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Safe Kids: A Local and Worldwide Goal

Alexandria Fire Department's "Risk Watch Program" took on an international perspective last week when representatives of Safe Kids Worldwide joined in a fire safety presentation at a local elementary school.

Richard Sisler, the Department's public education officer, was joined by Lim Seung Ji, from Korea, and Monica Cui of China, in his continuing efforts to educate children about fire prevention and overall safety. The two were representatives of Safe Kids Worldwide, a newly established organization dedicated to preventing "unintentional injuries" to children.

It is an offshoot of the National Safe Kids Campaign based in Washington, D.C. Members recently completed their first global meeting in the nation's capital.

The mission of the campaign is to develop programs to address preventable injuries as a result of car and bike crashes, drowning, falls, fire, poison and other risks that lead to the death of children worldwide. The two Asian delegates joined Sisler to receive a firsthand example of an education program geared to fire prevention and safety.

Ji serves as research and program director of Safe Kids in Seoul, Korea, and Cui is the Safe Kids project manager in Shanghai, China. "They wanted to see how we presented our education programs in the schools," Sisler explained. "We are now implementing this throughout the Alexandria school system at the first-grade level."

Cui was particularly interested in the fire safety program. "We are implementing a fire safety program throughout China as part of our public outreach. We have started it in six cities at the kindergarten level," she said.

IN KOREA THE Safe Kids program is concentrating on pedestrian safety, according to Ji. "This is a major problem for us with children being injured or killed in traffic situations," she noted. "We need a lot more education at the various grade levels."

Cui has served as a teacher and public affairs officer in China, while Ji has been involved with health education and previously worked for a local safe community project. "There are 10 Safe Kids coalitions operating in Korea," Ji explained.

The U.S. campaign has 300 coalitions nationwide, according to Jacquie Dukehart, program assistant, Safe Kids Worldwide, who accompanied Ji and Cui on their visit to Alexandria. "We have 14 member countries and organizations in every state," Dukehart clarified.

"We want our international representatives to understand how the national program operates, since it has been so successful. The goal is to reduce unintentional injury of any nature to children worldwide," she said.

That goal has had significant results nationally since the Safe Kids Campaign was first established in 1987, according to Heather Paul, CEO. "We have seen a 37-percent decline in the child death rate due to accidents in the past 15 years," she said. "Based on that success, we wanted to create a network of worldwide organizations."

ACCORDING TO Safe Kids Worldwide, "In the developing world, where 98 percent of all injuries occur, approximately 1 million children under the age of 15 die each year from preventable injury. Tens of millions suffer from long-term consequences of injuries."

The original founder of the Safe Kids Campaign was Dr. Michael Eichelberger, head of the burn unit and trauma services at the Children’s National Medical Center. Dr. C. Everett Koop served as the organization's first chairman, according to Paul.

Original funding came from a $1 million grant by Johnson and Johnson, which remains an active sponsor. It has been joined by the Toy Industry Association Inc.

The national campaign has 300 coalitions and 200 chapters with representation in every state, according to Paul. "The firefighters are a core coalition of ours around the nation," she said.

"Risk Watch" is an all injury prevention program for children from preschool through the eighth grade, according to Sisler. "It is designed to help children and families create a safe home and community by teaching them skills and giving them the knowledge they need to make positive safety choices," he explained.

Joining the fire department in the Alexandria coalition are Embassy Suites Hotel, Inova Alexandria Hospital, the Alexandria Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Pilot Club, Sisler said. It was a program developed by the National Fire Protection Association.

The overall program encompasses eight safety topics: motor vehicles; fire and burn prevention; choking, suffocation and strangulation; poison prevention; falls prevention; firearms injuries prevention; bike and pedestrian safety; and water safety.