Operation Lifesaver pushes toward goal

A new school year means new books, classes and teachers for Chicago-area students.  For members of the Belt’s Operation Lifesaver team, it means a new audience for its message of safety.

The team is building on the success of the 2012-13 campaign and aims to take its safety message to additional Chicagoland residents.  As of Aug. 1, the team had given 39 presentations to 5,017 schoolchildren, industry workers, business owners and employees.

“We’ll visit some schools and other places we didn’t reach in 2012,” said Carman and Operation Lifesaver presenter John Lucio.  “There are many schools in our area and a lot of children who still need to hear our message.”

The team includes Switchman Joe Chacon, who was recognized by Illinois Operation Lifesaver as one of the top performers in the state based on total number of presentations in 2011.  BRC Police Sgt. Sam Canerday and Patrolman Gerald Conoboy join Chacon and Lucio on the Belt team.

It’s important for teens and adults to learn about Operation Lifesaver, Lucio said, because they often are more complacent toward railroad safety than young children.

“They are the ones driving around the crossing gates and trying to beat the trains,” he said.

Lucio estimated there are more than 100 Chicago-area schools near the Belt’s main lines.  The safety record along the tracks is excellent, in part because of the education Operation Lifesaver provides.

“We haven’t had a history of children getting hurt,” Lucio said.  “Some kids think it’s OK to play on the tracks, but it shocks them when they find out the dangers they face and the legal penalties involved.  It’s a good lesson for them to learn ahead of time.”

While schools will be the team members’ primary platform for promoting railroad safety, they also plan to work with drivers-education programs and businesses such as Nabisco and Solo Cup, which are served by the Belt.

“Last year I focused on school bus companies,” Chacon said.  “This year I turned my focus to our industries.  So far I have presented to five industries, including Mobil Oil and Nabisco.”

In 2012, Chacon presented to an audience of 5,848, putting him in the top 2 percent of presenters in Illinois.  This year, he is striving to outperform the previous year and reach an audience of 6,000.

In addition to giving presentations, the BRC team attends Operation Lifesaver Illinois meetings to stay current on trends and maintain certification as presenters.