Safety is a social event at the Fire Expo
El Cajon Fire Safety Expo drew an impressive crowd on Saturday, Oct. 12th at its headquarters on Lexington Avenue. The event had nearly 50 booths and exhibitors, all with one collective goal—safety.
Kids climbed inside fire trucks, dancers dressed as zombies performed a Michael Jackson tribute, and Kiwanis provided free helmets. All in great fun, but many event goers did not realize they were learning bits and pieces about their city and it’s vital operations. If there is ever a question about where East County taxpayer money goes, this event, according to El Cajon Public Information Officer Monica Zech, is one of the best opportunities people will get to see their contributions in action.
The eye-catching SWAT team displaying guns and friendly paramedics doing CPR demonstrations pulled people in, but lesser known city functions like storm drains and environmental health also grabbed attention from passers by. A HazMat (hazardous materials) representative named Hasti showed her tiered chemistry kit stocked with colorful bottles and solutions, displayed pictures of toxic waste and meth labs, and by the end of her impromptu talks with attendees, made people grateful for the services they didn’t realize they rely on every single day.
“Much of what we do comes down to basic chemistry,” said Hasti, pulling out a test strip for all to see. Environmental health encompasses the food and housing, land and water quality, Community health and HazMat. Their domains stretch from letter grades in restaurant windows to rat infestations to potential crime scenes. Expo attendees lingered at the environmental health display, their interest piqued at what happens unbeknownst to them and how it is regulated in order for El Cajon to be a healthy place to live.
It takes a lot.
“Firemen love this event, it actually reduces the number of 911 calls they receive,” said Zech.
People showed up for a good time. They ate kettle corn, listened to country music (Junior Brown sang “Highway Patrol” over the loud speakers), but were simultaneously informed and entertained. Expo representatives said every year the event gets bigger and better.
“Community relations is what our job is about, and we like people to enjoy themselves while seeing what we do,” said Capt. Gregory Sedlacek, who has fifteen years with the El Cajon Fire Department. Individuals and families spoke at length with the approachable ECFD firemen, making small talk or asking safety-related questions. Putting an identity to the community’s first responders was the type of engagement with people the City of El Cajon hoped to achieve.
The Kiwanis Club stayed busy fitting and handing out free helmets, making safety accessible. Helmets and other safety precautions showcased at the Fire Safety Expo—emergency kits, health screenings—represent the inherent dangers East County residents encounter. The subject matter is less taxing when the local first responders become more than just a uniformed person who shows up at an accident. It’s their job to keep people safe but also to show how simple it can be.
The best way to do that is to make safety social.