Educating the Next Generation: Georgia 811’s Digger Dog Program

GEORGIA 811 has been reaching out to the next generation of Georgians for over 15 years with our special safety ambassador, Digger Dog. Digger Dog and Education Administrator Maria Copeland travel throughout the state promoting the message of safe digging to second and third graders at both public and private elementary schools. Visiting around 8,000 students each year, this fun, interactive, and free program is designed to equip young Georgians with the tools and information needed to protect themselves in hazardous situations. Digger Dog shares with students information about safe digging, smelling gas and acting fast, and safety techniques to use around overhead electrical lines in a 35-minute energetic, informative, and life-saving presentation.

Teaching children about safety and damage prevention in a way that is fun and reaches them at their cognitive level has been a fruitful investment for us at Georgia 811. We witness retention of the safe digging messaging and are happy to contribute to that knowledge that stays with students as they grow up. Outside of the school programming, Digger also attends community events including annual meetings, festivals, and parades. Digger’s largest annual event is Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, where he is featured in Savannah Utility Coordinating Committee’s float, engaging with a crowd of roughly 500,000 every year.

Scheduling and outreach techniques for the Digger Dog Program involve strategic marketing and planning. Some of the details of the program include:

• Georgia 811 contracts with a professional mascot company that ensures an exceptional delivery of Digger’s character who is engaging, fun, and always professional.

• After each elementary school visit, students leave with Georgia 811 branded items and a workbook so that they can share the experience and messaging with their parents at home.

• Georgia 811 partners with member utility companies who often help schedule shows at local schools and will attend as community representatives.

• The Digger Dog Program features “Power Town,” an interactive visualization of a neighborhood that demonstrates situations that can occur with damages to electrical and gas facilities. Georgia 811 worked with representatives from Georgia Power Company and Atlanta Gas Light on the creation of “Power Town”, which was freely donated.

• Digger Dog shares information about his school and community visits on his DiggerDog811.com website, in press releases, and on social media to help extend the reach of the program.

Overall, Digger Dog and Maria Copeland provide a valuable resource for not only Georgia 811 but the community at large in educating young people throughout the state. Georgia 811 is happy to share resources, lessons learned, and more with others in the damage prevention community looking to increase their student outreach initiatives. Maria Copeland and Digger Dog are excited to demonstrate their presentation at the upcoming 2023 Excavation Safety Conference. Please contact Megan Estes at MEstes@Georgia811.com with questions.

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