The World Health Organization has approved Lycoming County's application as the first "Safe Community" in Pennsylvania, an honor officials say demonstrates a collaborative effort from many players.
"This is testimony of the depth of work done by many organizations regarding safety issues," said Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition Executive Director Tana DeWire. "Not only safety in the work place, but with families."
An evaluation team came to the county Nov. 4 and 5 to visit selected organizations, businesses and industries.
The team concluded that not only did the county overall demonstrate safety initiatives, but used partnerships to promote such measures across networks, according to Ron Waldie, director of capacity building and mission growth for Safe Communities Canada.
"Communities that can document a systematic approach to defining local injury prevention and safety issues, a collaborative process to address them, and a commitment to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts are eligible to be designated as a Safe Community by the World Health Organization's Collaborating Centre on Community Safety Promotion," according to its Web site.
Safe Communities, Waldie said, serves as the certifying center.
He noted that Lycoming was the only county in the state to apply for the designation.
However, he said that should not discount what it means.
Only 58 communities worldwide have received the designation by the organization since 1996.
"It's about communities taking on the issue of safety," he said. "The whole goal is an affirmation of safety in communities."
The county officially will be honored as a Safe Community during a ceremony on a date yet to be determined.
"It was actually an easy call for this designation," Waldie said.
Notes from report
The report noted:
Commitment by Lycoming Engines, Williamsport, to work with a task force for work place safety efforts.
The formation of sustainable partnerships by locating the Susquehanna Health sports medicine facility and the Meck Senior Center in the newly built YMCA building. The partnership among the three community organizations allows each to share resources.
The county's use of a flood warning system to alert businesses, cottage owners and public well in advance of any danger. Flood stations provide information to downstream counties giving them needed time to prepare, alert volunteers and issue community warnings.
Little League Baseball's use and monitoring of worldwide injury data. The report noted that data is used to initiate rules or change equipment requirements as well as to monitor how these changes have reduced or prevented injury.
The South Williamsport Police Department's Project Lifesaver program and the sharing of those resources with other communities. As a result of their efforts, similar lifesaving programs have been developed elsewhere.
It also was noted in the report that the county has demonstrated its participation and interest in safety networks.
World Series operation
Little League also was recognized for its operation of the World Series, an international tournament drawing youths and their families from around the world. Officials said such an event could not occur without Little League and county stakeholders reaching beyond the borders to work together toward the safety of international visitors and guests.
Waldie observed the application process did not come without costs.
An application fee of about $2,300 (in Canadian dollars) covered costs for a review process, administration, a plaque designating the county as a Safe Community as well as travel for two site visitors, he explained.
Additional fees were paid to Creekside Creative Media of Williamsport to serve as consultant and write the application.
Lycoming County District Attorney Eric Lindhardt said his office contributed $4,450 to cover costs.
He said recognition by the World Health Organization as a Safe Community is certainly something of which to be proud.
Coalition takes lead
Not only, he said, is the county recognized as safe from a law enforcement standpoint, the designation can help promote it as a place for business and industry to locate.
Coalition President John Comerford said his group took the lead in pulling together the application efforts along with agencies, businesses and government.
The evaluation team considered such areas as fall prevention, motor vehicle traffic, firearm safety, intentional injury, occupational health, family support and child health services, older adult initiatives, school safety, general safety and school districts.
"We are trying to recruit businesses to our community," he said. "An organization looks at us for quality of life, business, infrastructure. I believe that if a community is designated as a safe community, that stands out."
Chris Smith, chairwoman of the Coalition's Safe Communities Task Force, called the designation a reflection of what the county has done in the realm of safety.
Safe Kids program
The child safety seat check program, conducted by Safe Kids Lycoming County with the Williamsport Bureau of Fire, is an example of such an initiative.
Lycoming Engines is an industry that spent much time creating a "culture of safety," said Scott Witmer, environmental health and safety manager.
"We have been very successful working with the bargaining unit and management in doing it," he said. "We have received safety awards. We have reached over 1 million hours without lost-time accidents. We have been working toward 2 million hours."
The industry, he said, worked to expand welllness programs. Lycoming Engines already provides its employees an on-site walking track in addition to sponoring weight loss and smoking cessation programs.
Plant safety committee
"We have a plant safety committee, plant wellness committee, an ergonomics committee," he added.
Candy Dewar, vice president of Quality and Safety at Susquehanna Health, spoke of the health system's role in addressing safety.
"We have a very comprehensive patient safety program in the health system. We also have an extensive emergency preparedness program which involves close coordination with other community agencies. Special health screenings are conducted in stroke and fall prevention. The Work Center helps companies with implementing wellness programs and injury prevention measures. Finally, our Sports Medicine Program serves our community in sport injury prevention and care," she said.