School buses rolled into the Lee K. Nelson Outdoor Learning Lab in western Kentucky one sunny morning last August. All the 5th-graders in Union County gathered amid the split-log benches and nature trails for a day of demonstrations that could save their lives.
The fifth annual Union County Outdoor Safety Day brought together more than 250 students and adults to learn how to be safe around electricity, water, fire, guns, horses, grain bins, and all-terrain vehicles.
It’s a day the community is proud of, says Bill Holbrook, who chairs the safety committee of the Union County Farm Bureau. “A lot of kids don’t realize the hazards until you explain it to them and show it to them,” he says.
The pride comes not just from the safety message, but from the way the county came together to create the event. More than a dozen groups, companies, and volunteers pitched in, including the Union County Farm Bureau, the state Fish and Wildlife Service, the Conservation District, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Union County’s Safety Day covers an unusual number of topics. And it’s unique in targeting all the fifth-graders at once. But county safety programs have become pretty standard around the state.
Every county in Kentucky holds some safety event, says Dale Dobson, Farm and Home Safety project manager for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Dobson should know. In 1998 Agriculture Commissioner Billy Ray Smith gave him the job of holding a safety event in each county.
Dobson met Smith’s goal. He credits the achievement to “everybody working together,” from state networks to county organizations. Now Dobson travels the state presenting safety programs at the local events.
“In 1995 Kentucky had 48 ag-related deaths and 13 of those were children 16 or younger,” says Dobson. “In 2000 there were 17 deaths in agriculture accidents, and none of those involved anyone under 17 years old. Now you tell me whether these safety programs are doing some good.”
Dobson helped open the Union County Safety Day with a bit of attention-getting razzle-dazzle. Presenters staged a crash of an all-terrain vehicle, including a fly-in by a rescue helicopter from St. Mary’s Hospital in Evansville, Indiana.
Union County’s Safety Day offered 10 separate presentations on different types of safety. And it took place in a nature preserve built for outdoor education, by many of the same sponsors that support Safety Day.
It all moved Cindy Loxley, a teacher at Sturgis Elementary School, to say, “If these children learned nothing else, they learned that there’s a community that cares about them.”
Fire safety tips
From Earl H. Woods, Morganfield Fire Chief
All-terrain vehicle safety tips
From Bill Collins, Union County Farm Bureau member
Bicycle safety tips
From Brandi Thomas, Union County 4-H Agent
Gun safety tips
From Greg Noel, Union County Wildlife & Boating Officer, Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife
Water safety tips
From Rick Minton, Henderson County Sergeant, Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife
Horse safety tips
From Sheree Hardesty, Union County 4-H Leader
High-voltage electricity safety tips
From Greg Morgan, Director of Safety, Big Rivers Electric Co-op, Henderson
Grain bin safety tips
From Vicki Shadrick, Webster County Agent