By Bill Robinson
The World Health Organization has designated Madison County as an International Safe Community, based on collaborative efforts to keep citizens safe.
WHO, the public health arm of the United Nations, notified Madison County Judge/Executive Kent Clark and Lloyd Jordison, director of the Madison County Safety Coalition, last month of its decision.
Madison is one of no more than 10 counties in the United States, and the first in Kentucky, to receive the designation.
The Safe Community label indicates that “Madison County has acquired the capacity to take thoughtful and strategic action to reduce the frequency and severity of injuries … and add value to the life of every one of its citizens,” stated Paul Kells, WHO’s Safe Communities chief for North America in a letter to Clark.
Representatives of WHO’s North American office in Canada visited Madison County last year to get a look at a wide range of efforts coordinated by the coalition, Jordison told the county health board this past Wednesday.
WHO officials will be in Richmond March 23 to present the county with a certificate in a ceremony at Madison Central High School, Jordison said.
That is the same day the high school will stage its annual Ghost Out, a dramatic exercise in which students are randomly singled out by a figure dressed as the Grim Reaper and pronounced “dead” by Madison County Coroner Jimmy Cornelison from injuries suffered in an alcohol-related automobile accident.
The Ghost Out, which is done at all local high schools, is one example of many collaborative efforts by local officials and groups, in this case, the school districts and the coroner’s office, coordinated by the coalition, Jordison said.
Such multiple and diverse partnerships and programs are a main criterion for the Safe Community designation, according to Kells’ letter.
“The work of the Madison County Safety Coalition has already saved and will continue to save lives,” he stated.
“Madison County is blessed by the way people and agencies work together to make our community a safe place to live, especially for our young people,” said Jordison, a health department nurse. “The level of interest and cooperation by law enforcement, the school districts, the court system, the school districts, the colleges, the hospitals, the health department and others here is amazing.”
Jordison, a native of California who came to Madison County to attend Berea College and holds degrees from Eastern Kentucky University, spearheaded creation of the safety coalition in 2000 in response to a series of traffic fatalities. The goal is to create a “culture of safety,” he said.
One of the organization’s objectives is to discourage risk-taking behaviors by teenagers.
In addition to the Ghost Out, an annual Battle of the Belts is another of the coalition’s many activities. Students in EKU’s nursing department observe automobiles as high school students leave their campuses to document the percentage who wear seat belts. The school with the highest percentage is recognized as the Battle of the Belts champion.
Madison County probably distributes more infant automobile seats, per capita, than any other Kentucky county, Jordison said.
“We don’t just distribute the seats and encourage their use,” he said, “we also provide a large amount of instruction in their proper use.”
WHO officials also were impressed by the coordinated response of local agencies to last year’s ice storm and tornado, Jordison said.
Although two people were killed by the tornado, the county suffered no fatalities from the ice storm.
Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@
richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.