Introducing safety to youth

How one safety professional created Safety Dog

Introducing safety to youth

Years ago, I was going through a life event and found myself in between safety contracts.  As I attempted to stay busy, I asked myself what is the best way I can have the most significant impact in safety. It didn’t take as long as I thought to come up with an answer. I wanted to Introduce the concept of safety to early youth so they would be familiar with the concept of safety once they become old enough to join the workforce. 

We all know that children’s minds are like sponges. The next question was how would I introduce the concept of safety and which method would keep their attention. 

My solution was to create superhero character; a dog that would turn into Safety Dog! Now, I couldn’t just have Safety Dog by itself without sidekicks and how would they relate to each other? That is where a girl with her little brother and dog came into the picture.

The story would be a young sister and brother with their dog who are suddenly faced with safety hazards within their own home.  Now, what would their names be?  So many names to choose from!  I happened to look at the pictures of my niece and nephew and voila!  Emma and Ethan, it is.  All of sudden, Luna, my dog comes to me, sits down and gives me the look to go outside.  A little bell rang inside my head.  Luna is now the dog’s name. 

So, what next?  Yes, a villain since with every superhero, there must be a villain.  This is where Minou the cat comes in to play as the one creating safety hazards.  Then I started thinking, in real life often the persons themselves create safety hazards or commit unsafe acts that could place them at risk of injury.

At this point, I’m thinking that we’re getting somewhere with this concept, but I still needed to figure out in which medium to use.  I reflected on this for a few days where I first considered maybe a 30-minute animation television series.  I began to research how to write television scripts by reading a couple books on scriptwriting. 

After I wrote the script for the pilot episode of Safety Dog, I proceeded to pitch the concept to production companies.  Some weren`t interested and some were but they wanted to have a 2-minute segment of the show.  Not having any money to spare, I was hoping that it wouldn’t be that expensive to produce a 2-minute segment. How I was wrong!  They were asking $30,000.00!  That idea went out the window. 

After realizing that doing a television children’s show was out of the question for now, the next step was writing a children's book.  In doing my research on how to proceed in writing a children’s book, I had to figure out what would be my target audience. In other words, how young did I want children to be introduced to the concept safety. 

After some consideration, I chose to target the 5 to 8 years age group since they start to read at that age. The content of the book itself was next to figure out.  I knew that because of the age group I selected, animations were required and I didn`t want to make the book too long so I didn’t lose the kids’ interest in the story.  I decided that Emma, Ethan and Luna would walk in a room into the house to find Minou creating safety hazards.  How many safety hazards should be in the story?  I finally decided with five since it would be easier for kids to remember five safety hazards to look for compared to ten.  I didn’t want to make this complicated, rather I wanted them to learn safety in a fun way. 

After writing the book, I started drawing the characters.  I thought to myself, this can’t be that difficult.  Wrong again!  I started drawing the four main characters that best that I could.  They were rough looking but, in my head, I didn’t think that I was that bad.  I proceeded drawing the scenes and obviously I also wanted to focus on the safety hazards themselves. 

At the same time, I had to ensure that the characters were relatable to the target audience age group.  Once finished, I started approaching children’s book publishers. I received several “no thank you, we are too busy at the moment to take on additional projects” replies. Only one publisher came back saying that they like the story but found the illustrations quite bad.  Another failure since I didn`t know any illustrators or had the money to hire one.

Ten years have now gone by. I find myself at a farmers’ market with my partner and we go by a table with two authors.  We started having a conversation and I discussed my attempt to write a children’s book with a focus on safety. I end up being invited to join their writers club where they met monthly. 

One of the authors also mentioned that she knew of an illustrator that might be interested in my project. I remember the first time I attended their writer’s club.  I was so nervous because I was going to present my book to a group of published authors, and I was afraid to be laughed at or even ridiculed.  To my surprise, they loved the concept and storyline of the book.  They gave me the contact information of the illustrator and the rest is history! 

The book has now been published through Amazon and is available for purchase in English, French and Spanish. I have written two more Safety Dog books which they will be coming soon.