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EESF Annual Meeting

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Safe-T Rider poses with members of EESF and students

The Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) held its annual meeting in Atlanta to cover a broad array of issues.

The annual Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) meeting was held January 31-February 1 at the Hilton Atlanta Airport in Atlanta. The event began with a Tuesday morning visit to Liberty Point Elementary, where EESF Chairman Rob Merlo spoke to the school’s second-grade classes about elevator and escalator safety and presented the Safe-T Rider© video.

The students were well behaved, attentive and excited to learn. During Merlo’s opening presentation, the children were eager to participate, asking and answering questions. When it came time to roll the video, the children paid close attention and laughed where appropriate, and some even nodded along to the beat of Safe-T Rider’s message. At the close of the video, Merlo administered a verbal test to the children to gauge how well they grasped the information presented. The class scored 100%, displaying the effectiveness of the Safe-T Rider video. 

Steve Romnes, president of Vertitron Midwest, Inc. (ELEVATOR WORLD, January 2012) was charged with the task of donning Safe-T Rider’s yellow overalls to entertain the students as the program’s feline mascot. As soon as Safe-T Rider danced his way into the auditorium, the kids went wild. Safe-T Rider worked the room, shaking hands and giving high-fives, as the children awaited their chance to snap a photo with the safety-minded icon. As things calmed, EESF members provided students with Safe-T Rider activity books. If students completed the booklet and returned it to school the next day, they would receive a class pizza party, a potential reward that elicited a resounding cheer from the children.

That afternoon saw a number of closed-door meetings, including the EESF of Canada (EESFC) board meeting, EESF new board member orientation, executive board meeting and personnel committee meeting. The successful first day was rounded off by an opening reception held in the evening in one of the Hilton’s many ballrooms. A jovial atmosphere permeated the room, with members meeting, mingling and catching up.

Merlo gave a brief presentation, welcoming and thanking everyone for their attendance. He recognized the organization’s outgoing fundraising chairman, Dean McLellan, and introduced Paul Horney, the incoming fundraising chairman. Horney spoke briefly, providing background on his career and the impact of the Safe-T Rider program in his children’s lives. He acknowledged how the current economic climate can make it difficult to raise money but that it is more important than ever to do so. As a father and soon-to-be grandparent, he recognizes the program’s importance and would one day like to see it reach teens, as well.

The annual general membership meeting began at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, led by Merlo. The board meeting was shortened significantly to accommodate a strategic planning session scheduled to begin later in the morning and continue through the afternoon. Because of the time constraint, the meeting’s pace was brisk and efficient.

EESF is on track to meet its goal of educating 500,000 students for this year. As of the meeting, 352,778 students had been reached. The organization has until June to reach its goal, with many more school districts left to cover. Some discussion arose regarding an enhanced program verification method to ensure materials, once sent to schools, are actually administered. A former teacher-incentive program, which received strong feedback, may be re-implemented in the future.

The topic of updating the program arose when a few members mentioned some, though a minority, of the feedback received in recent years claimed the program is out of date due to the different ways children learn now compared to when the video was created. The board agreed to take the matter into consideration. 

Other topics included an update on the status of EESF’s website. The full Safe-T Rider video is now available on EESF’s website (www.eesf.org). Ways to drive more people to the site, including links to the page and improved promotion, were discussed.

A review of the 2011 National Elevator Escalator Safety Awareness Week (ELEVATOR WORLD, February 2011) was covered. The event was a success, with new states and cities showing their support, including Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City. Members proposed using Safety Week proclamations endorsed by state governors and mayors as a way to potentially get the Safe-T Rider program into more schools in the officials’ respective regions. Many agreed it was an idea worth exploring and planned to look into developing a process to make it happen.

During committee reports, the executive committee made it known that they understood the program’s challenges and planned to address them. The committee believes there are untapped resources that could be used to improve the program and feels the organization is falling short in the execution of implementing its plan, which includes material distribution and fundraising. The committee hoped to refocus the plan during the strategic planning session to improve communication and accountability.

