The Kids are Alright

Republic Services, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is hoping that its new safety program enabled children across the nation to enjoy a happy and harm-free Halloween. Even more than that, the waste firm wants its initiative to keep kids safe from vehicular traffic during the other 364 days in a year.

The company launched its childhood traffic safety program this fall when it sent out letters to approximately 250 elementary schools in its service areas. In the letter, Republic offered to deliver copies of a Halloween-themed safety newsletter for free and to send an expert to lead a school assembly or class discussions about safety.

The four-page, tabloid-sized newsletter, “Safety Stars Report,” contains articles on how to cross the street, the benefits of wearing face paint on Halloween instead of a mask, the reasons to wear a reflective arm band, trucks in the neighborhood and bicycle helmets, among others. Republic wrote the newsletter at a reading level that can be easily understood by elementary school children, Flower says.

Pat Raynor, public information officer for the Dorchester School District Two in South Carolina, says her district ordered 250 newsletters for each of its nine schools. “It's just got great safety tips, things that the children can understand,” she says. “We think it's very appropriate for elementary school-aged children.” Her school district especially likes the section of the newsletter that lists several safety-oriented Web sites, Raynor adds.

Republic focused the newsletter and its in-school presentations on Halloween because it is such a dangerous night for pedestrians, says Mike Cordesman, president and COO for Republic. However, the newsletter emphasizes that the tips it contains are to be applied throughout the year, not just on October 31.

Cordesman says the program is an outgrowth of Republic's emphasis on employee safety. Every few months, the company will dedicate a month to a particular safety topic, he says. In the past, the company has highlighted issues such as backing up vehicles and the problems presented by cold weather. “[The childhood safety program] is an extension of our focus on safety,” he says.

“We view [the childhood safety program] as part of the obligation we have to the communities we serve,” Flower adds.

Flower says the program will be an annual undertaking for Republic. The company will monitor the results of this year's effort and could expand it in the future, he says. “People have been asking us, ‘What else are we going to do?’” Flower says.