You don’t have to be employed by a public safety department to learn about the work that police officers, firefighters and paramedics do.

Right here in our own communities, there are opportunities to become educated about the intricacies of the jobs, which in turn, helps us to keep ourselves and others safe.

Recently, I, along with 29 other educators from Utah County, took part in the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Teachers Academy. This four-week, six-part course was designed to teach educators what to do in emergencies, especially school shooter situations, to better protect themselves and their students.

At other times, I have had opportunities to participate in the Pleasant Grove Police Department’s Citizens’ Academy and the Orem Police Department’s Women’s Self-Defense Class. Earlier this year, I hung out with Lehi Fire Department as they trained their new recruits. All of these experiences have helped me have a better understanding of the work that public safety personnel do.

Last month, as part of the UCSO academy, I participated in the virtual training system, VirTra, used by law enforcement agencies in Utah County. Through this exercise, I got a small taste of the stress and fear that first responders must feel in dangerous situations, even though these were just simulations.

As I was looking for the virtual shooters, one thought kept going through my mind: “Why would anyone want to be a police officer?”

These experiences can help us understand the difficult decision-making that our law enforcement officers experience and the preciseness of the skills that they must possess.

Understanding the job is just one reason to participate in a community training with public safety departments. Participants also learn ways to help keep themselves and others safe. Orem Police Department’s Women’s Self-Defense class taught us what to do in a variety of situations to protect ourselves from violent attacks.

During Pleasant Grove Police Department’s Citizens’ Academy, participants learned the signs of domestic abuse, how 911 calls are handled and facts about the types of crimes that occur in our own community.

Periodically, Lehi’s Fire Department holds “Fire Ops 101,” which is a chance for community members to go through some of the training firefighter/paramedics do. This type of training could only help us to keep our own homes and neighborhoods safe from fires and other dangerous emergencies.

There were so many people on the waiting list for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office’s first Teachers Academy that they are already planning a second one, to be held in the fall. Be sure to check out your local police and fire departments’ websites and Facebook pages to learn about these opportunities. Not only are they fascinating, they can help us to do our part for public safety.

Laura Giles is a longtime correspondent for the Daily Herald and a community member living in Pleasant Grove. She can be contacted at

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!