Eric Ortiz is visually impaired, unable to detect color or see peripherally.
That wouldn’t make it any more difficult for him to escape a house fire should he ever find himself in one. If anything, Ortiz said, his other senses are so acute that an escape might be easier for him than it would be for those with better vision.
“I rely on my other senses to go where I need to go, whether it’s my hearing, or whether it’s my sense of smell, or whether it’s my feel,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz, 18, was among a group of summer program students with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired who took part on Tuesday in a fire safety demonstration at Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
“One of the benefits of this is when there’s a fire in your home, you really can’t see, the visual component is eliminated,” said Trenese Turner, public affairs manager for fire rescue. “So it’s how you react and how you take that next step to keep yourself and your family safe.”
The students, who ranged in age from 14 to 22, were given demonstrations on the use of fire safety equipment, from extinguishers to alarms.
“It really taught me that I don’t need my vision, to really go around and see where I’m going,” Ortiz said. “I rely mainly on a lot of my hearing. If I’m ever in a fire, I’m going to listen for any kind of noise that can help me evacuate.”
Tuesday’s program was two-fold.
The students not only received fire safety demonstrations, but were able to explore career opportunities with the fire department.
“We’re exploring about different careers, so it gives our students an overview of what’s accessible to them as they get older and graduate high school,” said Lighthouse supervisor Michelle Fischer. “They’re very interested in careers, because that’s what our whole program is geared for. We’re transitioning from high school on to college and technical school.”