AVON - The seat-belt convincer was living up to its name - showing local kids the potential dangers in even a 5 mph crash.
Colorado State Patrol troopers brought the convincer to Avon Wednesday as part of Camp 911, an annual day camp for kids with a different kind of educational purpose.
"We started the camp because kids between 9 and 11 are just starting to do things without adult supervision," said Cathy Dulac of the Eagle County Ambulance District. "We show them how to handle emergencies without adults around, and how to take charge in an emergency."
The camp involves virtually every emergency service agency in the valley. Kids break into small groups and go from station to station, learning about topics from seat-belt use to what to tell a 911 dispatcher to how to help a friend in the water who's in trouble.
Kids at the camp usually get fire-extinguisher training, too, but given the fire danger this summer, they learned instead some of the principles of "Ready, Set, Go," a program that helps residents learn about the do's and don'ts of getting out of the house in case of emergency.
While the camp helps kids be a bit more self-sufficient, the first step in any emergency, for just about anyone, is making that call to 911.
Dispatchers used to ask "What is your emergency?" In fact, the Camp 911 T-shirts still bear that message. But with most people relying on cell phones, one of the first questions a dispatcher will ask is "where are you?"
"We're teaching kids to be aware of their surroundings - what street they're on, the name of the building they're in," Dulac said.
Other lessons involved both basic first aid and more advanced lessons, courtesy of Lynn Blake's Starting Hearts program. The kids learned how to run an automated external defibrillator and the basics of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
In the Avon Elementary School gym, Avon police officers were talking to kids about using the Internet and more personal kinds of self defense.
"The coolest thing I learned was how to defend yourself," said Lily Shapcotte, 11, who described a "hammer fist" punch to the hand of someone trying to grab you, and the shin-kick, in which an assailant gets both a kick and a scrape down the leg.
"And then you run!" Shapcotte said.
Out back, near the seat-belt convincer, Eagle County Sheriff's Deputy Tad Degan and Chris Greene of Vail Valley Medical Center were talking about bicycle safety, and the importance of helmets.
Several honeydew melons met a grisly end in the demonstrations, as they were dropped to the ground while belted into a helmet, then plopped on the pavement with no protection.
With every drop, the melon developed another soft spot - which would be another brain injury if the melons were heads.
To demonstrate the effects of a good shot to the noggin, Greene had a pair of "concussion goggles." Kids would put on the goggles, then try to walk a straight line and pick up a duck-egg-sized foam-rubber brain on the ground. It was tricky duty, and made a couple of adults slightly nauseous.
Greene had another ally in her pitch for helmets - volunteer Craig Kosko, who told the kids about the pair of concussions he'd had while skiing.
"They're listening," Kosko said. "And they're asking good questions."
The kids also learned the basics of bike safety, from checking your tires before you ride to the proper hand signals and the importance of following safety laws. They also learned that anyone age 10 or older can get a ticket. Running a stop sign will ding your allowance for a cool $125.
"That's something you should know about," Emma Blakslee said, quickly adding she's not much of a bike rider.
At lunch, sisters Mia and Claire Carroll both said they'd really been interested in the first aid demonstrations and ambulance tour put on by the ambulance crew.
"I really liked learning how to help," Claire said.
"We might have a couple of new employees here," Dulac said.