By Wade Coggeshall
INDIANAPOLIS — The Wayne Township Fire Department’s annual Safety Day event lasted four hours Saturday in the Sam’s Club parking lot off of Rockville Road. A half-hour in, it was already jam packed.
“It’s a time for us to work with some of our community partners and have the public come out and learn about fire safety,” Capt. Mike Pruitt, public information officer for Wayne Township fire, said of the event, which has been conducted for as long as he’s been on the force.
Some of the other organizations represented there included Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and the Marion County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which trains civilians on how to help in the event of large-scale disasters. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department also had a booth.
Designed for families and especially children, Safety Day is meant to be as much fun as it is informative.
“We have lots of activities for them,” Pruitt said of the younger attendees.
For one, participants could spray a fire hose at a simulated house fire. In the fire safety smoke house, families learned what do in case of a conflagration.
SADD also had multiple simulations. The Seat Belt Convincer mimicked a crash at 5 to 7 mph, even though most occur at a much higher speed. The goal, along with the Quick-Click Challenge, was to encourage seat belt usage.
The Fatal Vision Obstacle Course had participants wear “drunk” goggles and drive a golf cart through a course of safety cones, replicating drunk driving. It’s all an important reminder since car crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds.
“They can probably spend an hour here and get a lot of information,” Pruitt said. “That’s our goal — keep the public informed.”
Flanner & Buchanan provided free bicycle helmets and a chance for visitors to win a bicycle. In addition, the event included other giveways as well as inflatables and fake tattoos and moustaches.
Safety Day is Wayne Township Fire’s largest annual public event. They try to have a continual presence though, especially within local school systems.
“We attend probably a hundred community events throughout the year, whether it’s new businesses wanting a fire truck there to talk about safety or other organizations that we’ll visit,” Pruitt said.
He notes that adults who attend programs like this tend to learn as much as their children.
“It’s funny because some of the kids know more about this stuff than the adults,” Pruitt said. “They already get a lot of this training in school, so they tend to be more the teacher in many cases. Kids are very smart these days.”
He added that teaching fire safety is not only their whole mission, but their biggest challenge.
“Usually when we go to work, it’s because something went wrong because of human error,” Pruitt said. “The more we can teach people what not to do and how to be safer, the more we can reduce such risk. We love our job, but we also don’t want to see the things that happen to people when they make bad choices.”