LIHU‘E — People, especially younger children, have an additional resource when in distress.
Val Mariano of the state Department of the Attorney General’s Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division was on Kaua‘i this week to train more than 100 workers representing four companies which are part of the McGruff Truck program.
The program identifies utility service vehicles and their drivers as sources of help when someone is in trouble, states a McGruff flier. McGruff Trucks serve as a temporary refuge for people, especially children, who are in need of assistance.
Trucks and vehicles are identified with a McGruff Truck Program logo decal which are serialized and appear only on authorized vehicles in addition to the participating company’s logo.
“There has been no training (by the state) on the program for about four or five years,” said Joy Buccat of the county Department of Water. “A lot of the people attending today’s training have never been trained by the state and there are vehicles out there which are part of the McGruff Truck Program which are not logo-ed.”
Shelly Paik of Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative said the KIUC personnel involved with the McGruff Truck Program are trained annually by the KIUC Safety Officer, one of the attendees to the Thursday training.
Mariano said in addition to KIUC, The Gas Company, Oceanic Time Warner Cable and the DOW are the participating firms in the McGruff Truck Program.
Mariano said in addition to teaching the young children about the McGruff Truck identification process, it also teaches them the “universal distress signal” which is done by waving both arms above the head and jumping up and down while yelling for help.
This is different from the greeting which is done with one hand held behind the back and waving with the free arm.
When a McGruff Truck driver sees this universal distress signal, the driver will stop and render assistance, getting tips from Kaua‘i Police Department officer Barry Deblake who augmented Mariano’s instructions.
The McGruff Truck program is not an extension of law enforcement, the flier states. Drivers are not required to solve a child’s problem. Their role is simply to call for appropriate help.
The McGruff Truck Program, a nationally recognized program coordinated by the National McGruff House Network in Salt Lake City, Utah, started as a pilot program in Hawai‘i.
John Barry, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, called on all utility companies to participate in a nationwide effort labeled the “Kid Kare” program in 1988.
The program works with elementary school students to seek help from their local utility truck drivers if they are being bothered by a stranger or need help for any reason.
Visit www.cpja.ag.state.hi.us for more information.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.