Safety workers to get awards for bravery

LAWRENCEVILLE - It's not easy being a public safety worker, working odd hours for low pay in often hazardous conditions. While most people run away from danger, these brave folks run toward it.

It was high time somebody gave law enforcement, firefighters and investigators a pat on the back, thus the concept of hosting a countywide awards program was hatched, said Lt. David Dusik of the Gwinnett County Fire Department.

For the first time, the Gwinnett County Valor Awards honoring public safety employees will be held March 24 at Marriott Atlanta Gwinnett Place in Duluth sponsored by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. Preparations are under way to determine criteria for choosing the winners, Dusik said.

There will be a bronze, silver and gold Medal of Valor, the highest award for bravery and heroism in an emergency. There is also a Lifesaving Award for rescuing someone from a deadly situation, a Public Safety Award for a group or individual that promotes safety education in the community and a Purple Heart for employees killed or injured in the line of duty.

A steering committee was organized this month to review nominations from the county police, fire, corrections and sheriff's departments, municipal police departments, school police, district attorney's office and solicitor's office. Policies for selecting the winners will be crafted based upon similar awards programs elsewhere.

"We've asked several fire departments across the nation if they already have policies and procedures on the valor award and we got about 30 responses," Dusik said. "We're trying to get all these agencies involved."

The event will also be preceded by a public safety week, where various departments will put their training and equipment on display to show taxpayers where their dollars are being spent. The week may include a mock disaster in a school and a community event at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

"It is where we can show the public that here's the other services each department provides," Dusik said. "Like the Fire Department - many people think all we do is go to auto accidents and put fires out, but we have these rescue teams, hazardous materials teams. The Police Department has their Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit (bomb squad). Each agency goes above and beyond."

Sponsorships for the events or the award program are still needed. Anyone interested in participating can contact the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce.