Thursday, Apr 5, 2012
In 2011, what activity happened in more than 60 National Park Service sites over 12,000 times, involved almost 970,000 visitors, and had zero accidents?
Historic weapons demonstrations.
Undeniably popular with visitors, these demonstrations focus on creating a window for the visitors to understand and appreciate life in the past. Keeping the vision of the past as accurate and safe as possible involves the correct clothing and the use of gunpowder in replica weapons and cannons.
Historic weapon programs are a powerful interpretive tool in conveying information to a level where people today can understand their past. Developing an understanding of the past adds value to the park visitors’ daily lives. Today the replica weapons are just as powerful as those used in the past and thereby create a level of risk to participants and viewers alike. Accordingly, the National Park Service requires that parks participating in historic weapons firing programs to have certified safety officers.
Certification training for historic weapons safety officers was conducted at Fort McClellan in Anniston, Alabama, from February 27th through March 9th. Attending were 74 park rangers from 71 NPS sites, ranging in interpretation from the 17th to 19th Centuries. For the first time, five parks telling the story of the U.S. Life Saving Service also took part in the training. Getting information to enhance their programs were eight participants from Delaware, California, Florida, Virginia and North Dakota state parks. Participants learned the safe handling and storage of gunpowder, the management of historic weapons programs, and the safe firing of historic small arms and artillery.
“Using the tools learned here, we’re hopeful that the NPS historic weapons program will continue to grow in the numbers of demonstrations and visitors served,” said lead instructor George Elmore of Fort Larned NHS. “More importantly, we hope that these newly certified safety officers will keep our level of accidents at zero.”
For further information about the Service’s historic weapons program, please contact Sandy Weber in WASO interpretation, or visit the historic weapons page on InsideNPS.