referred to mental health services, rather than being jailed.

Moran said his office works extensively with colleagues in health care to address mental health issues.

“There’s an intersection of mental illness and public safety,” Moran said. “Jails are not the appropriate place to incarcerate those experiencing mental health disorders. ... It’s not getting them the right treatment. We have to divert them to the appropriate setting, where they receive the necessary treatment, services and medications.”

Moran said the goal of his visit to Martinsville was to listen to members of different public safety organizations and learn their needs.

“We wanted to focus on the Southside and some of the issues Southside is dealing with right now,” he said. “Governor (Terry McAuliffe) is all about jobs, economic opportunity and workforce training, so what better place to come than Southside?”


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