Creating future safety ambassadors through TC Energy’s Youth Energy Safe Program.
Safe digging is an ongoing topic of concern in damage prevention, and for good reason. Whether it’s a pipeline operator, utility company, excavator or homeowner, damage to underground utilities impacts us all. Educating people on safe digging practices is a constant and tireless task and can sometimes feel like pushing a boulder up a hill.
At TC Energy, the company has been using alternative tactics to complement its already extensive Public Awareness program. The company hopes to reinforce the safe digging message while also creating future safety ambassadors by spearheading a youth program designed to educate students across North America on pipeline safety and awareness.
“We love hearing stories about kids going home and teaching their parents what they’ve learned,” says Jeanette Dame, Public Awareness program manager.
The Youth Energy Safe (YES) Program teaches today’s youth about the dangers of underground utilities and the importance of safe digging practices. Using their YES Kits and Awards, the company shares valuable information to help kids have discussions at home about safety, and to hopefully carry that knowledge with them when they engage in any digging activity or explore future careers down the road.
Launched in 2013, the YES Program was started by TC Energy’s Public Awareness team as a new way to reach educators and kids aged eight to 18 who attend school near a TC Energy pipeline. Since then, YES has been instrumental in teaching thousands of kids across Canada and the U.S. about underground utility safety by providing educational kits to hundreds of schools.
Teachers whose schools are near a TC Energy pipeline are able to go online and order a kit for their classroom free of charge. The YES school kits include a presentation, videos, pipeline marker, marker flags and scratch n’sniff stickers imitating the smell of a gas leak. The kit also includes takehome materials, like binder dividers and fridge magnets, to help students retain and share information outside the classroom.
“They are wonderful,” said Judy Wile of the Keystone Smiles Community Center. “I think they really work. The kids even recognize the (marker) flags when we go out and walk, they point it out and know that’s what we are teaching them about. We look forward to using them every year.”
This year, the YES program has been expanded to include TC Energy’s Safety Day partnership with the Progressive Agriculture Foundation, whose coordinators teach underground utility safety at Safety Days all over the U.S. and Canada, reaching over 15,000 youth in 2019 alone.
Progressive Ag volunteers are now able to go online and order the kits for their Safety Day event and can even order additional materials if they are expecting a large group. Once their event is over, they can either keep the kit for the next event or donate it to a local school for classroom use.
“We love hearing stories about kids going home and teaching their parents what they’ve learned,” says Jeanette Dame, Public Awareness program manager. “Sometimes we need to hear it from our kids before we understand the risks and the importance of doing things the right way.”
While teaching about safety is a good start, TC Energy also wants to reinforce the message by rewarding those who put their knowledge into practice. Last year, the YES program launched a new initiative, the Youth Energy Safe Award, which provides $1,000 grants to nonprofit youth organizations.
If a youth-focused nonprofit group or organization is planning a project that involves digging, they merely have to make the required One Call, and once the project is done they can submit their application, along with their One Call ticket number, through the YES webpage to apply to receive a $1,000 grant for their organization.
They can also include photos of the project to be shared on TC Energy social media, or tag TC Energy in their posts to help spread the safety message. In 2020, TC Energy hopes to give out $50,000 to nonprofit groups who participate in safe digging.
To learn more about the Youth Energy Safe Program, go to www.youthenergysafe.com. There you’ll find information about how to request a kit and access some of the teaching resources in the kits, as well as learn more about how to qualify and apply for a YES Award.