By Sarah Beth Martin
Contributing Writer 

Carrick block watch gets tips from EMT, updates from police


All area residents are encouraged to keep an envelope with their medical information close by in case of emergency.

Familiar faces shared the limelight with fresh faces at the May meeting of the Carrick/Overbrook Block Watch (CBW), where the group hosted presentations by two well-known public servants and welcomed its newest board members.

First to take the floor was Melissa Smith, a City of Pittsburgh EMS paramedic and Carrick High School alum.

After a warm introduction by her former teacher, Cindy Falls, education chair for the CBW, Ms. Smith briefly explained her training background and praised the Pittsburgh Public School System for helping her achieve her professional goals.

“The Health Technology Academy (at Carrick High School) gave me hands-on medical training while in high school, and helped me get a job right after graduation,” said Ms. Smith.

“By the time I graduated,” Ms. Smith continued, “I had done a 10-week internship divided between Mercy Hospital and Baldwin EMS, and I was certified as an EMT and a nursing assistant.

“I was ready to enter the workforce the moment I received my diploma.”

When Ms. Falls told Ms. Smith the program was no longer offered at her alma mater, Ms. Smith lamented, “Oh no, what a shame,” before going on to the heart of her presentation.

Ms. Smith spoke about ways city residents can prepare their personal information for more efficient paramedic service and offered tips on what to do, and what not to do, when placing a 911 call for emergency medical treatment.

“It really helps us help you better if you have your important information ready for us when we get there,” instructed Ms. Smith. “Since it’s not always possible for you to tell us necessary information, it’s best if you write it down. And we have a program to help you do that.”

As part of the City of Pittsburgh EMS Envelope of LIFE program, Ms. Smith brought with her a few dozen packets of folded paper each affixed by a magnetic clip—the kind of thing you’d stick to your refrigerator door.

And that’s exactly the purpose of the packet. Ms. Smith explained the packet included a questionnaire asking for basic information such as name, age, emergency contact and next-of-kin, as well as insurance information, daily medications, primary physician name and preferred hospitals.

The completed paperwork can be clipped together and hung on a refrigerator, where EMT medics will be directed to look by way of a sticker (included in the packet) that is placed on the outside of the front door.

“Having this information ready to go really expatiates things,” Ms. Smith assured the audience.

Further advising those in attendance, she went on to offer tips for how to handle an emergency when making the initial 911 call.

“When an emergency happens in your family, you’re a basket case,” she said. “But, whatever issue you have, remember to stay calm on the phone with the dispatcher, and don’t hang up (until the medics arrive).”

Elucidating on this point, Ms. Smith said the series of questions dispatchers ask are meant to save the EMTs some time and to fully assess the situation to determine what services might be needed and deal with any hazardous conditions or special circumstances.

“If you don’t answer (the dispatcher’s) questions, you may delay getting help to your loved one,” Ms. Smith warned.

It’s also crucial to know where you are and be able to convey your location to the dispatcher by giving proper street names and obvious landmarks, she said.

Guests at Monday’s meeting were invited to take an Envelope of LIFE packet. City residents who weren’t there can obtain a packet at future CBW meetings, or by calling City of Pittsburgh EMS headquarters at 412-622-6930. Do not call 911 to request a packet.

Next to take the floor was another familiar face, Zone 3 Police Lieutenant Larry Scirotto, who was a fixture at CBW meetings last year. He regularly presented police reports to the group, until shift changes made him unavailable on Monday evenings.

Lt. Scirotto’s report centered on the Quality of Life Patrol (QLP) service his station provides. As described by the lieutenant, the QLP utilizes the force’s overtime unit in addition to and in cooperation with its patrol unit to have officers get out on their feet and patrol the 16 communities they serve.

The service, which usually begins in April, was postponed this year, due to Lt. Scirotto’s time off for an injury incurred in the line of duty. It’ll be up and running on the weekend of May 17, and will target three priority areas where criminal activity is suspected.

The CBW board was tasked to determine these priority areas, based on the concerns and feedback it has collected from area residents over the past year. They can choose to have three designated areas targeted, or more areas targeted in rotation.

One area that is a likely target is the 2600 block of Brownsville Road, which continues to receive numerous nuisance complaints and was the stomping grounds of many of the 42 offenders arrested during the drug bust in Carrick last month.

To quash concerns the foot patrol would divert police resources, Lt. Scirotto noted, “The (QLP) doesn’t mean that resources are taken away from 911 calls, ongoing investigations or other routine police matters. It just means that more officers will be on the streets.”

City dwellers can also expect to see increased police presence on other streets, like E. Carson Street in South Side.

South Side is one of four neighborhoods which will pilot a new police strategy geared toward areas that have, or have the potential for, entertainment issues.

Developed through the partnership of several city offices and outside agencies, the pilot is a large-scale effort to keep the limited number of police cars in the neighborhoods they’re intended to serve, rather than send them out on calls to bar-rich areas with heavy weekend traffic.

The pilot will begin the weekend of May 17 and run until the first weekend of October, at which time its efficacy will be evaluated to determine whether it should be scrapped or become regular police procedure.

Moving into open discussion, the lieutenant was asked if the police could install cameras along Brownsville Road. “No,” he said, nodding toward Liz Style, from the Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. “The camera program is through the Mayor’s Office.”

Ms. Style picked up where Lt. Scirotto left off, explaining the cameras are funded by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant which obligates the city to place them in specific locations and/or in locales with certain characteristics.

“(The cameras are) put up with input from zone commanders to not only meet the requirements of Homeland Security but also best serve the crime prevention and law enforcement needs of the entire city,” Ms. Style summarized.

“Not all of the cameras you see are through the city though,” she furthered. “Some are put up on buildings by their owners. Others are funded through community groups and neighborhood associations.”

Cameras are also being considered in the Brownsville Road public safety study through Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak’s office, according to a representative from her office.

While getting crime off of city streets may take a long time, removing yard debris from them can be accomplished this weekend. Ms. Style said there is a special yard debris collection day on May 18. Residents are asked to bag their yard debris and place it outside for DPW refuse workers to pick up on Saturday morning.

Another event to look forward to is the Cops & Kids Summer Camp, offered through the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Youth Programs Unit. The week-long day camp is provided free of charge for children between the ages of 10 and 14 years old.

As they learn about law enforcement and responsible decision-making, kids who attend the camp will receive free transportation to and from the campsite, free lunch and a free camp uniform. Space is limited for each of the camp’s three sessions (occurring throughout July and Aug.). Call 412-323-7821 to obtain an application.

The topic of teens came up in Ms. Fall’s monthly education report, as she encouraged community members to attend Carrick High School’s week-long art show in the City-County Building.

Starting May 13, the show features a variety of student artwork, such as paintings, ceramics, sculptures and jewelry, a lot of which is available for purchase.

Turning to administrative matters, CBW meeting facilitator Carol Anthony introduced the board’s newest members: Trish Marasco and Rich Dervin.

Ms. Anthony also updated the CBW’s meeting schedule. Though June’s meeting will take place as usual (on the first Monday of the month), July’s meeting will be postponed until July 30—and it will take place in the streets, not in the auditorium.

From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. that day, Carrick residents are asked to meet up on the 2600 block of Brownsville Road to demonstrate their presence, in hopes of deterring crime.

No formal meeting will take place, but residents can set up tables to promote their businesses, sell items or just hang out. Ms. Anthony said the intent of the event is to send a message to the area’s criminals and troublemakers, letting them know that “Carrick cares” and, like Twisted Sister sings, “We’re not gonna take it… anymore.”


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