Wash. emergency responders receive injury prevention grants

First responders to work on campaigns to prevent falls and reduce distracted driving by teens

By Kaylee Osowski
The Chronicle

CENTRALIA, Wash. — Newaukum Valley Fire and Rescue is getting ready to launch two campaigns to encourage safe practices for Lewis County residents.

The agency, also known as Lewis County Fire District 5, received two grants for a total of about $4,000 from West Region Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Care Council in June of last year for the projects. 

One focuses on fall prevention for the elderly and the other looks to discourage teens from texting and driving.

Lt. Laura Hanson is working on an advertisement for fall prevention that will highlight resources available to help prevent falls. She said Lewis County has a “tremendous” number of elderly falls.

“We live in an area in Napavine where there’s not a lot of assisted living … you’re a ways from town, if you will, and so folks really, really value their independence,” she said, adding that she hopes to encourage them to get to Thorbeckes Fitlife Centers or senior centers that offer options to help improve balance. 

One resource Hanson said she recently learned of is at the Olequa Senior Center in Winlock, where a program called Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) is offered a couple times a week.

She also wants to get information to people after they have a fall via phone for those who aren’t computer savvy. 

“As you age, the damage that you do and your ability to bounce back from (a fall) are far, far more difficult for the elderly,” Hanson said.

Firefighter/EMT Maria Kennedy will soon hang banners at six Lewis County high schools discouraging texting while driving. 

The signs say, “Stay alive. Don’t text and drive,” Kennedy said. Each sign is specially designed for each school with their colors and mascots as well as the Newaukum Valley Fire and Rescue logo.

“We thought if we go to the high school and try to get the kids that are just learning to drive and just creating those habits, and, to put the information out there to not text and drive, hopefully we can make a difference for the rest of their lives,” Kennedy said.

If the message gets instilled in young drivers’ minds early, hopefully they won’t ever consider texting while driving, Kennedy said.

But the message isn’t just for young drivers. It’s a reminder for parents, too, at school events. The general public will also see the message when the agency participates in festivals, parades and other events as two banners were made for its engines.

She said texting was becoming popular when she was finishing high school. A year after she graduated, a girl who she went to school with died from texting and driving.

“I just wanted to get that information out there and hope that what happened to (the girl) never happened to any other kid again,” Kennedy said.

Drivers texting is something Kennedy said she sees often whether it’s young drivers or adults at red lights and on Interstate 5.

“If you pay attention while you’re driving, it’s actually amazing how many people are texting and driving,” Kennedy said. 

Texting and driving hinders people’s reaction times and can lead to crashes that can seriously alter texters’ lives or the lives of others involved in the wrecks, she said.

The agency has some grant money leftover after completing the banners, which will be hung in the schools during the next month. With the remaining funds, Kennedy wants to work with Napavine High School students to determine what else the money should be put toward to further the don’t text and drive message, whether it’s an assembly, a mock crash or something else.

©2015 The Chronicle (Centralia, Wash.)

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