Utility ‘Safety Village’ Educates, Entertains Schoolchildren
August 11, 2010
Getting youngsters interested in safety can be a lot like persuading them to eat their vegetables. That’s why Dave Morris and Chris Evans employ a novel approach: wowing elementary students with a massive replica of a city, including miniature electric cars that students can drive and life-like models of power lines and substations.
The Toronto Local 636 linemen work with a coalition of organizations that takes a “portable safety village” from school to school, essentially holding residence in each elementary gymnasium for a full week of fun and engaging lessons. The 40- by 50-foot wide village features three-dimensional replicas of a school, a police station, a fire station and other familiar landmarks.
“It’s been a great tool to get kids interested in safety,” Morris said. “The parents, teachers, administrators and students all love it.”
Each of the Orillia Power employees presentations feature a short video depicting boys and girls who learn to navigate away from potentially dangerous situations involving electricity. Students also get to try on safety equipment like insulating gloves and hardhats, and they watch an eye-popping demonstration of what can happen if a child’s kite veers too close to a power line.
In the exercise, the instructor moves a replica kite into an energized line. The children usually emit a collective “Whoa!” when the cable shoots a small spark into the air.
“We want to be realistic about potential electrical dangers in their community,” Evans said. “When they see the kite flying into the power lines and hear the crackle of electricity, their eyes get as large as saucers. It’s a big hit, and they walk away with helpful information.”
Younger students also get the chance to sit behind the wheel of miniature electric cars and drive them on roads through the city – with an emphasis on obeying traffic signs and taking note of potential hazards.
Other organizations and companies that have teamed up on the initiative include local and provincial utilities, police and fire departments. Evans and Morris work in schools on Mondays, and representatives from the other groups round out the week-long lessons.
“This never would have been possible without the local groups coming together for a common cause,” Morris said. “Our company has been extremely supportive as well in encouraging us to do this.”