9/23/21, Stock: Emergency Vehicles, Wide Truck

The West Lafayette Fire Department introduced a youth safety policy and ride-along program.

Procedures for a public ride-along program with the fire department aimed to grow “public education and recruitment,” were approved at the West Lafayette Board of Public Works and Safety meeting Tuesday.

“We get requests from time to time, especially from a high school student interested in being a firefighter, and they’d like to do a ride-along,” WLFD Chief Jeff Need said. “What are the steps that we’ve got to go through? We just didn’t have a policy.”

Now, there’s an approval process before ride-alongs and restrictions against participants performing emergency services and sharing unauthorized information on social media, he said.

Members of the public who are eligible to participate are “media, elected officials, citizens, chaplains,” and others approved by the department who are at least 18 years old, since only adults can give consent to ride along in an emergency vehicle.

WLFD’s new youth safety policy designates its fire stations as “a place where youth can turn for help” with a set of procedures for the officer-in-charge to follow.

The youth safety policy procedures include attempting to identify the problem, securing youth in a safe shelter and contacting the Department of Child Services for further assistance.

The department will alert the police if a crime has been committed or “a violent or dangerous situation exists.”

“If a 12-year-old shows up to our fire station and says ‘I need help,’ then there are guidelines as to what (we’ll do),” Need said. “They may not need the police. They may need to go to the hospital (because) they’re injured.

“They may just need to get a hold of somebody (or) the Department of Child Services, who can help provide them a place to stay.”

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