Fires kill or maim thousands of people yearly, but the public can take steps to protect themselves and to make the job of fighting fires easier.

At UT’s weekly science forum, speaker Lt. Robby Nix, a critical care paramedic for Rural Metro Fire Department, spoke to his audience about fire safety and some of the experiences he has had throughout his 30-year career during his lecture, “Firefighter Paramedics and the Hot Potato Baby – It’s Not What You Think.”

Nix saved his first life at age 16, and the experience influenced him deeply. He knew he wanted to be a firefighter by the time he entered high school.

“You’re kind of hooked after you do that so early (in life),” he said. “For me there was never any wavering, I’ve always wanted to do it.

“The feeling is good to be able to make a difference."

In addition to helping members of the community, Nix teaches medical and fire safety courses at a fire academy. He uses his experience and his many certifications in life support to train people in programs like CPR.

As mentioned in the title of his lecture, the “hot potato baby” is an expression Nix uses for a child who is severely injured when the fire crew arrives on the scene of a call. He trains members of his fire academy to know how to handle these situations.

“When we pull up on a medical call, if (the victim) is an adult they sit right where they are,” Nix said. “When it’s a child who is very sick, whoever has that child is in a full sprint (to the firefighters).”

Nix also spoke to his audience about ways they can help prevent fires. He emphasized the importance of having smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in every room, getting up-to-date space heaters with safety features and getting fireplaces inspected at least once a year.

In the event of a fire or medical emergency, Nix stressed the importance of having clearly marked mailboxes.

"We want to find you,” he said. “The best way to find you is to have visible and reflective numbers on your mailbox on both sides.”

He said designing a fire escape plan, in conjunction with other residents in your house, is also important. Establishing a meeting place prevents people from running back into the fire to look for people who are already out.

As he introduced Nix, science forum host Dr. Mark Littmann said Nix and other firefighters do a great service for their community.

“I am deeply grateful to them,” said Littmann. “(Nix) is a remarkable man with such remarkable training used for the benefit of all of us.”

The next science forum will be held Friday March 1, from noon to 1 p.m., in room C-D of Thompson-Boling Arena. Dr. Juan Carlos Idrobo, research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will present “Exploring the Universe One Atom at a Time.”