Fire department teaches kids safety

As small children crowded around Lieutenant Don Williamson of the Chelsea Fire Department, he told them that when they went home, they should ask their parents to press the button on their smoke detectors to make sure they worked.

“I don’t have one,” a tiny voice piped up.

“Then you tell them to go get one before you go to bed tonight,” Williamson said in a moment of seriousness.

This father of three daughters knows how serious safety is, especially for kids.

Wednesday, the Chelsea Fire Department, along with several other area fire departments, Omniflight and the YMCA, hosted a public safety education event at the Hargis Retreat in Chelsea.

The other fire departments included Pea Ridge, Cahaba Valley, Westover, Vandiver and Hargis, as well as the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Chelsea Citizen Observer Patrol.

There were 350 children there from the Hargis YMCA camp and Briarwood Christian School Camp.

The public safety event was combined with a training event for Omniflight and all the fire departments.

At noon, a LifeSaver helicopter touched down in the midst of the event to help with a simulated rescue. Williamson’s 11-year-old daughter, Shelby, portrayed a semi-conscious accident victim with a bleeding head and broken bones.

“We simulated the rescue as a situation we come up on every day. She wasn’t wearing her seat belt,” Williamson said. “It was our medics’ attempt to treat a bad pediatric patient.”

Williamson said the simulated rescue helped get the message about safety to the crowd of children.

“Wear your seat belt. This is what happens when you don’t,” he said. “But we also don’t want them to be scared. We want them to know that the fire department is here to help.”

Shelby, the simulated rescue victim, said she enjoyed her experience because she was able to see what it was like to be in a helicopter. At the same time, however, she said she understood she was helping to spread an important message.

“If you’re not wearing your seat belt, you could get really hurt,” she said. “I grew up wearing my seat belt but it still makes me a little more cautious.”

Williamson said the response from the community was tremendous.

“This event was the first of its kind, but we’ve already received such good feedback, it probably will become an annual event,” he said.

Williamson said that in the end, the event accomplished its goals.

“It gives Chelsea Fire and Rescue an opportunity to satisfy one of our No. 1 goals-educate the community, because the more they know, the less severe an accident will be,” he said.