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Emergency Preparedness Event offers unique experiences

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What would it be like to wear a pair of goggles that made you feel drunk?  Or to put on a pair of goggles that made you feel stoned?  Some people found out Sept. 28 at the 7th Annual Emergency Preparedness Event at the Rio West Mall in Gallup.

The event is held in conjunction with National Preparedness month and is designed to bring safety awareness and preparedness for all types of emergencies to members of the public.

Event organizer Emergency Manager Susan Mahooty said the event was to inform the community about available resources.

“They come out every year to show the public what’s all out here,” she said. “We just want people to come out so that they can have an understanding on how to prepare themselves in the need of an emergency.  Because [they] themselves are the first responders in an emergency when help arrives.”

Some visitors got hands-on experience to see what it’s like to be under the influence of either alcohol or drugs by wearing goggles to simulate the effects. McKinley County Community Services Director Lori Parra said those who participated in the course run left with a better understanding of how dangerous it can be to do anything under the influence.

“We’re here to have people drive with our drunk goggles and marijuana goggles, two different simulations to give them a look at what it feels like to drive under either influence,” Parra explained.

The Gallup Police department drew a large crowd by simulating what could happen at a routine traffic stop. The demonstration involved a tactical team, K-9 unit, and even lobbing bean bags at the bad guys. A smoke grenade was launched while onlookers gasped at the mock traffic stop.

All agencies within the county and the surrounding agencies were invited: Gallup Police Department, McKinley County Sheriff’s Department, Ramah Police Department, New Mexico State Police, McKinley County Fire & Rescue.

At the north end of the mall by JCPenney, the lot was filled with emergency response units from area offices.

Vendors from the Department of Emergency Management of Navajo Nation, Presbyterian Medical Services, Western Sky Community Care, GIMC Trauma Program, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the National Indian Youth Council handed out information and answered questions.

Additional help came in the form of flyers and goodie bags and personal communication.

New Mexico Children, Youth, & Families Dept. representative Danielle Lynch, spoke about the Adopt-A-Family program, her efforts to recruit foster parents, and how to use resources to report abuse and neglect.

“We offer resources on counseling and notify the public of upcoming events, as we will have one coming Oct. 25 with our Trunk or Treat event for the kids,” Lynch said.

The Gallup Lions Club handed out free hot dogs and water.

Children were offered a tour through the Fire Safety House and some children got the chance to try on firefighter equipment.

At the Del Taco booth , the Gallup vendor handed out certificates of achievement for fire safety to kids for a free kid’s meal. Del Taco General Manager Linda Hernandez said the company wants to get in touch with the community and give back.

The New Mexico State Police showed off the inside of their units to curious visitors.

McKinley County Sheriff’s deputies introduced themselves to the youngest spectators, in an effort to correct any misconceptions about law enforcement.

It was an especially valuable day for people like Cheryl Hathlie of Gallup, who said, “I came to check out what departments are here and what is available that represent[s] safety. To take this home and show my son on what to do in case an emergency should arise, plus it sparked my interest in becoming a police officer in the near future.”

Beth Blakeman contributed to this report.

By Dee Velasco
For the Sun