Friday, September 13, 2013

Writers' Police Academy

Writers Police Academy is like no other writers’ conference. There aren’t any workshops on craft or panels by authors. It is all about research, but not just from hearing some professional talk about their job. WPA provides experiences. It was great to hear the former Secret Service guy talk about what it’s really like on the inside, but even better to be caught up in what happens when a suspicious backpack shows up in the midst of the recruits (as we were referred to).

After we were moved away, we watched as a bomb detecting dog checked it out and when he laid down next to the purple backpack, it meant there were explosives inside. A few minutes later the bomb squad showed up along with their trailer. They used a robot to move the backpack to the far corner of the driving track we’d been standing on. Then one of the bomb squad guys suited up in a cumbersome outfit which I know from experience is very heavy. He waddled out to the backpack and then left it to the robot. The robot then blew up the backpack. The sound and energy reverberated through our bodies as a puff of smoke went up.

Where else can you experience something like that?

Since I write cozies and there aren’t really a lot of blown up backpacks, I was really interested in learning what paramedics do when they go to a crime scene. WPA is held at a pubic safety community college which trains firefighters, police officers and paramedics. They have things like an arson lab, police stuff you can try on and full functioning mannequins that can be intubated and made up to look like their oozing blood. There is also a lot of real equipment like fire trucks and ambulances.

In the second Yarn Retreat mystery, Silence of the Lambs Wool, I mention someone being treated by and then carted off by paramedics. I had seen the inside of the a L.A. rescue ambulance at a local street fair. But it was empty and I didn’t get to climb inside.

I pretty much faded to black in my book because I didn’t really know what went on. That is until last weekend. The paramedics students staged a car accident with some real people made up to look like they were injured and one of those mannequins whose injuries were life threatening. I got to watch as they worked on him. Then when they loaded him up, I got to ride along. Sirens and lights flaring we drove all over the place with one of the students and an instructor.

I’d never realized how nauseating it is to ride in the back of an ambulance. I think it is because you can’t really see outside. I was amazed at how much they could do for a victim as they traveled to the hospital.

There were more experiences like a pair of cop cars roaring into the hotel parking lot one night chasing a car. Of course, it was filled with volunteer bad guys from our group.

I toured a mobile command post and met a working Bloodhound. I heard about fingerprints and SWAT officers. It was an intense exhausting weekend and I can’t wait until next year to do it all again.


Planner said...

Fascinating stuff! I imagine it gives you a whole new appreciation of everyone who works in emergency services and does this kind of stuff every day.

Linda O. Johnston said...

That sounds like a wonderful conference, Betty, filled with interesting research opportunities and inspirations... especially the bloodhound!

Betty Hechtman said...

Planner, it wsa interesting talking to the paramedic students who already do some real work. They love their job, but did mention there is a lot of time sittig around waiting for something to happen.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, it was a terrific weekend. A number of people there mentioned they'd gone through citizen police training, but this was so much better. I met a lot of interesting people, too.

Jill said...

OMG! I have to do somehting like this! It sounds like a terrific learning opportunity.

Betty Hechtman said...

Jill, you are right it is a great learning experience. I think there is going to be another one next year. The sign up has been put up in March or April and it sells out fast. You get a discount if you're a Sisters in Crime member. If you're interested, google Writers Police Academy and the website will come up.