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Volunteers with the Grand Island Fire Company demonstrate the truck for a young visitor.
Volunteers with the Grand Island Fire Company demonstrate the truck for a young visitor.

First responders offer safety tips at National Night Out

Sat, Aug 6th 2022 07:00 am

By Alice Gerard

The fire trucks at National Night Out, held on Tuesday, attracted a great deal of attention. People of all ages were eager to look inside the fire trucks, and members of the Grand Island Fire Co. were there to make the tours happen.

According to Dominique Brennan of the Grand Island Recreation Department, the event has “gotten bigger over the years. It went really well. The community enjoyed the KISS cover band.”

Town Recreation Supervisor Joe Menter said that the event, which was organized by the town’s Traffic Safety Advisory Board, was a good event. “Kids like the fire truck, the school bus, and the police.”

The event, which honored Grand Island’s first responders, offered a variety of activities. These activities included a concert by Wicked Lew’sers (Grand Island’s KISS cover band), a variety of food for sale, and an art activity offered by the Orange Poppy Art Studio. In addition to the fire company, several first responders had exhibits at the event. They also offered safety tips to the public.

Mike Paternostro of the Grand Island Police Department mentioned the recent rash of car burglaries on Grand Island. “First and foremost, lock your car doors, and don’t leave the key inside. If you’re not home, leave a house light on. If you see a potential problem or something suspicious, call the police. Don’t wait until it’s too late.”

Erie County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brad Ballantyne added, “Don’t leave anything valuable in your car, especially here on Grand Island. It amazes me that people leave all those things in an unlocked car.”

A member of the K-9 unit, Ballantyne answered the question that people often have when they see a police dog. “When you see us out, always ask if you can pet the dog. There are two types of police dogs. Single-purpose dogs only do detector work (drug detection or bomb sniffing), and they are OK with petting. The rest of the dogs are dual-purpose dogs. They are detectors and they do patrol work. They track and they catch bad guys. Don’t pet these dogs. You don’t know what these dogs perceive as a threat.”

Ballantyne’s dog, Deimos, is a 4-year-old German shepherd. Not only does the dog work with Ballantyne, he also lives with him. “He’s like one of the family.”

Sheriff's Deputy Brad Ballantyne and his canine companion, Deimos.


New York State Trooper James O’Callaghan said, that, when you’re driving your car, the biggest things that you can do to keep safe are to “buckle your seatbelt, don’t drive distracted, and don’t speed. These are the three leading causes of all collisions and fatal accidents.”

Omar Sortino, deputy chief of the Grand Island Fire Co., offered a few tips to keep people safe from fires. He said people should maintain working smoke detectors. They should test the detectors and replace the batteries twice a year. “Always keep an eye on cooking. Don’t overload your electrical system. Don’t use extension cords for high-drawing appliances, such as air conditioners, space heaters, and some fans. Don’t use a torch when your pipes freeze. Don’t put water on an electrical or a grease fire.”

He also suggested putting the Grand Island Fire Co.’s phone number on the refrigerator, as well as programming the number in your cell phone. This number, 716-773-7508, is the quickest way to reach the fire company, he said.

Although Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society are not considered first responders, the event co-chair Lynn Dingey had a recommendation for everyone. “We recommend that everyone get their screenings. The earlier they catch the cancer, the higher the success you will see in the treatments.”

The owner of Hybrid Defense, who identified himself as Sensei Derek Staubitz, was there to offer people the chance to practice “a few punches and a few kicks.” He teaches self-defense in the form of a combination of karate and an Israeli technique called krav maga. “It’s designed to help people protect themselves in their community, at home, and, if necessary, in the military at war. It’s a very simple system, designed to be learned in six weeks. It’s fun. It’s great for getting energy out and for getting stress out. It’s good for kids and anti-bullying, about when we should throw a punch and when we should not.”

When asked if old people can do martial arts, Staubitz said, “If you can get up a flight of stairs, you can comfortably do martial arts. It’s great for your joints, it’s great for your muscles, and it’s great for your longevity.”

Those interested in taking classes at Hybrid Defense can call Staubitz at 716-807-5372. “We will schedule a free private class so you can get to know me a little bit, I can get to know you, and we can just into group classes after that.”

The dunk tank, which attracted many people, featured town dignitaries who will willing to get dunked in a pool of water. According to Town Councilman Tom Digati, “Somebody’s got to do it, right? We are just motivating the community to come out and have some fun. All proceeds from the dunk tank go to the Neighbor’s Foundation.”

Beth Boron, a Neighbors Foundation Board member, said, “Our goal is to reach more people. So, anything we can do to reach more people and help more people, we’re all about it.

Cheryl Chamberlain, business teacher at Grand Island High School, is dunked in the dunk tank in great style.

The Grand Island KISS cover band, Wicked Lew'sers, performs in the town gazebo.

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