Rural Leadership North Dakota


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Ensuring a Safer Community One Battery at a Time

by Mary Siverson

Mary SiversonOne of the reasons I applied for the RLND class was to have an avenue to bring to realization my project that had been an idea for some time. The “Project Idea” section was the first part of the RLND application I completed.

Working with the elderly population for the majority of my adult life, I often wondered how or if safety tasks were carried out by folks who are trying to stay independent in their homes.  Witnessing three fires in my neighborhood prompted me to get my thoughts into actions.

“Change your Clock Change your Batteries” campaign was started in 1987 by the Energizer Battery Company as a pilot program in St. Louis and Atlanta. This program is currently the most widely used fire safety public education program in the nation. Concerned about the ability to physically or financially check and replace batteries for citizens, I found the Energizer Program was waning and decide to revitalize a program that twice a year has a positive impact on the safety of our communities. This project will be an on-going campaign to keep our communities safer.

The first phase of my project was not at all like I had envisioned. I was turned down by five community organizations, which puzzled me and forced me into new directions. At that time, I did a lot of adapting and refocusing. There was an unexpected positive partnership; Gloria Odden had been in a social work class where I gave a presentation for RSVP+ (my place of employment) she called to ask about an opportunity to assist in a community needs project for her senior level social work class. Her assistance with ideas and research proved to be a valuable learning experience while fulfilling her class requirements. This was collaboration at its finest!

I had my finger on the pulse of this entire project as Gloria and I did all the research, media, volunteer recruitment, calls to schedule homeowner visits, and event plans. These tasks would normally be split among committees. With the knowledge gained, I can better map out all the steps and time commitments required for success in future campaigns. These unanticipated consequences will provide a better summary for presentations to other community organizations. I have not abandoned that portion of my original thought process.

I have never thought of myself as a connector in my community. However, I was pleasantly pleased at all the connections I had at my fingertips to seek out volunteers and homeowner recipients, who would benefit from for my smoke alarm safety check. Leadership growth acknowledged in my aha moment.

On Saturday, March 13th, the weekend daylight savings time began a small group of 14 volunteers including social work student, Gloria and RLND classmate, Jennifer Weisgerber checked 142 smoke alarms in 47 homes, and installed 10 new smoke detectors.  The safety crew provided fresh batteries for smoke alarms and 11 carbon monoxide detectors. The group found non- functioning smoke detectors due to broken wires, old or missing batteries, and alarms that had not been checked due to their high location. Community residents were provided a brochure on fire safety that included local fire statistics and safety tips provided by Ronald J. Kunda, Fire Marshal from the Bismarck Fire Department. Providing technical information on smoke detectors was Kent Fischer from Border States Electric.

My preliminary plan was to map out the process in the Bismarck-Mandan communities then take the plan to rural communities during subsequent time changes later this fall and next spring. That phase of my project is still a work-in-progress.

I am very pleased with the number of homeowners my small band of dedicated volunteers were able to impact.

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