No matter how brightly the sun shines or how sweetly the birds chirp, even the most fun day at the beach can go south quickly when heat stroke sets in, someone starts to drown or a natural disaster hits an unprepared community.

Preventing summertime injury is the goal of the Fort Jackson Safety Office's annual Safety Symposium, this year held April 16 at the Solomon Center.

"Safety is a mission enabler, and not an inhibitor," said Ronald Ross, installation safety manager, who helps organize the event. That was the theme of this year's symposium.

"We add value to the mission; we don't take away from the mission accomplishment," Ross added.
Jose Martinez, whose job revolves around maintaining safety on-post, said he brought his son, 10, and daughter, 13, to the symposium "so they can see what all we actually do throughout the day" to ensure that safety standards are upheld at Fort Jackson.

Both on and off-post supporters highlighted risk mitigation strategies Tuesday.

The American Red Cross, the Exceptional Family Member Program, the Exchange, Palmetto Health, the Fire Department, and the Army Substance Abuse Program were a few organizations represented.
"It's like a safety … reminder," Ross said. "We want people to get focused in on summer so they can be safe."

Memorial Day through Labor Day is when Fort Jackson sees a particularly high volume of safety concerns, Ross said.

Vacations, water activities, instances of hurricane and temperatures are at their heights during this time of year, leading to an uptick in injuries and fatalities caused by driving, swimming and heat-related accidents, he added.

"Heat injury can happen at any time if you're not hydrating yourself," Ross said.

"It's imperative that we prevent shock" in overheated Soldiers, added Dwight Blue, plans and operations specialist of the 165th Infantry Brigade, who helped demonstrate ice sheet application -- one potentially lifesaving remedy.

Those in danger of serious heat-induced injury can be wrapped in cooled sheets, either wet or dry, to quickly reduce their body temperatures.

"A lot of times they're in training and they're talking and they'll just fall out," Blue said. Many aren't acclimatized to South Carolina summers.

The Safety Symposium "gives (the community) a wakeup call," Ross said. It gives attendees advice on how to stay safe while enjoying the great outdoors when the weather heats up.

For those unable to attend the symposium, Ross said the biggest advice the Safety Office can give is to do internal risk assessments on any planned activities and put strategies into place to mitigate risk of anything going wrong.

Gary Wilkerson, emergency manager for Moncrief Health Clinic, advised attendees to prepare for unexpected, inevitable disasters, too, especially with hurricane season coming up.

"We can put together your building again. The community can come together and we can get it cleaned up," Wilkerson said. "We can't fix the fatality."

Sometimes "we get numb to the sirens going off. We get numb to the weather reports;" avoiding that and planning ahead is key, Wilkerson said. "Most people don't make a plan. Most people will spend more time planning their spring break vacation than they will making a plan on how to respond to a disaster."