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Safety Village Prepares Youngsters for Life-Threatening Events

September 4, 2013

Originally published on Oct. 3, 2011

One little girl never imagined a simple field trip to the Cobb County Safety Village would arm her with tools to help her in an emergency, but that is exactly what happened. When the eight year-old and her mom found themselves in a potentially life -threatening situation, she quickly recalled lessons learned at “Sparky’s House” about how to make a 911 call. After describing what was going on and providing the details requested from the 911 operator, she tearfully relayed that she knew exactly what to do because she’d learned it at the Safety Village.

“There is never a dry eye when the Safety Village staff and other community leaders hear this 911 recording – they know we are making a difference in the lives of children every single day,” said Tony Wheeler, Director of Cobb County’s 911 Center.

Life changing lessons are taught to Cobb County and Marietta City Schools students on a daily basis at the Cobb County Safety Village. The Safety Village is an eight-acre, reduced-scale replica of Cobb County designed to provide a unique learning experience for children and their families. Prior to its 2009 opening, students in kindergarten, second and fourth grades relied on firefighters, police officers and health professionals visiting their classroom to present health, safety, and emergency education.

Recognizing this as an opportunity to provide effective public health and emergency preparedness messages to some of the youngest and most impressionable county residents, the Cobb & Douglas Public Health (CDPH) team took steps to become part of this one of a kind initiative.

Utilizing grant funding, Cobb Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) staff designed a six-part education project that provided safety and preparedness training that aligns with local, state, and federal readiness guidelines. “This was no small feat, by any stretch of the imagination, but I knew our team of professionals was up to the task,” said Pam Blackwell, EPR Director at Cobb & Douglas Public Health.

In a special building dedicated to public health education called The Public Health Experience, highly interactive, state-of-the-art technology leads children through hands-on activities including preparing for an emergency, proper hand washing, immunizing against flu viruses, and an interactive encounter with cartoon character “Annie Anthrax.” Although the initial system consists of six modules that can be used independently or as a group, the system has the capability to add other modules to encompass new and emerging public health topics.

More than 20,000 Cobb 2nd and 4th grade students will be educated in the upcoming 2011-12 school year and thousands of other children also visit annually. “We are especially excited because as part of the Cobb County’s Safety Village, key public health messages are now part of Cobb County Schools’ and Marietta City Schools’ required curriculum,” said Lisa Crossman, Director of Clinical and Prevention Services, CDPH and Cobb Safety Village Foundation Executive Board Member.

The CDPH building itself was funded by the local CDPH Board of Directors through discretionary dollars, and designed by a local architect who donated his services. The interior interactive technology portion of the project went from concept to completion in approximately six months, and included everything from research of the desired technology and development of educational modules to creation and collaboration of characters and writing of scripts. The new interactive technology was purchased with the CDC-funded Cities Readiness Initiative Grant and is infrared-powered.

“In EPR, we are always looking for ways to educate our entire community and clearly understand the value in educating and involving our children. They take these messages home where there’s a much greater and lasting impact on the entire family,” said Kelly Mullins, EPR Training & Development Specialist at CDPH. “When we think about how many family members receive these educational messages, we consider this a win-win in terms of educating our community about emergency preparedness and other public health topics.”

For more information about the CDPH Safety Village building, contact Mandy Arnold at msarnold@dhr.state.ga.us.