Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Week 7

Hello followers!

This week at Cape Hatteras I made my transition back to the Law Enforcement Division, after working with other park divisions over the past few weeks. In addition to rejoining the Law Enforcement Rangers, this week also presented several new experiences. Since my last shift with LE, my supervisor (Ranger Krebs) has switched his schedule to the night shift. Prior to this week, I had not worked any night shifts at Cape Hatteras. Like any schedule change, working the night shift has a completely different "feel" and the duty responsibilities change slightly. Add to these changes a busy holiday weekend, and you have a very interesting and exciting week!
Ramp 49 on July 4th Weekend: Over 300 vehicles were on the beach at this time.

As with any summertime attraction, Cape Hatteras experiences a significant increase in visitation during the Fourth of July weekend. As a result, a portion of each of my shifts this week were spent assisting visitors and  handling minor violations. One such incident involved assisting a visitor whose vehicle was stuck on the beach. Although these incidents are fairly common at Cape Hatteras, this particular call was my first "stuck-vehicle" of the summer. Park policy prevents Rangers from towing or otherwise removing a stuck vehicle, however, we are permitted to help the visitors dig, deflate tires, and provide advice. On this incident, we were able to assist in digging out the vehicle and deflating the tires to help gain traction. Soon after we cleared the scene, the visitor was able to extricate the vehicle from the sand. Throughout the weekend, I would assist in a few other similar calls involving automobiles. On one call, I was able to use a "Big Easy" tool in order to gain entry to a vehicle after the owner misplaced the keys. While these types of calls seem basic, they are a major part of the job and they assist visitors while they enjoy the park.

Another "first" for me during this week was an EMS response to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. During the heat of the summer, visitors often become dehydrated and ill during the 257 stair climb to the balcony. In turn, Rangers respond to several medical calls at the lighthouse each year. Aside from participating a a practice "carry-out drill" earlier this summer, I have not been on duty for a EMS call at the lighthouse. This fact changed last week when Ranger Krebs and I responded to assist with a heat-related illness of the sixth landing of the lighthouse. Upon arrival, we found that the lighthouse staff and Rescue Squad members had stabilized the patient. We assisted responding EMS units in carrying equipment to the patient, and then assisted as the patient was escorted to the ambulance. Fortunately, the illness was not serious, and the patient was able to rejoin their family.
4th of July Fireworks!

As with any holiday weekend, the week of the Fourth of July carries added concerns about Driving Under the Influence and other alcohol/vehicle related violations. In order to mitigate the number of incidents in the area, the Law Enforcement Rangers and local Sheriff Deputies often work together to preform drivers licence checkpoints. During my shift last Wednesday, I was allowed to participate in one of these checkpoints. As with any roadside operation, safety is the number one priority of the officers. We all were equipped with traffic vests and flashlights, in addition to the emergency lights on our vehicles. The drivers licence checkpoint allows officers to check drivers for a valid license, as well as reminding them to drive safe during the holiday weekend. Additionally, the checkpoint slows down any potential DUI suspects, and gives officers the opportunity to contact anyone that is driving impaired. I was very fortunate to be able to participate in this operation, and I gained valuable law enforcement experience as a result.

One of the primary duties of the night shift Rangers is to patrol the parks two campgrounds and check the ORV areas for any signs of night-driving. After 2100 hours, campground guests are asked to observe quiet hours. In order to enforce this standard, Rangers patrol the area by foot and vehicle during the nighttime hours. Foot patrol has many benefits, including talking with the visitors and gaining knowledge about the groups staying in the campground. Throughout the week, Rangers Krebs and I patrolled the campground several times, including a night of foot patrol. Our presence at the campground prevented any incidents from occurring later in the night, and allowed visitors to voice any concerns about surrounding campers.

On my final night of the week, Ranger Krebs and I decided to patrol the beach areas in an effort to deter Driving Under the Influence violations and insure that the ORV regulations were being followed. After patrolling the area and answering a few calls of service, Ranger Krebs and I observed a vehicle travelling off of the beach, and the operator was not wearing a seat belt. Ranger Krebs initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle. On initial contact, Ranger Krebs smelled the presence of alcohol, and proceeded to question the occupants about their recent alcohol consumption. Next, Ranger Krebs conducted Standard Field Sobriety Tests on the operator of the vehicle to determine if the driver was impaired. After the operator failed the tests, Ranger Krebs administered a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). The results of the test showed the the operator's Blood Alcohol Content exceeded the legal limit (.08)  for operating a motor vehicle. Ranger Krebs placed the operator of the vehicle in custody, and searched the vehicle for any additional signs of drug/alcohol use. Once the vehicle was secure, Ranger Krebs and I transported the individual to the Dare County Sheriffs District Office, where the suspect was placed on an intox. machine and processed. The intox. machine confirmed that the individual's BAC was .08, and the individual was formally charged. From there, Ranger Krebs spoke to the Federal District Judge, who ordered the suspect to be released on an unsecured. bond. Once all of the paperwork was completed, Ranger Krebs released the individual to a family member, and instructed them on how to contact the court for further processing.

This DUI incident was my first time witnessing an arrest, as well as my first time being on scene for an entire round of Standard Field Sobriety Tests. The experience was very insightful, and allowed me to see first hand  the entire arrest process, from the initial stop to the release of the suspect. Incidents such as these are when the ProRanger Program truly shines, and we are able to get a first-hand view of law enforcement in America's National Parks.

Following my week back with Law Enforcement, I joined the Maintenance Division for a 5 day assignment. Look in the next blog for more details about my time with Maintenance!

Thank you,

Jay Copper

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