Editor’s Note: I met Chief Steve Dutra, North Pole Police Department, Alaska, while presenting Below 100 training in Anchorage on December 8th. Because it’s Christmas time, I reached out to him and asked if he would share a little bit of what it’s like to work in his area, especially in dealing with the cold. He was kind enough to oblige. I think his working conditions will help almost everyone feel like their winters are easy in comparison. --Dale Stockton
The North Pole Police Department, located 12 miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska, experiences some of the harshest winters in the world. It’s vital that we prepare ourselves to meet the challenges of everyday law enforcement and on days like today--when it’s -44 degrees F, with ice fog and reduced light--we must prepare to be successful at every task.
Icy roadways and freezing temperatures definitely affect a vehicles performance. Up here, our brake fluid can freeze, our tire performance is compromised and visibility is often dramatically reduced. All of these factors must be considered when driving, especially when responding to emergencies. As we always say, you need to arrive alive!
Dressing for the weather is one of the most important considerations in a semi-arctic environment. We have to dress in layers and make sure our equipment can perform if outside the vehicle for any length of time. We carry gloves, a hat, and boots rated to match the weather. For us, having -40 degree F rated boots is a safe bet when it comes to preparation.
In weather like this you have to test your gear and yourself so you don’t get caught off guard. Knowing your limits and your personal cold weather tolerance could be the difference between life and death.
Taking care of your body, your vehicle and ensuring weapon performance are crucial to survival. We conduct cold weather defensive tactics training so we know what we can and can’t do. We learn to fight without fine motor skills since exposure will freeze hands and fingers. We test our weapons systems to make sure they can perform under the extreme cold conditions. This includes using specially tested gun lubricants.
As you can see it is imperative we prepare both physically and mentally for our working environment. Arctic conditions can make easy tasks almost impossible without proper preparation. We must continually think safety and think ahead (W.I.N.--What’s Important Now?). I always tell my personnel, “Remember to arrive alive, stay alive, and keep everyone else alive. That means being prepared.”
Wishing everyone a Safe and Merry Christmas from the North Pole Police Department, Alaska.
Chief Steve Dutra
P.S. You asked what I wanted for Christmas and that’s easy--no more school shootings!