Safety: Sugar Free

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn L. Rich
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
For those of us in military communities, focus on safety is nothing new. Things like safety briefings and catch phrases like "the 101 Critical Days of Summer" are common place. What is new is the kind of briefing that 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, firemen 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 is a real, in your face, 'this is what can happen to you if you make poor choices' display.

The briefing doesn't sugar coat to get the gritty 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 seat belt.

"In a majority of those crashes, the deaths were preventable," said Mr. McCluan, a 21-year veteran firefighter with 20 years of paramedic's 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, illustrating simple things that we should all do to enhance our chance of survival: don't drink and drive, have a plan. Don't text and drive, stay vigilant while on the road and always wear a seat belt.

"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," said Mr. McCluan.

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

The mediums used are 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," said Mr. McIntyre. "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," said Mr. McCluan. "If we can enlighten people and say this is what happens, not just 'you could go to jail', hopefully we can change some behaviors."

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

"The goal is to present specifically to the military," said Mr. McCluan "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 DOD members. The goal is to reduce needless accidents DoD-wide.

The message that Mr. McCluan and Mr. McIntyre bring to their audiences come 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 fireman for 18 years and a paramedic for 16 years. "It is the number one 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," said Mr. McCluan. "I would run a car crash that was a fatality because they didn't put their seat belt 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 throughout the world to deliver their information.

"We have five teams, 10 people total," said Mr. McCluan. "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," said Mr. McIntyre. "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