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Columns : In My Sights

Climate Control

September 01, 2006  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

I was going through the owner's manual on my truck the other day and noted the section titled "Climate Controls," and it reminded me of another difference between crime fighters and the folks we protect. Not only do we run to the sound of the gunfire while others run away, but we have to get out of our damn cars no matter what the weather. One of the first calls in my career was traffic control at one of the busiest intersections in the city with the temperature hanging at 110 degrees.

This isn't something you'll see covered in any department's recruiting pamphlet. How would it sell people on the job if it described the working conditions as: "Wearing lots of equipment, body armor, and a hat in blistering heat (or horrible cold) while generally risking your life." Doesn't sound like a great opportunity, does it? Oddly, it is.

Our profession is a great adventure. And part of that "adventure" is doing the job in the midst of a thunderstorm, or snowstorm, or windstorm, or whatever Mother Nature chooses for you to face that day. Nothing adds to the pucker factor like a nice little electrical storm while you're searching down an alley for an armed robbery suspect and cursing the K-9 units for being away at training...again.

Many of you work in areas that afford you the great opportunity to suffer a quick case of heat exhaustion in the summer and frostbite in the winter. Some of you have raced to a hurricane tragedy, a tornado aftermath, or a sudden flood. You know the thrill of the risk that rushes through you as you pull up to the scene and reach for your door handle. Often you will look around and see other citizens sitting in their cars or looking out the windows of their houses; they won't help the victims; they will stay where they are. But regardless of the conditions, you must get must help.

Have you ever looked over at the "climate control" section of your dashboard and wished it could change the maelstrom you are about to jump out into? Regardless, you climb out of the cool (or warm), safe vehicle and step into the experience Ma Nature has waiting for you. Heck, the closest I ever came to drowning was in an Arizona monsoon, when I reached down onto the floorboard of a vehicle involved in an injury accident and a city bus drove by creating a wave that I could have surfed if I had a board.

I was lying on the seat reaching under the steering wheel to recover the victim's purse when the wave hit. I had my mouth open. One of Murphy's Laws for Police Work is: Your mouth will always be open at the worst possible moment.

I crawled out into the downpour coughing and choking and carrying a purse filled with nasty water, similar to the water I had just cleared from my lungs. Needless to say, the accident victim didn't appreciate the Poseidon-like adventure I had just experienced and was just mad about her wet purse.

I know each of you has your own "storm story," your own weather adventure. I wish you well in the ones you will face in the future and hope for a day when the folks watching you appreciate the fact that you step into the real world so they can stay in their climate-controlled one.

Dave Smith is the creator of "Buck Savage" and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press' Street Survival seminar.

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