Working together to save the lives of children.
That’s what a group of firefighters and police officers did all week long at Milledgeville Fire Rescue Services headquarters.
They underwent hours of classroom training this week from experts from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).
Before they passed the course and received their two-year state certification, they had to talk with community residents and demonstrate to them specialized techniques to ensure infants and older children are as safe as they can be when riding in cars and trucks.
The best way to protect precious cargo in vehicles is to make sure infants and children are properly buckled into car safety seats.
Nikky Be La Concha Nazario, who lives in Milledgeville and works as regional coordinator with DPH Injury Protective Program out of Macon, and Alex McKeithan, who is the Atlanta regional leader, taught the week-long class.
Fire officials coordinated with DPH to offer the class.
Four members of Milledgeville Fire Rescue Services attended the class this week — Clyde Lawrence, Jamie Lawrence, Sydney Columbus and Zane Winkler.
The class also included a couple of officers with the Milledgeville Police Department — Wanda Holsey and James Spisak.
Several others attended the class from other area fire departments.
“We were lucky to have had four of our firefighters go through the class,” said Milledgeville Fire Rescue Services Chief William Collier.
He said the specialized training for his firefighters is all about doing what they can do to protect the residents of Milledgeville as well as those who visit the city.
“We want motorists who have little children to have adequate car safety seats and they are secured at all times in that car seat,” Collier said in an interview this week.
It marks the first time that Milledgeville Fire Rescue Services has hosted such an event.
“We’re very happy to have been able to host this training session here at fire headquarters,” Crooms said. “And we were very glad to have had other firefighters from across the state join us.”
Be La Concha Nazario said the specialized training consisted of 32-hours.
Collier said he could remember the days when he was with the Atlanta Fire Department and car seat certification consisted of 40 hours of classroom training and dialogue with community residents.
During his many years with the Atlanta Fire Department, Collier said it was a requirement that all probationary period employees be car seat certified.
“The Milledgeville Police Department has actually led in this child car safety seat campaign for a number of years,” Collier said.
Crooms said several local police officers had gone through training in recent years.
“It’s very important to get as many people trained in fire services and the police department as possible, because we have a lot of residents and visitors who need to know how to install these car safety seats in vehicles,” Crooms said.
The goal behind such teaching is to ensure children are not seriously injured or worse because they were not properly restrained in a car safety seat during a vehicle crash.
“Car incidents rank third when it comes to various types of incidents in Milledgeville,” Crooms said.
He explained the chance of a vehicle crash goes up higher when colleges are in session.
“We have more motorists on our city streets at those times,” Crooms said. “And with that said, the potential for wrecks is greater.”
Crooms said many college students come to school here from other places across the state and are unfamiliar with the city streets.
“Every year, we have students who are unfamiliar with stop signs, traffic signals, and other distractions that come into play, and often times lead to incidents,” Crooms said.
Be La Concha Nazario said before those who underwent classroom training could be certified they had to pass the community event.
“This is their final test and so they have to do everything correctly before they become car safety seat certified,” Be La Concha Nazaro said.
Such an event was originally scheduled to have taken place Friday in the parking lot of Walmart in Milledgeville, but because of inclement weather the event was canceled and instead held at the city fire department headquarters on Thomas Street.
“This is something that where the actual technicians to be work directly with the caregivers from the community,” she said.
Every two years, technicians have to retake the course and become recertified.
The program is sponsored by the Georgia Department of Public Health and Injury Protective Program and is funded by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
Be La Concha Nazario said she oversees the DPH’s Child Occupancy Safety Project in more than 20 counties throughout central Georgia.
“A lot of what we do is through education,” she said. “A lot of people simply don’t [know] the information they need. You can go to a store and you have all of these child car safety seats to choose from. You have a lot of bells and whistles. And people have budgets. They then buy these car seats and put them in their vehicles, and they think they are good to go because nobody has told you anything different.”
That’s the primary reason DPH officials host such safety classes.
Be La Concha Nazario said people in communities generally know that firefighters or police officers have the correct information when it comes to such safety.
“These technicians help the caregivers in these communities learn how to properly install child care safety seats,” she added.
And in doing such, serious injuries and deaths involving infants and older children are greatly reduced on highways across Georgia.