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EESF’s New Cast of Characters

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The Foundation’s superheroes are here to save the day.

photos by Lee Freeland and John Dimaio

Meet Safe T Boy and Safe T Girl. These undercover superheroes—sans capes, mind you—teach riders to be safe and sound on elevators and escalators. They are the result of a year-long rebranding process the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation undertook to tailor its hallmark Safe-T Rider program for a new generation. The new safety advocates first saw the light of day at a special preview party at the recent annual National Association of Elevator Contractors’ (NAEC) convention and exposition in Boston (p. 66). Raising US$17,820, the event was deemed a success. During the expo, EESF Program Director Laurie Dueitt said, “I had the occasional, ‘You killed the cat!’ No, we didn’t—he’s retired in Hawaii.” Also at the NAEC convention, the Elevator Riders Riding Club raised an additional US$840 at its Poker Run, which was split with winner Walter McNally of Brooklyn, New York.

Change Is Gonna Come

The impetus for rebranding the program came from stakeholders who believed the original 1993 character and content were out of date. We shouldn’t be surprised. Media and technology have seen a tremendous increase in the rate of change over the past two decades. EESF Chairperson Tom Sybert says, “It was time to refresh the Safe-T Rider program and bring it into a space that children are learning in.” According to Dueitt, the children also knew it was time: “My eight-year old grandchild would ask, ‘What are those things on her legs?’ They’re leg warmers—no, they don’t wear them anymore.”

Like any artistic process, rebranding the program did not happen overnight. EESF Executive Director Nikole Gore-Layton is grateful to the industry, especially over the past year:

“We have a very supportive industry, and we’ve been very fortunate with our fundraising for the program. People are very supportive of EESF and that’s really nice to know. Everything took a little longer than expected, and that’s okay, because we ended up with a great program.”

In addition to the new hero and heroine, EESF is also revamping Rise Up Safe Rider for college students and A Safe Ride for elderly people, and producing a brand new initiative, the Ambassadors for Riding Safely, for building personnel and employees at malls, transits, airports and sporting arenas. This new program will help meet a need that has recently been recognized as a problem at the international level.

The new characters have the distinct advantage of being superheroes. Two-dimensional animated superheroes are popular with children. “Superheroes are, for lack of a better word, ‘hot’ right now. From the Avengers movie series to The Incredibles and comic-book comebacks, you see superheroes all over the place,” says EESF board member Sasha Bailey of ThyssenKrupp. So, in keeping with what kids are seeing on television and online, EESF worked with 2×4, a graphic-arts company, to create something fresh and eye-catching.

The medium in which Safe T Riders materials are accessed has also been updated. The Foundation is shifting to digital. Print materials will still be available, but most teachers and students will be interacting with Safe T Boy and Safe T Girl online on their mobile devices. In the past, it has been challenging for EESF to get the programs into schools, because it was in competition with other campaigns. While that challenge still remains, the new program can be pushed out to specific cities and markets and delivered directly to families through social media. In addition to reaching more children, this is a more cost-effective strategy. While digital media will ensure a broader audience, Dueitt is concerned about children’s retention level of the information. School personnel have told her their children need print materials to learn the safety message. Digital content is fleeting. But, she is optimistic, saying, “We’re going to try to do it digitally and see what happens.”

Heroes and Heroines

The vertical-transportation industry stands to benefit from the new program. Gore-Layton says:

“We’re educating their consumers. It’s a huge liability for them if someone gets hurt on machinery. To be able to educate—whether it’s children or adults or university students—a little bit further is just another added layer of protection.”

Dueitt notes that the program serves as a preventative. If building managers or school principals have shared the materials with their people, “they’ve done their due diligence.”

EESF could use some help promoting Safe T Riders to school teachers and industry companies and members. Bailey says:

“In the past, some people have been reluctant to point people towards the previous program, because it was not updated. The new rebrand and relaunch of the whole EESF safety suite will allow for the industry to have current materials with a fresh look and feel to direct customers, media, education outlets and other stakeholders to.”

The EESF is funded in multiple ways: through direct contributions, companies matching pledges from their employees and even an account on AmazonSmile.com. It would like to develop DVDs and an activity book for the program, but that requires more funding.

The rebranding process was not easy, but Foundation members have committed to ensuring the success of the program by agreeing to update it every five to seven years. Gore-Layton says, “We’ve got a really solid program, as it stands right now, but everything has to change sometime, whether it’s a small change or a huge change.” With various company safety initiatives and programs, industry leaders would like to see a united effort behind the Foundation. Sybert says, “If the EESF is going to be the leading source for how to ride elevators, escalators and moving walks safely, we need to enlist firms in this space to help us figure out what makes sense for the program.”

EESF is confident the program will help achieve the goal of reaching millions of kids with its safety message. The Foundation is relying on Safe T Boy and Safe T Girl just as much as it looks to the many heroes and heroines who serve the industry every day.

You can watch the new Safe T Riders video at www.eesf.org/safety/safetyeducation/safe-t-rider-elementary-classroom-program.  

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