Safety: sugar free

Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn L. Rich
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

For those of us in military communities, a focus on safety is nothing new. Safety briefings and catch phrases like “The 101 Critical Days of Summer” are common place. What is new is the kind of briefing members of Team Ramstein attended this past week at the Hercules Theater.

Equipped with all of the gear they would have with them on a routine call, Joe McCluan and Scott McIntyre, firefighters and paramedics with the Orlando Fire Department, shed a flashing red light on the cost of what people’s actions can be on themselves and others.

Street Smart is an hour-long presentation that focuses on driving safety by Florida Stay Alive from Education (S.A.F.E.). This was not your run of the mill “don’t drink and drive” lecture. Instead, it was a real in your face, “this is what can happen to you if you make poor choices” display.

The briefing didn’t sugar coat anything to get the point across. Graphic photographs taken at real-life accident scenes where the victims did not survive were flashed across the screen. All of the images had one thing in common — the preventable variables of alcohol, drugs and no seatbelt.

“In a majority of those crashes, the deaths were preventable,” said Mr. McCluan, a 21-year veteran firefighter with 20 years of paramedics service under his belt.

During the presentation, there was a skit involving an audience member to illustrate the possible outcome of an evening with good intentions and poor decisions, portraying simple things that we should all do to enhance our chance of survival: don’t drink and drive and have a plan. Don’t text and drive, stay vigilant while on the road, and always wear a seatbelt.

“If we can save one life that way, it is a whole lot better than us going out on the street and trying to do it as a medic,” Mr. McCluan said.

The presentation used comedic relief and straight talk with Ramstein Airmen to convey their message. Although graphic and direct in nature, the point was clear — make good choices for your safety and that of others around you.

The mediums used were not designed to upset or frighten the audience but to familiarize them with the reality and consequences of what the paramedics come face-to-face with every day.

“We aren’t trying to scare people, we just want to familiarize them with what can happen when they make poor choices,” Mr. McIntyre said. “These are the results that we get to see every day when we are called out.”

“Everyone understands enforcement. We wanted to show people our side as paramedics and what we really deal with when people make those poor choices and the trauma associated with that,” Mr. McCluan said. “If we can enlighten people and say this is what happens, not just ‘you could go to jail,’ hopefully we can change some behaviors.”

The briefing was a part of a 10-day military initiative tour through the European theater.

“The goal is to present specifically to the military,” Mr. McCluan said. “We are going to target 50 days of presentations in the continental U.S. and then 10 days of presentations in Europe, which we are doing for the Air Force. We are going to Spangdahlem, Ramstein, Mildenhall and Aviano.”

Street Smart is sponsored by a grant from Anheuser-Busch. Since 2003, the Street Smart program has been presented more than 600 times to more than 200,000 Department of Defense members. The goal is to reduce needless accidents DOD wide.

The message that Mr. McCluan and Mr. McIntyre bring to their audiences comes from experience and genuine concern. These men and eight more like them have chosen to use their days off to travel the world and bring these messages to anyone who will listen.

“There are a disproportionate number of military members that die from car crashes,” said McIntyre, who has been a firefighter for 18 years and a paramedic for 16. “It is the No. 1 non-combat killer of the military.”

When this program was started by a fellow firefighter from Miami-Dade, Fla., in 1989, it was a small grass roots organization. As it grew, Mr. McCluan and Mr. McIntyre learned about it and jumped on board in 1999.

“I started off doing the presentation because I got tired of running these calls,” Mr. McCluan said. “I would run a car crash that was a fatality because they didn’t put their seatbelt on. I felt like there was something I should be able to do as a paramedic to prevent those types of things.”

At any given time the Street Smart program has five teams traveling around the world to deliver their information.

“We have five teams, 10 people total,” Mr. McCluan said. “We all travel around and give the presentation. We have our team here in Germany, we have another team in Alaska another team that is in Charleston, presenting to military personnel for the 101 Critical Days of Summer.”

The purpose of any safety briefing is to shed some light and convey that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

“Our mission with the military is to give something back to the men and women that fight for our freedoms,” Mr. McIntyre said. “If we can give them something to keep them safe when they are at home, then we feel like we are giving back to them. It is our way of saying thank you for doing what you do for us.”

For more information on the Florida S.A.F.E. program, visit www.