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Safety coalition earns second national award

Duane Hicks
Fort Frances Times LTD
Thursday, November 13, 2008

After first earning the honour in 2007, the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition received its second Safe Communities Canada Award of Excellence at the Safe Communities Canada conference in Winnipeg on Nov. 3-4.
“We did it,” enthused RRVSC administrative co-ordinator Grace Silander, who attended the conference with RRVSC co-chair Bob Swing.
“I think happy is understating it. We were ecstatic.
“It’s always been the precedence that if you win one year, you don’t get it the next year,” she noted. “It’s the first time in history a community has received it twice in a row.
“This will not happen again because they’re changing it so if you win it one year, you have to wait a year to apply again.”
The RRVSC won the Safe Communities Canada Award of Excellence last year for its child car seat program. Silander said the success of the district-wide “Project Safe Hallowe’en” glowstick program was the focus of its application this time around.
The purpose of the program is to distribute glowsticks to make trick-or-treaters more visible to motorists.
First started by Family and Children’s Services (FACS) here six years ago, the program has become more important since the cancellation of community Hallowe’en events such as the “Scott Street Scare” and Doug Kitowski Trucking’s haunted trailer at McDonald’s, which gave children specific places to go to get plenty of treats without having to go door-to-door, noted Silander.
“It is excellent because we started out very small in 2003, giving out 250 glowsticks when we had our office on Scott Street,” said Betty-Anne MacKintosh, manager of community services and quality assurance for FACS.
“In partnership with the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition, we were able to take it district-wide, and to partner with the schools to distribute [glowsticks] through the schools.
“This year, we were able to give out approximately 3,200, and we expanded it to include day cares, Aboriginal ‘Head Start’, nursery schools, and municipal offices,” MacKintosh added.
“The other enhancement for 2008 is, with our staff, OPP Community Services Cst. Anne McCoy, did presentations at the schools. They did 30 presentations and gave out glowsticks at the same time.
“We actually developed a theme this year, ‘Safe Routes,’” continued MacKintosh. “This was sponsored by the CN police, and all the presentations focused on the safe routes for Hallowe’en. So our staff prepared literature for the teachers and parents, and some safety puzzles and quizzes for the kids.
“It was another great year,” MacKintosh enthused. “It’s a true partnership.”
“It truly proved [to be] a close working network of leadership working for a common cause,” said Silander. “It goes to show how many people brought this to success.
“Anybody that was involved in any way needs to give themselves a pat on the back because this is extremely exciting to see that we’ve won a second year.”
Silander also said that because of the success of the local glowstick program, Safe Communities Canada has adopted the concept of “visibility” as a priority, and a subgroup will work on a national program called “Be Visible.”
This will apply the concept of visibility to all seasons and activities, not just Hallowe’en safety.
“It intrigued a lot of people and it is so easy to formulate into different places,” Silander noted. “In fact, there’s a town in Alberta [Red Deer] that ran our program.
“That’s what it’s all about—sharing and helping other people meet their goals in safety,” she stressed. “That’s what Safe Communities Canada is all about.
“The successful programs out there have all been started by some small group somewhere, who identified a risk and worked on it.”
The RRVSC also received the CN Award for 2008 for its work in rail safety. Silander said the coalition received funding for this earlier in the year, so it wasn’t a total surprise, but it still was an honour to receive the certificate.
She explained the award is given out to those who organize activities for youths and adults that stress rail safety.
Silander said CN police Cst. Pete LeDrew and OPP Cst. Anne McCoy “have really helped put us on the map.”
“They’ve been unbelievable, spreading knowledge and awareness in trying to get a behavioural change with the children and develop new partnerships and programs specific to rail safety,” she said, citing everything from the implementation of the “On the Right Track” program (which teaches children how, when, and where to cross train tracks) to co-ordinating the mock fatal crash at the McIrvine Road crossing here last month.
“[CN] was quite happy with our achievements,” Silander added. “CN also helps sponsor our home safety checklist, and CN was very, very excited when I presented them with one of our checklists as a thank you, and they were amazed.
“They thought it was great.”
Also at last week’s conference, Silander was trained as a peer reviewer for other communities striving to meet Safe Communities standards. She will be going around and reviewing applications and coaching them to reach Safe Community status.
The peer reviewer is a new concept for the World Health Organization. The Safe Communities movement is growing so fast that the Karolinski Institute who designates communities under the umbrella of the WHO cannot keep up, explained Silander. There have been four certifying centres set up around the world, one of which is Safe Communities Canada.
“As a certified peer reviewer and site visitor, I will be working for the World Health Organization, and completing reviews of community applications, weighing them against the Safe Community criterion,” she noted. “Once the community appears to meet the criteria on paper, a site visit is completed to ensure there is indeed processes in place as documented. Reports are then sent into Safe Communities Canada, who work toward the designation event and celebrations.”
Winnipeg was designated as the 54th Canadian Safe Community, with Silander saying “it’s a celebration” every time she sees another community take steps towards becoming safer places to live.
“Winnipeg has got a ways to go,” she admitted. “Safe Communities doesn’t mean you don’t have incidents happen; what it is is you have met criteria that starts the education and the process of injury prevention programs.
“They [Winnipeg] have much work ahead of them and are well aware of this, but have programs and monitoring tools in place to begin to address their current problems in crime, health issues, and falls.”
The Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition, which covers 10 municipalities and nine First Nations, was designated as a “Safe Community” by Safe Communities Canada in 1999. At that time, there were only two other safe communities in Canada (Calgary and Brockville).
It then was designated by the World Health Organization in 2002, and re-designated this past May.
Each year, the RRVSC gets a report card to ensure it’s maintaining the status of its safety programs, and so far has received a perfect score.

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