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Sullivan County and its cities honored with Safe Community designation

During a ceremony today at Food City on Clichfield Street, Mayors Dennis Phillips of Kingsport, David Shumaker of Bristol and Steve Godsey of Sullivan County will accept a “Safe Community” designation from Safe Communities International.
The designation, a first in the state and one of only 19 in the nation, represents a significant achievement on the part of Sullivan County and its communities, as well as an example to other communities for best practices that promote safety.
The Safe Communities program provides a structure, administrative support and experience in injury prevention in an effort to make our communities safer.
Injuries at play, at work and on our roads are the leading cause of death among Americans ages 1 to 41 and the fifth leading cause of death overall. In 2008, the latest comprehensive statistics available there were 118,000 injury-related deaths and 25,700 disabling injuries. One out of every nine Americans in that year sought medical attention for their injuries.
Safe Communities International is a service of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Centre on Community Safety Promotion.
Melissa Hamilton, Holston Valley Medical Center’s injury prevention outreach and disaster management coordinator, spearheaded the effort with assistance from the Kingsport Area Safety Council which has representatives from several local organizations such as Wellmont Health System, Domtar, BAE Systems and Eastman Chemical Co.
“One of the really great things during the application process was witnessing so many people coming together,” Hamilton says. “Everyone recognized how important and significant this ism and the designation shows how united Sullivan County is.”
During today’s ceremony, Donna Stein-Harris from the National Safety Council’s Chicago chapter will issue Sullivan County’s Safe Community proclamation to Mayors Phillips, Shumaker and Godsey.
Sullivan County earned the Safe Community designation after a three-year application process that began when the Tennessee Governors Commission Council for Injury Prevention recognized local agencies for their efforts in teen driving education. As part of this recognition, the council received a grant to work with a community in the state to pursue a Safe Communities America designation.
The Application process was completed last October, when site visitors from Safe Communities International visited Sullivan County. During their two-day tour, the inspectors, one from Ontario and one from Missouri, toured Sullivan County’s fire, police and emergency medical departments as well as major local organizations such as Eastman and Bristol Motor Speedway.
“There is a genuine passion from everyone involved,” the site inspectors’ report states. “This is a testament to the collaboration that the Kingsport Area Safety Council and Sullivan County have developed over the years.”
The Inspectors’ visit reinforced information Hamilton gathered for the application. They gauged Sullivan County for its injury prevention efforts, including efforts by local businesses to keep employees safe at work.
“Working at Holston Valley, I knew how dedicated our emergency medical services, fire department and police departments are,” Hamilton says. “But it wasn’t until I start doing the Safe Community application that I realized how involved our local businesses and industry are. As a nurse, it was really amazing to see all these other people who cared about safety and injury prevention.”
The application also included analysis of how Sullivan County’s emergency medical services work in concert with hospitals such as Holston Valley and Bristol Regional Medical Center to provide prompt medical attention to any casualties that occur in the area. According to the Safe Community application, the highest-occurring injuries in Sullivan County are motor vehicle collisions, falls and poisonings.
“The Safe Community label doesn’t mean the people never get injured here,” Hamilton explains. “It means we recognize there are opportunities for improvement and do something to make our county safer.”
Sullivan County will submit an annual safety report each year, and its Safe Community standing must be renewed every five years. The designation can increase Sullivan County’s exposure for safety grants and awards and make the area more attractive to new residents and businesses.
Hats off to Melissa Hamilton and Sullivan County’s communities for making safety a priority. Through efforts like these, our businesses and neighborhoods are safer place to live, work and play.