Alaskan ASSE Members Join Coast Guard in Reaching Rural Communities With Key Safety Information
Fairbanks, AK (July 20, 2010) — In an effort to increase safety in rural Alaskan communities, members of the American Society of Safety Engineers’ Midnight Sun Chapter, out of Fairbanks, joined with the Alaskan Coast Guard Auxiliary recently to visit and educate, for the first time, rural residents in villages located along the Yukon River. Titled the ‘Yukon Coastie 2010’ project, Midnight Sun Chapter member, former chapter president, and student section faculty advisor Marie M. Scholle, CSP, joined with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) in providing safety and health education to the residents as well as demonstrating safety with ‘Coastie – the Safety Boat’. Coastie is a remote controlled robot boat used for youth education and boating safety programs.
“The people we met were amazing. They are very friendly and eager to listen. This was the first time in the country that the Coast Guard Auxiliary developed and implemented a program like this. We were able to reach hundreds of rural residents and provide information on how to stay safe on the water, at work and at home, in person. The ASSE Midnight Sun Chapter was very pleased to be a part of this historical two-week event,” Scholle, both a member of ASSE and the Auxiliary, said. “It was such a success plans are already being made for future trips.”
These efforts by members of ASSE, occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals, helps the U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary, District 17, in their ongoing efforts to develop rural community outreach programs and meet the chapter’s, and the SH&E professional’s, goal to protect people, property and the environment.
Many months prior to the trip, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary met with tribal and community village leaders to obtain permission to go to their villages and also to discuss opportunities on providing key safety education to residents in Yukon villages which rely heavily on the river for transportation, using outboard powered boats to travel to fish camps, hunt, fish, gather firewood, and a host of other activities most would do by motor vehicle.
In June, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and USCG active duty members, traveled 920 miles for this safety outreach mission visiting eight villages along the Yukon River in 10 days. Scholle, an ASSE member and also the District Commodore of the U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary in Alaska, joined the group on the first leg of their journey to Stevens Village to see, first hand, how ‘Yukon Coastie’ would be received.
“I wish every ASSE member could have seen the smiles on the faces of the children, it just melted my heart,” Scholle said. “I just smiled, knowing that the Midnight Sun Chapter’s financial contribution and planning hours helped make this all possible. Every ASSE member should be proud of this magnificent accomplishment.”
Operation ‘Yukon Coastie 2010’ was the first of its kind for the USCG, the Auxiliary and the ASSE chapter. It was a challenging project logistically, but worked out well in not only sharing boater, work safety information within rural Alaska, but also creating an ongoing safety dialogue, encouraging cooperation and understanding between all involved.
ASSE chapter officers also include Tina Holland, Don Maynor, Bev Shuttleworth, Gregory Sanches, Sheila Gwizdak, Dave Henry and Shane Burnett.
The Yukon River is the longest river in Canada’s Yukon Territory and Alaska. It is the third longest river in North America, flowing northwest from the Coastal Range Mountains of northern British Columbia, through the Yukon Territory and Alaska to the Bering Sea. During the Klondike Gold Rush the Yukon River was one of the principal means of transportation. Paddle-wheel riverboats continued to ply the river until the 1950s, when the Klondike highway was completed. Yukon means ‘Great River’ in Gwich’in. The river was called Kwiguk, or ‘large stream’, in Yupik. The river passes through the communities of Whitehorse, Carmacks, (just before the Five Finger Rapids) and Dawson City in the Yukon Territory, and crossing Alaska into Eagle, Circle, Fort Yukon, Stevens Village, Tanana, Ruby, Galena, Nulato, Grayling, Holy Cross, Russian Mission, Marshall, Pilot Station, St. Marys (which is accessible from the Yukon at Pilot Point), and Mountain Village. After Mountain Village, the main Yukon channel frays into many channels, sprawling across the delta. There are a number of communities after the ‘head of passes’, as the channel division is called locally: Nunum Iqua, Alakanuk, Emmonak, and Kotlik. Of those delta communities, Emmonak is the largest with roughly 760 people in the 2000 census.
“This trip and sharing our safety expertise was a chance of a lifetime,” Scholle said. “We are looking forward to doing it again as we continue to reach out to all communities in greater Alaska on the importance of being safe and returning home to families and friends injury and illness free every day after work.”
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For more information please go to http://midnightsun.asse.org or ASSE’s website at www.asse.org.