Fort Wainwright police practice emergency driving in winter conditions

FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) During the winter months, police officers need to know how to drive during emergencies, especially in inclement weather. The Fort Wainwright police force, including soldiers and civilians, went through an emergency vehicle operator course to test their driving in winter conditions.

Fort Wainwright police did an emergency vehicle operator course to test their driving in winter conditions. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

Captain Cashius Flink, commander of the 28th military police detachment, says the fact that it was snowing during the obstacle course was perfect. “This is essentially a program where soldiers will learn the capabilities and limitations of the vehicles that we use here at Fort Wainwright,” said Flink.

The officers go through multiple skills -- including weaving in and out of cones, doing sharp turns, and then doing the weaving in reverse. “That’s very paramount for us up here, not only because we have to drive and respond quickly, but the conditions that we drive in up here... the arctic conditions with the snow is taxing,” said Flink.

Flink added that all of the soldiers who went through the course had done the skills before, but not in these conditions. “How the vehicle handles on dry pavement versus the icy conditions we face up here, to me was a sticking point. So I want to make sure the soldiers know how these things handle,” said Flink.

Acting Deputy Chief of Police Jason Marcellus says the vehicles perform differently in these conditions.

“We can have weather like this where it’s just cold, and the vehicle will perform differently than when we have snow on the ground, or cold and snow or when it’s warmer in the afternoon and then it changes over in the evening. All of those have an effect on the conditions of the surfaces the officers drive on, so this is going to give them an opportunity to have a little bit of all that,” said Marcellus.

An instructor would drive with an officer to give them directions during the course, while making adjustments to improve their driving. "Ultimately we just want them to be safer drivers, that’s the big takeaway. Obviously, our first and primary mission while we are out is safety of not only the officers but the public. We can’t have them sliding into vehicles or property or things like that,” said Marcellus.

Flink says one of the skills that will test the officers more is turning around tight corners. “All of our vehicles are outfitted with really good winter tires, which help grip the snow a little bit more, but these vehicles will slide. So when these soldiers are responding to calls and it’s essentially an emergency, the soldiers knowing how they can turn, and how quickly they can turn around corners is going to help with our response time to a call,” said Flink.

The emergency vehicle operator course is part of law enforcement certification but Flink put this course on so that the soldiers could practice the skills in the winter conditions. “To me it is very paramount as a commander to let my soldiers know how these vehicles operate and handle in these type of winter conditions, especially up here in Alaska where the snow won’t melt until break up season,” said Flink.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.