Several budgetary options were presented for the 2012/2013 year, with a moderate budget recommended. This choice would see the goal of reaching children through the Safe-T Rider program scaled back to 500,000 and a moderate deficit. Members agreed to accept the moderate budget for the time being and revisit it at a future meeting.

McLellan spoke briefly on EESF’s fundraising prospects. The fundraising goal for 2012 was US$300,000, with 85% of the funds raised. McLellan believes the organization should explore other avenues of funding and not rely as heavily on large companies for support. With fundraising duties now turned over to Horney, Merlo presented McLellan with an award for his service.

Due to time constraints, the meeting temporarily adjourned so the strategic planning session could begin. EESF members were grouped at individual tables by departments – marketing, two tables; fundraising, two tables; and programs, one table. Led by Jane Sanders, a motivational speaker and strategic planner, the goal of the session was for members to build a firm, refined plan with a clear focus and structure of the path the organization should follow and how it could achieve its goals.

The session began with members sharing basic information with each other – their birthplace, first job and first pet. Then, a set of session rules that all members had to adhere to were set forth – timeliness, respect and participation. Sanders played several humorous YouTube clips for attendees, since “laughter is the doorway to brainstorming.” Groups then appointed leaders and began working to improve EESF’s existing strategic plan, which was created in 2009. Groups had 50 min. to work through the plan, during which time Sanders reminded them of various barriers to be mindful of, i.e., funding, manpower, and people’s preconceptions of the program. Before time was up, each table had devised a list of their revisions and additions to the plan.

Next, group leaders presented their proposed plans, with other members chiming in with questions and comments. Many of the presentations addressed concerns mentioned during the morning’s general meeting. Proposals addressed improving the EESF website, with a goal of using social media and the web more effectively. Concerns over modernizing the Safe-T Rider program arose again. More than 10 years have passed since the program was last updated. It was agreed that a focus group comprised of teachers who administered Safe-T Rider in the past would be formed to evaluate the program. Their responses, coupled with viewer comments, would be taken into consideration to decide how best to proceed.

Sanders acted as a mediator between the groups as they discussed and worked through proposals. At the end of each presentation, members were allowed to approach the lists and place sticker dots beside topics with which they agreed. Topics that received the most votes would have primary focus. 

Once all proposals were presented, Sanders gave the groups a short break. Each table blindly chose an item from a bag, inside which was a matchbook, decaffeinated coffee packet, bottle of liquid paper, pen and string. Groups then had to devise how their object related to EESF. The groups performed admirably, rising to the challenge.

Under another 50-min. time limit, Sanders had each group develop an action plan for ways of achieving each of their proposed objectives, complete with deadlines and required resources named. The teams then presented their action plans, which once again led to group debates that resulted in each plan elaborated upon even further.

Action plans for website improvement called for a better search ranking and quarterly e-mail newsletters. Plans to raise the organization’s profile included the creation of multimedia messages, such as public-service announcements, to spread awareness about elevator and escalator safety. Other proposals for raising awareness about EESF included reaching outside the industry for support and potentially advertising or seeking publicity in other industry publications, such as construction and architecture magazines.

Once the strategic planning session wound down, the general board meeting reconvened in the early evening to discuss the few remaining matters of business. EESFC is currently working to translate the Safe-T Rider activity book into French, though the video has been successfully translated. A lengthy discussion ensued over adding term limits to board positions in an attempt to revitalize the organization by bringing in new members with fresh ideas. Finally, Vinnie Moscato was presented with an award for his service, and the meeting adjourned once the new directors and alternates were sworn in.

With the meeting wrapped up, attendees met at the hotel’s Finish Line Bar and Grill to enjoy dinner in a relaxing atmosphere. The 2012 meeting was well attended, with many lively discussions and new ideas put forth. The 2013 annual meeting will be held in February in Atlanta.

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