When the World Health Organization approved Lycoming County's application earlier this year as a Safe Community, many agencies could take pride in knowing they helped make it happen.
Taking a big role in the collaborative effort was the Lycoming County Heath Improvement Coalition.
Coalition Executive Director Tana DeWire said the organization's 15-year history is "evidence of a long-standing mature collaboration here in the county."
A mock emergency disaster meeting is held at the Williamsport Regional Medical Center.
The group's agenda is to pull together agencies, organizations, health and safety providers and businesses to help make healthier and safer communities.
DeWire was asked to consider the Safe Community designation and what it means for the county.
She referred to the coalition vision statement, which reads in part: "A healthy community where people work together to create a healthy environment. People take responsibility for their actions and for reaching their potential. This community is financially stable with a good economy and jobs that allow everyone to be self-supporting. Every citizen has access to quality, affordable health and social services. It is a safe place. Crime, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse and spouse abuse are not tolerated. Children and parents are excited about their schools, which provide excellent opportunities. Teenage pregnancy and alcohol abuse are rare. There is clean air and water."
Why push for a Safe Community designation?
DeWire said a safe community is one that reflects the passions and commitment of those who not only dream of a place free of injury but who dare to commit to doing something about making it happen.
Businesses, agencies, organizations and individuals are stakeholders in defining the success of a community or a particular service.
Chris Smith, chairwoman of the coalition's Safe Community Task Force, has been involved in a number of programs over the years that target improving communities.
She noted efforts to address older adult fraud and child sexual abuse and work with Safe Kids Lycoming County to offer a child safety seat check program with the Williamsport Bureau of Fire.
"These programs would not happen without this terrific collaboration," she said.
The task force, she explained, will identify a particular project or need within the community. The group will then evaluate available materials and consider what pieces are missing.
"What do we do to make it specific to our area?" she added.
A number of years ago, the group looked at traffic safety with regard to "Confusion Corner" at the entrance to Brandon Park. As many local residents are well aware, the intersection fed by six streets has no traffic light and presents what can only be termed at best an interesting puzzle for motorists.
"People were concerned about safety with kids crossing on the way to school," she said. "We had certain expectations. The majority of children were crossing the way they should. There were some issues with students but not what we thought we'd see."
In fact, studies revealed that there never has been a fatality at the intersection.
Still, problems were addressed.
Through a collaborative effort with the city and state Department of Transportation, crosswalks were repainted and redesigned.
"We got enforcement there during peak times. We initiated several businesses to bring in channeling devices, which are visual reminders. It helps slow down traffic," Smith said.
When the World Health Organization came to Williamsport, it was looking for a workplace that was an example of a safe one.
It needed to look no further than Lycoming Engines.
"We hosted the safe team that came from the World Health Organization," said Scott Witmer, environmental health and safety manager. "They were looking for businesses that had an interest in safety in the work place. Our program focused on employee safety, preventing injuries, sickness. We actually got involved through LCHIC to participate. They invited us to one of their board meetings. They were asking for participants to host a team. We were certainly glad to participate. We were looking for avenues to be involved in the community more. Our focus has always been safety."
The company has received safety awards and reached more than 1 million hours without lost-time accidents.
Lycoming Engines also has worked to expand wellness programs. On site can be found a walking track for employees who can participate in weight loss and smoking cessation programs.
Candy Dewar, administrative director of Quality and Safety at Susquehanna Health, said the health system has participated with the coalition since the organization's inception.
"Years ago there was actually a survey done with needs in our community. Based on the survey, we realized access to health care and dental care (was a need), and it led to development of the community health center. We continue to be actively involved in many of the initiatives through LCHIC," she said.