Melissa and Stephen Keith Jr. believe their 2-month-old son, Stephen Keith III, is alive today because of a child safety seat installed by Channing Furr of Prince William Fire and Rescue.
On Aug. 11, before her son was born, Melissa Keith went to Station 20, on the Prince William Parkway, to learn about her child safety seat.
Technician II Furr installed the seat and made all of the necessary safety adjustments.
It was a routine thing.
Prince William Fire and Rescue personnel regularly install child safety seats and give tips to new and expecting parents.
On Aug. 25, when Stephen was six days old, Melissa Keith, her mother Nancy Firestone and the baby were in an car wreck on Interstate 495.
Their car flipped, slid on its side and hit a tree during the accident.
Keith had to break a window to get to her son when the car finally stopped skidding
“We got him out and he was just perfect,” said Keith, a former Prince William County high school teacher.
“No bruising, nothing. It’s amazing any of us are alive,” said the 26-year-old Woodbridge woman.
Keith said the state trooper who investigated the accident told her that her son survived the crash because the car seat was installed properly.
Keith wrote a thank-you letter to the Prince William Fire and Rescue Department, which presented Furr with an award Friday at Station 20.
“I got the award, but everybody in the county does this,” Furr, 39, said after visiting with the Keiths and the Firestones at the ceremony.
“It’s not often that you hear back from the public,” Furr said. “We don’t know how many injuries we’ve prevented or how many lives were saved, but it’s a great thing each fire house does.”
Furr said new parents rarely install car seats tightly enough and almost never tighten the straps enough when they put their babies in the seats.
Keith said Furr taught her that parents should only be able to insert two fingers between their children and the seat straps when the child is buckled into the seat.
“If children are too loose,” Furr said, “they can be thrown from the seat itself,” Furr said.
The biggest problems parents have are the lack of standardization in car seats and safety restraints, and vague instructions in automobile owner’s manuals, Furr said.
“They provide a baseline,” he said the instructions.
Since they see all kinds of car seats and seat belts, the county instructors have learned the best way to install the seats.
Furr said new parents should visit their neighborhood fire and rescue station to learn the techniques.
“There are little tricks to making it easier to tighten them,” Furr said.
The stations generally ask that those who need help with their seats call for an appointment.
Prince William Battalion Chief Steve Strawderman said people could call (703) 792-6674 or (703) 792-6380 to find the nearest fire and rescue station so they can make appointments.