Interactive activities highlight Fort Meade's annual safety expo
May 31, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (May 31, 2012) -- The heat and humidity of a late spring day did not prevent 3,500 people from attending the installation's annual Safety, Health and Wellness Expo on May 24.
The four-hour event, sponsored by the Installation Safety Office, was held at the Pavilion.
"Safety is essential," said Kirk Fechter, director of the Installation Safety Office. "We're pleased we can offer something for all the service branches, to set aside one day to point out that safety is important."
More than 45 organizations and businesses on and off post attended the event to provide information about a wide range of topics including healthy eating, workplace safety, stress management and child passenger safety.
The event also featured simulations to encourage safe vehicle and motorcycle driving and how to properly extinguish a mock fire. Free blood pressure and body mass index screenings also were offered.
"Our goal this year was to extend the event by adding more interactive activities, not just the educational brochures, but hands-on demonstrations to have people get more involved." said Jenelle Ferguson, occupational safety and health specialist.
Petty Officer 1st Class Wendy Valdez of Naval Information Operations Command Maryland said she the event was enlightening.
"I think it's important for younger Sailors and Soldiers," she said. "Sometimes, they don't know safety procedures. It makes them think about their judgment."
Valdez was one of the many service members learned how to properly ride a motorcycle using the SMART Trainer, a mobile classroom and simulator developed by the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program.
Henry Winkour, a contractor with the program, said people who use the simulator learn how to operate a motorcycle's controls, including how to shift gears, apply pressure to the throttle, or brakes, and how to navigate the road.
"Rather than put someone on the road and say 'good luck,' they can learn where the controls are and how they work," Winkour said.
The Maryland Highway Safety Office presented a drunk driving simulator that is part of the National Arrive Alive Tour.
Spc. Jan Seda, 741 Military Intelligence Battalion, took a "drive" and had an unfortunate incident.
"I hit a kid walking in the crosswalk," Seda said of the simulated situation. "I thought I'd go to jail or something. That made it so real."
Seda said although he's been driving for seven years, the experience was an eye-opener.
"You get the feel about drunk driving. I felt a little bit out of control," he said. "It's a good experience. You get conscious about not drinking and driving."
Medical personnel from the Occupational Health department at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center screened participants for high blood pressure and tracked their weight, body mass index and body fat percentage.
"High blood pressure is a silent killer," said Jan Twigg, an occupational health registered nurse. "With the population aging and getting heavier, blood pressure goes up."
Twigg said overall, the people she screened had blood pressure readings in the normal range.
"Not bad. Nothing very elevated," she said.
Spc. Julian YBara, 742nd Military Intelligence Battalion, had his body fat percentage measured.
"It was interesting," he said. "I was curious about how high my body fat percentage was. It's in the healthy range -- that's good news."
YBara said the expo was worthwhile.
"I like it," he said. "There are a lot of things you can be aware of. There's a lot of information to learn about."
Ron Fratantoni, a market manager for Kimberly-Clark Professional, said the company appreciates the sacrifice of service members and wanted to support the event.
"We are showing products to keep them safe," Fratantoni said, as he displayed a collection of safety glasses, cut-resistant gloves and high-visibility and chemical-resistant clothing.
Connie Schulthesis, vice president of the Chesapeake Region Safety Council in Baltimore, distributed brochures on family safety.
"We're here to educate people about safety and health so people can be safe while they do their job," she said.
Julie Yates, lifeskills educator and Family Employment Program manager for the Fleet & Family Support Center, distributed pamphlets on how to reduce stress and prevent suicide.
"We want service members to take care of themselves, physically and emotionally," Yates said. "It's important to get this information and apply it."
Beverly Maliner, chief of Preventive Medicine at Kimbrough, said the expo can make a difference in the lives of service members.
"They've got the right group here - mostly younger service members," Maliner said. "If they pick up a lesson and take it out with them, it lasts for a lifetime. If they change their behavior, then the expo is worth it."