Lumberton Fire Chief Jeff McNeel quickly ushers drivers into two lanes of service.
It’s early Saturday, Sept. 8, and the Child Car Safety Check at the Lumberton firehouse on 228 Country Lane Drive, is just underway.
Cars are lined up, “not quite backed up to (Hwy) 421 yet, but we’re humming,” says Chief McNeel.
Fire and emergency personnel are processing parents and guardians with car seats for children from the infants on up to eight years old.
The chief explains that Lumberton Fire & EMS #2, the Department of Public Safety, TxDOT, Altus, the Rotary Club, and Lumberton ISD have all come together to share this important message.
“Our EMT paramedics Keeley Holden, Tiffany Woodland, and Cristi Bonin pitched this concept,” he said.
They did the groundwork to make this first-ever car seat safety event happen in Lumberton.
The chief says it’s paramedics who routinely save lives on the scene of an accident and in-route to the hospitals.
“Today, they’re saving lives before it ever happens,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about making sure these children are safe.”
It takes less than half an hour to assess and reassure every parent about the safety of their child’s protective seat.
“Maybe the most important 15 or 20 minutes of a child’s life,” Chief McNeel said.
He points to a crowd of technicians working on one mother’s car where three little ones are being safely seated.
Saturday’s group is a multi-agency collaboration including DPS Sgt. Stephanie Davis as Car Seat Technician and child passenger safety expert.
Turning to the vehicle with three child safety Sgt. Davis acknowledges the challenge, saying the “mom must be able to safely transport the kids on a daily basis.”
“When they come in, we inspect the seat, determine if it’s expired, and if there’s a recall on the seat for some type of defect,” she said.
A group of volunteers greet every car and walk the parents step-by-step through the process of securing a car seat.
“We teach them how to put the seat in, how to put the child in the seat, and then, how to put the seat in the car,” she said.
If a seat is expired, the group replaces the seat at no cost to the parent or guardian.
For Fire Chief McNeel said that the cooperation of the different agencies and their paramedics made Saturday a success.
“That’s what it’s all about, working together to make sure these children are safe,” he said.
The goal is safe kids – one team, one purpose, period.