Against All Elements
NRP protect citizens and resources
By Mike Jerome
From frigid winters to hot, humid summers, Mother Nature challenges Natural Resources Police (NRP) officers to keep citizens, visitors and natural resources safe and protected.
Unlike most states, Maryland experiences most every type of weather; however, this does not stop the State’s conservation officers from doing their jobs. While we hunker down during hurricane season or stay warm inside during a blizzard, the men and women of NRP are out braving the elements.
Whether patrolling the Chesapeake Bay in late December or hiking the Appalachian Trail in early July, officers keep a keen eye on another type of element — poachers or anyone else who harm our treasured resources.
As the primary law enforcement agency for State parks, forests and land owned by the Department of Natural Resources, NRP safeguards Maryland residents and visitors who enjoy the outdoors. By patrolling State lands and waterways, NRP’s 249 officers are well trained to adapt to all conditions.
Cadets learn the dangers of weather immediately at the NRP academy. In addition to firearm training, patrol procedures and self-defense tactics courses, cadets also prepare for climate conditions, including rugged exercises, to physically prepare them for the challenges of the job.
One such exercise includes wearing a survival wetsuit, jumping into the Bay and enduring freezing temperatures. This drill teaches cadets what to do if they are aboard a sinking vessel and need to abandon ship. Training also covers how to operate and utilize all safety equipment.
Cadets are also taught how to drive All-terrain vehicles, which let them ride on rough land. Additional training exercises include how to check batteries, fuel lines and other mechanical procedures in the event repairs are necessary.
After the academy, officers spend about 80 percent of their time in the field. Before heading out, they check the weather forecast and inform the NRP communications center where they are going and how long they will be gone. Officers must dress for the conditions and prepare a daypack with food, water and extra clothing.
Unlike other law enforcement agencies, NRP officers are usually not located in populated areas, so resources can be scarce. If something goes wrong, they must rely on their training to carry out their duties.
No matter what the element, safety is the number one priority. Colonel George F. Johnson, IV, NRP Superintendant, says, “Before starting an outdoor adventure, remember the acronym SAFE: S - Survey or inspect the vessel and equipment; A - anticipate needs by checking weather forecasts and plan for the worst situation in regards to fuel, clothing, medicine, food and water; F - File trip plans with a friend or relative, include route, length of stay and when returning and E - Equipment: check safety equipment a second time and ensure a reliable means of communication.”
Practice saves lives
NRP officers undergo tough training and encourage citizens to practice the same survival tactics to help prevent accidents and save lives.
“The safety procedures our officers follow are the same procedures we tell the public to practice,” says NRP Sgt. Art Windemuth. “From checking the weather forecast to packing the right gear, everyone should learn basic survival tips before enjoying the outdoors.”
NRP officers use these important skills to protect valuable resources for future generations and allow citizens and visitors an opportunity to safely enjoy this beautiful State.
Mike Jerome is an intern in DNR’s Office of Communications.