By Samuel Weisman, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY- Representatives from the Oswego Sherriff’s Office, police and fire departments, and the U.S. Coast Guard were at Lowe’s Home Improvement store to give tips on how to keep homes and people safe in the event of emergencies.
More than 1,700 Lowe’s across the nation participated in the Home Safety Council’s Safe Saturday event.
The Drug Enforcement Agency was also there as part of the National Take-Back Initiative plan.
National Take-Back Day provides people with an opportunity to turn in unwanted or expired prescription pills anonymously and without questions asked. The one-day event is designed to get old pills out of the medicine cabinet and into the hands of professionals who can dispose of them properly.
The initiative is supposed to bring the growing problem of prescription pill abuse into focus.
A DEA agent who wished to remain anonymous said, “It’s a serious problem and growing in high school age kids.”
According to the DEA, in 2008 almost 2 million people ages 12-17 abused prescription drugs.
The agent went on to say, “Lots of families are in denial, they don’t believe that their kids or grandkids would steal their medicine. We get a lot of reports of medicine being stolen, a lot of that comes from young people trying to get prescriptions refilled so they can either take them for the high or resell them.”
With this growing problem how can people safely dispose of their old medicine?
Flushing them down the toilet used to be one common method.
However, recent Department of Environmental Conservation studies suggest that flushing is a bad method. Trace amounts of antibiotics, hormones, steroids and contraceptives were found in 80% of the streams and lakes tested by the United States Geological Survey.
These substances are adversely affecting wildlife and may cause drug-resistant bacteria to develop.
People can throw their medicine in the trash, but potential danger lurks with that method as well.
Some DEC tips on throwing away pills to prevent animals and people from finding them are to disguise the medicine in an outer container, add water then salt, ash, dirt or kitty litter to dissolve and make the medicines less desirable, throw the pills away close to the time that garbage is picked up, and never hide pills in food.
The best way of disposing the pills is to store them in a safe place then bring them to a collection event such as Take-Back Day according to the DEC.
Most pharmacies offer a pill recycling program. People can also call the police who will take and dispose of the pills properly.
The amount of pills that will be dropped off is uncertain, however similar events have been very successful.
Last year in New Jersey local authorities and agencies were able to retrieve more than 9,000 pounds of medicine valued at more than $25 million.
Safe Saturday was not just about the pills though. There were demonstrations for kids on how to exit a bus that has overturned, and fire safety demonstrations as well.
Entergy donated a specially built trailer to the fire department. The smoke producing vehicle has a sprinkler system chamber that can be viewed from outside, and has potential fire hazards staged inside.
The vehicle allows fire firefighters to give demonstrations and tips on how to avoid home fires and how to stay safe in the event of a blaze.
“Stay low, but not too low. Try to stay on your hands and knees because the smoke goes to the ceiling, but the carbon monoxide goes to the floor,” said volunteer firefighter Shawn Simoneau as smoke poured into the room from overhead vents during his presentation.
After his demonstration Simoneau said, “We never turn down requests for the vehicle. We bring it to events like this, schools, hospitals, wherever they ask us to go.”
Simoneau added, “I like coming out to events like this. You know we spend a lot of time training and working hard so we are good at what we do. It’s nice to be able to show it off to the community.”
Some tips from Simoneau were to make sure smoke detectors are installed on every level of a house and outside the bedrooms. Make sure to check the batteries regularly and change them twice a year.
Lowe’s also offered some smoke detector lessons and tool safety lessons.
Kids were suited up with safety goggles, aprons and little hammers and were able to build small red wooden fire trucks.
The kid oriented event raised awareness of important home safety issues and allowed the children to meet some of the people involved in keeping their community safe.
Police Sergeant Robert Kite said, “It’s important for the community. It lets them know that we are doing more than just law enforcement.”