REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- On May 20, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and the Missile Defense Agency came together for their first campus-wide joint venture, the SMDC/ARSTRAT and MDA Joint Safety Awareness Day. From 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the parking lot between the two organizations' buildings, approximately 300 employees from both organizations visited vendors' booths, collected pamphlets and paraphernalia, listened to presentations, viewed displays, and participated in demonstrations, all with a coordinated focus on the issue of safety.

To open the program, SMDC/ARSTRAT Chief of Staff Col. John C. Hamilton spoke about how important the joint venture was because it kicked off both organizations' "101 Days of Safety" program, held from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Hamilton thanked the organizers and said that "safety is not a campaign; it is a lifestyle.

"In order to maintain a strong Army and DoD [Department of Defense] workforce, we have to maintain safety as a way of life," Hamilton said.

Once the opening ceremony concluded, attendees were encouraged to mingle throughout the vendors' booths and talk to them about their products or services. Different displays included 101 Days of Summer (HHD Company), BBQ Safety (FWC's Phil Patterson), Driving Under the Influence and Simulated Drunk Driving Range (State Trooper Curtis Summerville), Fire Safety (RSA Fire and Emergency Services), Household Safety and First Aid (Grainger, Inc.), Prevention of Drug and Alochol Abuse, American Red Cross, Alabama Bike Coalition, Water Safety (U.S. Coast Guard Auxilory), Weather Safety (WAFF Channel 48 News), and Venomous Snakes and Poisonous Plants (City of Huntsville/RSA).

One of the vendors that drew a lot of attention within the tented display area was the Venomous Snakes specialist. William Cruger, a Redstone Arsenal employee, had 10 live snakes at his station. Three were poisonous -- two timber rattlesnakes and one copperhead - and were locked in a sealed glass case. The other seven snakes, however, were all non-poisonous. Many visitors stopped to touch and even hold these snakes, which included a northern pine, two corn snakes (one albino), a gray rat snake, a garden snake, a scarlet kingsnake, and a sinonona.

Outside, a barbeque display reminded attendees of general grilling safety rules, such as ensuring proper ventilation and checking hoses for a leak on a gas grill. Also outside were two RSA fire trucks set up to display what firemen carry with them and wear as part of their uniform during a routine call. Jeff Burns, a driver and volunteer for the RSA Fire and Emergency Services, demonstrated the "rope walker" system that fire-fighters learn as part of their training. Burns attached himself to a unique rappelling system that was attached to his feet and chest area, allowing his arms to be free for rescue. He went up the rope rather fast, "running up the rope" as he said, and was able to descend down easily as well.

Perhaps the most popular outdoor demonstration was the interactive Drunk Driving Range Simulation. Attendees were given the opportunity to drive a standard golf cart through a slightly twisted coned-off path with a set of "drunk goggles" that were set to simulate driving under the influence. The glasses were set at .25 blood alcohol level, which is approximately three times the legal limit of .08.

Almost all of the attendees testing the goggles hit at least one cone and veered off the track several times; many hit multiple cones or never made it onto the track correctly. Brenda Rains, an SMDC/ARSTRAT Technical Center employee, hit five cones during her drive.

"It felt like I was sick. I can't believe anyone gets in a vehicle in that state and tries to drive," Rains said.

Unfortunately, State Trooper Curtis Summerville says that people do often try to drive while that intoxicated. Summerville is a Public Information and Safety Officer who spends his days at schools and safety days throughout the region, informing them on the same topics he discussed during his presentation and throughout the day on the driving course.

"[The drunk goggles] only affect vision, not flexibility or response time ... so as bad as this appears, it usually is worse. It just shows you that the old adage people believe about being able to hold their alcohol isn't really true," Summerville said.

Brad Travis, chief meteorologist at WAFF Channel 48 News, was the keynote speaker for the event. After doing a live broadcast for the noon news, Travis spoke on a variety of weather-related issues for the region, particularly on tornado awareness and the value of weather radios.

"Getting a weather radio is crucial for those in rural areas but also for anyone in the region, since we often have tornado warnings and watches in the middle of the night, at times when without one you wouldn't necessarily hear the sirens," Travis said.

Besides purchasing a weather radio, his other key piece of advice for tornado preparation was to "think low and small - go to the smallest room in the house, closest to the center ... usually a bathroom or a closet is ideal," Travis said.

Before ending his presentation, he went over several weather myths and truths and then answered questions from the crowd. Following his presentation, WAFF was asked to pick a winner (at random) for the weather radio, based on those who turned in a punch-card indicating they spoke with all of the day's vendors. The winner of the radio was George Sloan of SMDC/ARSTRAT's Future Warfare Center.

Overall, coordinator JoAnna Brunson of the SMDC/ARSTRAT Technical Center was extremely pleased with the turnout, feeling that many people learned something from the day.

"In promoting safety there are two things I feel can make training effective: hands on/visual training and having fun. That was my objective, and I think that was accomplished. I have to thank my committee and all who supported the event too though - without them, it would not have been successful," Brunson said.

"With this being MDA's first year here, and with the two building side by side, we thought it would be great to have a joint safety day," Brunson said when asked about the decision to collaborate.

"The Joint Safety Awareness Day was important because it highlighted that
safety for all is best achieved through teamwork," said Carl Johnson, MDA's safety and occupational health (SOH) program manager.

"This was certainly a collective effort which we are confident will yield positive and lasting results. The variety of vendors, briefings and activities purposefully
ensured coverage of both on- and off-duty activities affecting employees and
their families," Johnson said. "In so doing, we hope the overall message was clear -- we care about you and the people you care about!"

SMDC/ARSTRAT's Technical Center and MDA's SOH Program hope to make Joint Safety Awareness Day an annual event.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16