Wellington County Safe Communities Committee sets priority list

Wellington County’s Safe Communities  Committee took another step toward national recognition, with an estimated 60 local  participants taking part in a morning exercise here on Nov. 22.

The exercise included students and representatives from the Upper Grand District School Board, Wellington County Catholic School Board, emergency responders, Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health Unit, county fire departments, Wellington County OPP, Guelph Police Services, municipal COPs and safe community groups, county and municipal politicians and staff, Cowan Insurance Company, McDonalds restaurants and Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece.

The exercise reached consensus on priority areas the committee will focus on in its goal to prevent accidents and fatalities and become designated as a national Safe Community.

“The priority exercise was step four in a 10-step process to become designated a ‘Safe Community’ which we hope to attain by late spring or early summer in 2013,” said committee co-chairman and county councillor Gary Williamson.

Over 60 municipalities in Canada have received the designation but, if successful, Wellington County will be the first county designated.

The priority exercise was based on the most recent accident data provided by the health unit for 2005–2009. The statistics dealt with incidents involving pedestrians and cyclists, on and off road motor vehicle accidents, agriculture and machinery accidents, Sports and recreation accidents, falls, accidental poisonings and intentional self harm. The statistics were provided by Ishan Angra of the health unit and included deaths in each category, potential years of life lost (based on the age of the victim subtracted from the average lifespan of 75 years) emergency department visits, hospitalization and length of time spent in a hospital.

Ranked as a top priority by the group was falls. During the four-year period statistics show falls resulted in 60 fatalities, 14,869 emergency department calls and 1,821 hospitalizations with 12,679 days spent in hospital.

Motor vehicle accidents were ranked second by the group. During the time frame accidents resulted in 39 fatalities, 3,419 emergency department responses and 336 hospitalizations resulting in 2,212 days in hospital.

Intentional self harm, including attempted suicides,  was chosen as the third priority for the committee, with 27 fatalities during the four-year period, which resulted in 612 emergency department responses, 248 hospitalizations and 663 days spent in hospital.

In fourth place on the priority list was Sports and recreation, which saw five fatalities with 4,282 emergency responses, 87 hospitalizations and 315 days spent in hospital.

Agriculture and machinery accidents was chosen as the fifth overall priority with five fatalities. The category resulted in 2,202 emergency department responses, 47 hospitalizations and 188 days spent in hospital.

“There are many community leaders and community organizations, both professional and volunteers, that work very hard every day to ensure that their communities and Wellington County are safe and healthy places in which to live, work and play,” the county committee stated in a press release. “The designation of ‘Safe Communities Wellington County,’ will help us officially recognize, to our residents and visitors, the valuable contributions being made today and in the future.”

High school interested

Wellington Heights Secondary School teacher Adam Rowdan brought four Grade 11 students to the exercise and said the Mount Forest high school would be interested in having a member on the county committee.

“If they (the committee) are interested in having a student as part of the committee, it would be good,” he said.

Williamson said, “It was also very important for the students to participate in the exercise. The priority exercise was about the future and since youth makes up approximately 20 percent of the population, but are 100% of our future, their input is tremendously important.”

“The county Safe Communities Committee will be working closely with the local COPs and safe community committees and we encourage the public to become involved and to join their local committee to help reduce injuries within Wellington County. It does not require a huge time commitment.”

Williamson said the committee is looking for representation from other county high schools in addition to Wellington Heights.

The county committee will also work with municipal committees.

“It is important to point out that the safe community initiative does not want in anyway to diminish the importance of any injury prevention programs that are currently being provided through other agencies or committees within the county,” Williamson added.

Warden Chris White said county support is essential.

“If we get that (national) designation it’s another indication of what the county can do,” White said. “Whether it’s safety on the streets, safety in the workplace, it’s something that will come with the county.”

Economic development officer Jana Reichert, who acted as mediator for the exercise, said “injury prevention is a priority for the county.”