Authorities urge safety first

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 22, 2009

Nationwide, June is Safety Awareness Month, and local agenciesare doing their best to make sure that the well-being of arearesidents is first and foremost in their minds.

Brookhaven firefighters and police officers had tables set up inWal-Mart Saturday, talking to families about safety issues that canaffect them at any time and anywhere.

Police officer Sudie Palomarez sat 2-year-old Connor Smith onthe table and put his tiny fingerprints on a card as she explainedto his parents why they were needed.

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“It’s important to have this kit because when a child comes upmissing, something like this kit saves hours of research,” she saidas she explained how to have a doctor fill out the part thatidentifies physical characteristics.

There is also a part of the kit that allows parents to swabtheir child’s mouth and retain DNA in case the child ever goesmissing.

“It’s a complete ID kit,” Palomarez said. “It has a place fordental records, physical information, blood type and medicalinformation on top of the fingerprints and DNA. There is also aplace where you can attach a photo.”

Just down the way from where Palomarez was set up, fourBrookhaven firefighters talked to families about fire safety, bothin escaping a fire, but also preventing it.

“We talk to the children about this because in some cases,they’ll also tell their parents,” said firefighter Kirby Ebbers.”It becomes a family project in some households.”

And part of BFD’s emphasis is on juveniles. Firefighter RhettCase said the campaign is to focus on teaching children to “learnnot to burn,” because setting fires can not only be a crime, but itcan also be dangerous.

Capt. Eric Smith said a quick check of current events findsseveral fire-related deaths throughout the state in recentweeks.

“It goes hand in hand,” he said. “How many kids have been lostin the last few weeks because of fire? Even if that wasn’t the casein all those fires, thousands of deaths and injuries occur everyyear because of kids setting fires.”

And Wal-Mart Safety Coordinator Brenda Benjamin said safety isalways an emphasis for their store, which is why they work withlocal authorities to put the issues before the public.

“We do everything we can to promote safety, especially for thekids,” she said. “That’s what we’re about – safety first.”

The National Safety Council’s Web site,, detailsways to guard against falls and overexertion, as well as warningagainst distracted driving and offering tips for teenagedrivers.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said the site is a goodresource, but that there are also basic essentials for teenagers onthe road.

“Don’t be texting while you’re driving, pay attention to theroad, and don’t let outside things like radio or friends in the cartake your concentration off driving,” he said. “Also remember themore people are in the car, the more distractions there are,especially with teenagers. The driver has got to remember to keeptheir mind on the road.”

Meanwhile the local American Red Cross set up booths to promotehurricane preparedness safety at grocery stores throughout thearea, talking to passers-by and handing out flyers to remind peopleto be ready. Officials promote personal evacuation plans, high windpreparation and a disaster supply kit that is kept somewhere easyto access in the home.

“Make sure you have an emergency kit with basic essentials,”Rushing said. “It should have water and canned food – things theycan stock up on. If you know it’s coming, make sure you’ve got gasin your vehicle. We’ve been through several hurricanes here, andwe’ve learned from each one.”