NEWS | May 22, 2012

Street Smarts sends clear message to Airmen

By Airman 1st Class Dennis Sloan Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The Joint Base Charleston Safety Office hosted a "Street Smarts" presentation at the Joint Base Theater May 21 kicking off the 101 critical days of summer campaign.

A video of Gen. Raymond Johns, Air Mobility Command commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Richard Kaiser, AMC command chief, giving their personal safety messages to Airmen played during the presentation.

"We lost two Airmen in AMC this past summer and we cannot afford to lose anymore," said Johns. "We need to reverse this rising trend of fatalities during the summer and the way we do that is by making safety personal."

Kaiser followed up the commanders' remarks by saying all Airmen need to look after one another and make responsible decisions while still enjoying their summer.

SAFE instructors were then introduced by a member of the JB Charleston Safety Office and began their brief.

"We are not here to lecture you on what not to do over the summer, but rather show you what will happen if you or others around you choose to drink and drive, text and drive, or not wear a seat belt," said Joe McCluan, Orlando, Fla., fire fighter and paramedic.

McCluan and his fellow fire fighter and paramedic, Chris Stocks, reviewed several scenarios in which alcohol, drug use or distractions such as texting were the main reason for traumatic fatalities.

They followed up each one of their briefings with pictures of real vehicle and motorcycle crashes where individuals were drunk, under the influence of a drug or texting.

McCluan made it very clear to all attendees that the photos and scenarios he showed and discussed were all real cases that he and other paramedics have responded to.

"I know a lot of you may think we dressed up people and staged these accidents to scare you, but unfortunately that is not true," said McCluan. "Every photo we've shown you is a wreck where the individual driving and those in the vehicle were killed."

Seatbelts were another hot topic at the presentation as well.

"We've heard all the excuses for why people don't wear seatbelts," said Stocks. "Individuals say they don't want to be stuck in the car if there's a fire or they drive into a body of water."

Stocks explained how in both situations an individual has enough time to remove their seatbelt, but if they have been ejected or tossed around the vehicle during the wreck, they may die before the fire starts or they may even drown.

"We had one individual get in a crash while not wearing a seatbelt and he was tossed around the vehicle," said Stocks. "He was knocked unconscious and when the car started to catch fire he slowly burned and died. He had a very good chance of surviving if he would have worn his seatbelt."

After showing videos and explaining what can happen to people who drink and drive, text and drive and use drugs while driving, the SAFE instructors called a young Airman to the stage. They went through an entire situation where the Airman attended a party, drank and began to drive.

"Imagine you are at a party you drove yourself to and a girl hands you a drink," said Stocks. "Now you have three, four maybe even five drinks. You then decide to drive to the girl's house. As you're driving under the influence you receive a text and look down at it. As you look up you see you've swerved into the other lane and are approaching a car."

The instructor explained that when you mix drunk driving and texting you are heading down a road toward disaster and this young Airman had done just that.

"Now as you wreck you are not wearing a seatbelt and receive several serious injuries," said Stocks.

Stocks explained the three ways he and other paramedics find individuals who have been in these type of wrecks.

"One is they have no pulse and are clearly dead," said Stocks. "Two, they are unconscious but still breathing, and three, the most common way we find these individuals is screaming asking for help. They are experiencing a fear I can't even begin to imagine."

The instructors then went through the process of how they would get the Airman to the hospital, what injuries he might have sustained and what the final outcome would be.

"The Airman would have most likely been paralyzed, several lacerations to his face and body as well as a crushed sternum," said Stocks. "Since the Airman was drinking and driving as well as not wearing a seatbelt, the Air Force would not cover his medical bills and he would be released. His parents would have to take care of him for the rest of his life."

The presentation left the room silent. There were no laughs at the outcome and everyone stared with uneasiness.

"We do not enjoy responding to these types of crashes and hope that what we have shared with you today will make you stop and think before you get in a vehicle if you've been drinking or are thinking of not wearing a seatbelt or texting," said McCluan. "Our hope is that all of you have a safe summer and are not in any of these situations."

The presentation was the first of many the JB Charleston Safety Office and other organizations on base will host throughout the 101 critical days of summer. Every year the Air Force Safety Center kicks off the 101 Critical Days of Summer Campaign, which takes place between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holiday period, with an event such as street smarts.

Individuals wanting more information from the SAFE program can visit www.safeprogram.com.