Safe-T-Opolis to celebrate 30 years of life, learning in 2017

Safe-T-Opolis to celebrate 30 years of life, learning in 2017
For 30 years, Alabama Power's retiree and employee volunteers have educated children and adults in being safe around electricity through the company's Safe-T-Opolis program. (Christopher Jones/Alabama NewsCenter)

Thirty years ago, a Honda Civic cost $6,000. A postage stamp was 24 cents. “Dirty Dancing” and “Good Morning, Vietnam” were hit movies.

And in January 1987, Alabama Power started its popular Safe-T-Opolis electrical safety program for students.

Because safety is the company’s priority, the company is taking a look back to celebrate the program, which has engaged students for nearly three decades.

In a Safe-T-Opolis program, specially trained employee volunteers use a three-dimensional model to recreate hazardous conditions such as downed power lines and explain how to stay safe in such situations. Safe-T-Opolis began with retiree volunteers who presented the program to fourth-graders. The program created such high demand that it was opened to employees.

Rick McGowan, Risk Management supervisor in the company’s Mobile Division Office, was one of the first employees to take part in Safe-T-Opolis. McGowan became more involved after people suffered life-threatening injuries during a string of electrical contact cases. Saddened and concerned – and determined to prevent more accidents – McGowan helped shape Safe-T-Opolis in the 1980s.

In the program’s early years, McGowan eagerly presented Alabama Power’s safety message wherever possible, including fairs and festivals, to children and adults who needed to learn the importance of electrical safety.

As Safe-T-Opolis continued to evolve, McGowan became more passionate, presenting more programs. “It has now become a part of who I am,” McGowan said. “No matter where I am, if I see something, I will say something.

“Because of the great success of the Safe-T-Opolis program, there has been a reduction in accidents over the years,” he said. “When a student learns about the potential danger of electricity, there is nothing more gratifying than that.”

McGowan occasionally meets students he’s taught in previous Safe-T-Opolis presentations and hears that the program made them more careful.

“When you hear good stories like that, you know the program has paid off,” McGowan said. “It makes you fall in love with the program all over again.”

Today, the program has more than 250 active employee presenters, called Lifeliners. McGowan remains active in Safe-T-Opolis by serving as a backup Lifeliner, filling in to meet last-minute requests.

“I am proud to be a part of Safe-T-Opolis because it works,” said Alabama Power Program Manager Kim Savage. “It truly does save lives and prevents accidents because, over the years, so many people came back and told us that they changed their behavior as a result of seeing Safe-T-Opolis. And that’s when you know you’re making a difference — when you can actually change behavior and keep people safe.”

“Our Lifeliners  have accomplished great things over the years, and it is so exciting to celebrate Safe-T-Opolis and the difference it’s made,” Savage said. “Hopefully this will shed new light on what Safe-T-Opolis means, and how important it is to get this safety message into our communities.”

For more information about Safe-T-Opolis and how to get involved, visit www.alabamapower.com/safety.

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