In January 2008, during my college winter break, I walked door to door through a local trailer court in Columbus, Nebraska handing out free smoke alarms if the family didn’t have one. I went to about 70 trailer houses and 30 homes (about half) did not have a working smoke alarm or none at all! I gave those houses 1 or 2 smoke alarms and reminded them to practice a fire escape plan.
I’ve also been selling candy sundaes (which I make myself) at two local convenient stores to raise some money for Project S.A.F.E. That money is used to send out letters to fire stations across Nebraska and to buy wristbands for some smaller schools in Nebraska that maybe only need 20-30 wristbands total for all the students (there’s quite a few really small schools in western Nebraska…even I can’t imagine it).
Every year I try to make "Practice Your Fire Escape Plan Day" bigger and better. This October 2008, I created a candlight memorial that represented the number of house fires in Nebraska. I asked two local elementary schools to collect milkjugs and have students decorate them as if the milkjug were their house and create a fire escape plan. Once the milkjugs were collected, my mom and I spent the evening at Walmart setting up 333 milkjugs (the number of house fires in Nebraska for the year) and lighting all of them at dusk. Many people stopped to ask questions and were shocked once they found out the number of house fires. After this event, I gathered all the milkjugs and took them to the recycling center (just another simple way to help out).
It takes a lot of patience and commitment to Project S.A.F.E., but every year seems to become more successful than the last. Every year, a proclamation signing is held by the governor of Nebraska to declare this day official. One year, through donations and fundraising, I was able to rent a giant billboard along a major highway to remind everyone that drove by to practice their fire escape plan. The wristbands though have really made a difference. With over 80,000 wristbands distributed across Nebraska over the past four years, I know “Practice Your Fire Escape Plan Day” is a success.
It has been quite the journey so far, but I have no intentions of ever stopping. Project S.A.F.E. has not only made a difference in the lives of other people, but it has definitely made an impact on mine. I have confidence that I will continue to make a difference and continue to help others anywhere I go.