Monday, August 26, 2013

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Week 13

                                                                                                  ProRangers and Followers,

After several weeks and numerous days of new experiences, the time has come to write the final blog post of the summer. Fittingly, the final week here at Cape Hatteras has been especially unique. As mentioned in my last blog, I began this week by taking part in Defensive Tactics training, which was administered by a Ranger from Bodie Island's District. We began the class by going over the fundamentals of defensive movements and positioning. After practicing these basics, we moved to working with the ASP Baton and talking about possible scenarios for use. Next, I was shown the proper handcuffing technique, and was allowed to practice placing handcuffs on my supervisor Ranger Krebs.

After reviewing these fundamentals (positioning, ASP, and handcuffing), the instructor suited up in a padded suit and I prepared to encounter a few scenario drills. In order to increase my heart-rate prior to the drills, Ranger Krebs instructed me to run through the parking lot, and complete a series of push-ups and mountain climbers. Once my heart rate had increased, I ran back into the Ranger Station to encounter my scenario. In total, I was part of two separate scenarios, one resulting in me using my TASER, and another in using the ASP Baton (foam for safety). These two situations showed me how the body operates differently under stress and how "tunnel vision" can limit your awareness. It was a great experience to be able to use the techniques that I had just practiced in a scenario.

After my lieu day, I returned to work on Monday. As I was preparing for my shift, Ranger Krebs called to notify me of a fatal in the park. Due to this incident, we began our shift early, and immediately responded to the incident location. Once on scene, we blocked the entrance to the area in order to limit traffic. The Rangers, Deputies, and EMS personnel on scene advised us that the deceased individual was found unconscious in his vehicle by a visitor. The initial investigation revealed two suicide notes, as well as other signs of a suicide. After making sure that the investigating Ranger had photos of the vehicle, Ranger Krebs and I began to inventory the vehicle contents. At this time, EMS personnel removed the deceased for transport to the local hospital. We recorded each item in the vehicle, and took special note of items that could contribute to the investigation. One the vehicle was inventoried a local towing company removed the vehicle and placed it in the parks gated lot.

After returning to the Ranger Station, we further inventoried the evidence by placing it in evidence bags and labeling each of the bags. We carefully recorded items that may have contributed to the cause of death, and placed them in a locked evidence locker. Death investigations must be taken very seriously, and all evidence must be secured and recorded.

Later in the night, Ranger Krebs and I were patrolling the Cape Point Campground when a vehicle flagged us down. The passenger of the vehicle advised us that someone in a white van took their tent while they were at the beach. Immediately, we realized that the white van was our fee division, and that the tent was thought to be abandoned. Ranger Krebs and I retrieved the tent, and brought it back to the campground for the family. Then, we helped set up the tent and make sure that everything was accounted for.

At the start of our next shift, we followed up the tent incident with the fee supervisor. After searching the records, the fee staff found that they had not received payment from the campers in five days. Ranger Krebs contacted the campers by phone to investigate the lack of payment. He advised the campers of the cost and methods of payment. As of today, the tent has been removed and we are waiting to find out if payment was received.

On Tuesday night, another unique call occurred in the second park campground, Frisco. Central dispatch advised us that a group of campers had reported a snake in their campsite. Rangers Krebs and I went to the site, and found the campers huddled on top of their panic table. The campers showed us the snakes location, and we were able to locate the snake in a wooded area near the campers tents. Using a shovel, and trash-picker, and a borrowed plastic tub, Ranger Krebs and I were able to corral the snake into the tub, and transport it to another area of the park. The campers were very appreciative, and can now enjoy their time at Cape Hatteras.

Prior to being called to the snake situation, Ranger Krebs and I conducted several mock traffic stop scenarios. In a controlled environment, I made traffic stops on Ranger Krebs, and he presented different behavior as I moved through the scenario. Using "Red Guns" (plastic weapons), Ranger Krebs simulated many situations that occur on traffic stops. This was a great training tool, because it shows that no stop is "routine". The officer must be ready to handle any threats that are presented, and problem solve during the stop. Fortunately, we were able to film all of the scenarios, and look back at them for review. After watching the video, we discussed why we each did certain actions, and how we could make better decisions.

Later in the week, on Thursday night, we received a call that is unique to Cape Hatteras in August. Dispatch advised us that a vehicle was stuck on the beach due to a Loggerhead turtle hatching. While leaving the beach, a family witnessed 35 to 40 turtle hatch-lings goings from the dunes into the ocean. We responded to the area, and advised natural resources of the incident. Armed with advise from the natural resources supervisor, we found the nest site. Upon our arrival, all but one of the turtles had made it to the water. After assisting it, we began to search the area for additional turtles. Our extensive search yielded no turtle hatch-lings, and we directed the stranded vehicle through a clear area. Before leaving the scene, we marked the nest with PVC markers so that the morning turtle patrol could examine the site.

Friday marked my final day at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. As is custom, Rangers Krebs and I traveled north to headquarters to complete my final paperwork and have lunch.As luck would have it, our trip coincided with a birthday celebration for Virginia Dare (first English born child in the Americas).  Superintendent Trimble served cake and ice cream for the event, and I got to see the Lost Colony site one final time. After enjoying our ice cream and lunch, we headed south to Hatteras Island for my final checkout.

This summer at Cape Hatteras has been full of great experiences. Cape Hatteras offers excellent law enforcement opportunities, coupled with the unique characteristics of a seashore park. My 13 weeks in the Outer Banks went far to quickly, as I was able to meet many great people and gain several new skills. Thank to all of the Rangers, VUA's, Volunteers, and everyone who made this summer something to remember. Without your dedication, the ProRanger Program would not be possible.

Thank you for keeping up with my experiences this summer!

Jay Copper


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