Behind the scenes look at some of the city's safety services

Gotham City has Batman, Metropolis has Superman, and Shelton has its own set of safety services/teams designed to keep everyone in the city as safe as possible. From the Fire Prevention Bureau to the Canine Search and Rescue Team, the city appears to be in pretty good hands.

Ted Pisciotta, Shelton fire marshal, said the reason behind the Fire Prevention Bureau is to make sure that not only people are safe, but also are educated on the various ways that fire can be dangerous.

“Statistics show that cooking is the number one cause of fires,” said Pisciotta. “A lot of people are unaware of that, so our goal is to raise awareness as well as provide the public with ways to prevent these and other types of fires from happening.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 40% of home fires reported began in the kitchen while someone was cooking. Pisciotta said an increase in fires also occurs as it gets colder outside because more people begin to use their fireplaces as well.

Fire prevention week takes place from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10 this year and Pisciotta said the Fire Prevention Bureau is holding classes to help educate children as young as three about fire safety.

“We do separate classes for kids in preschool up until they’re in sixth grade,” said Pisciotta. “We visit all of the preschools and elementary programs. We try to emphasize the basics and keep it simple. When they’re young we try to pass along the message of handling things that can burn you or start a fire.”

In these programs, Pisciotta said he brings along a toolbox with items children can find in the house to help them differentiate between what is a toy and what is not safe play with or handle. Pisciotta brings along items such as lighters, irons, and even smoke detectors.

“The hardest part is keeping their attention for longer periods of time, but overall the kids get excited to show their parents what they learned,” said Pisciotta. “When we meet with adults or the elderly for educational programs we typically focus more on the importance of checking smoke detectors frequently and not wearing loose clothing while cooking.”

The bureau also provides smoke detectors to those in need and will actually come to install it.

“The trick is to make sure it has working batteries at all times. The detectors themselves will last up around 10 years and the batteries should last about the same,” said Pisciotta.

When incidents/accidents occur that require help locating a person, Shelton has the Canine Search and Rescue Team ready to go.

Sgt. William T. Serrano, of the Shelton Police Department and dive team, said the dogs he works with specialize in shrinking the estimated area where the missing person is.

“This is dark water we’re dealing with in Shelton. It’s difficult to see so the help of the dogs could ultimately be the difference in a body being recovered or a person being rescued,” said Serrano.

Captain Justin Sabatino of the Shelton Volunteer Fire Department said the canine rescue team will begin collaborating with the police department to determine whether a case is a rescue, drowning, or a missing person, which will determine how they proceed with their search.

“From there if we have a drowning we call the divers and now it’s in our protocol to call the dogs for assistance. too,” said Sabatino. “We now have a multilayered resource for water rescues.”

Chris Clark and Cathy Kohut created the canine rescue team and said they currently have two certified water recovery dogs and three going for their certification in October. The dogs are certified by the International Police Work Dog Association, according to Clark.

The canine rescue team specializes in locating lost or disoriented hikers, missing children, missing Alzheimer’s patients, drowning victims, homicide/suicide victims, victims of burned structures, victims of downed aircrafts, victims of natural disasters. The dogs specifically are certified in air scent wilderness search, human remains detection, and water recovery.

Kohut explained that when the team is in search of a victim in the water, the dogs will search for  the odor that a decomposing body releases that rises to the surface while riding along with the fire department on a boat. The dogs use different forms of body language to communicate when they have found the scent of the person or piece of evidence.

“They will lower their nose as close as they possibly can to the water as a final indication to when they have found something,” said Kohut.

Clark said the chemistry between the divers and dogs is vital.
“We all have to work together,” said Clark. “We depend on the dog’s nose so we have to all be familiar with their behavior and changes in behavior as the searches progress.