Have you seen the yellow and black Amtrak locomotive travel though New Mexico – or anywhere else in the US? Its bright coloring and bold message of “See TRACKS? Think TRAIN!” is hard to miss. The train was released into service in January of this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization dedicated to rail safety and education.
“We’ve been observing our anniversary all year long,” said Jennifer DeAngelis, Director of Communications and Marketing for Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI).
A Brief History
According to DeAngelis, Operation Lifesaver was originally formed in 1972 in Idaho by Union Pacific, the Idaho Peace Officers Association, and the Idaho governor’s office when the average number of collisions at US rail-grade crossings had risen above 12,000 incidents yearly. What was originally a successful six-week awareness campaign spread across the United States, and in 1986 the non-profit Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI) national office was created.
“Operation Lifesaver currently has programs in 47 states and Washington, DC,” said DeAngelis. “Our goal is to end collisions, deaths and injuries on and around railroad tracks and trains by empowering the public to make safe choices.”
With the help of a coordinator in each state, such as Joanne Beer in New Mexico, and rail safety partners, they work to educate all branches of the public through awareness campaigns, free presentations, lesson plans, and even video games for kids and adults.
For the 50th anniversary, Operation Lifesaver has continued growing efforts to spread the rail safety message. In addition to partnering with Amtrak on the locomotive and providing in-person and virtual educational events on a state level, they have been reaching audiences online.
“We have a 50th anniversary webpage, which includes a timeline, highlights volunteers, and includes statistics and how much things have changed over the years,” said DeAngelis. They are also releasing a train track trivia game the first Tuesday of the month throughout the year. You can find the anniversary page and games by visiting oli.org.
OLI has also been active on social media to promote the anniversary.
“We’ve been highlighting our history with throwback Thursday posts, a visual timeline on our website, and every week a volunteer has been highlighted on the national Facebook page, which is a great way to celebrate our volunteers that are sharing the message and who are the heart of the organization.”
Sign up for a free presentation at oli.org/request-presentation
Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Rail Safety Week
In addition to celebrating their golden anniversary, OLI is currently in the middle of their annual Rail Safety Week campaign. The campaign takes place this year from September 19-25, and is a collaborative effort between OLI, state programs, Canada, and Mexico.
“It is a concentrated week of messaging,” said DeAngelis. There is a different theme each day of the week, supporting videos, public service announcements, and social media content.
DeAngelis called attention to the theme for Friday, September 23: Wear Red for Rail Safety Day. “We would love it if folks wore red, post their pictures on social, and tag us,” she said. “Noting the dangers of taking photos on or near railroad tracks (Sunday’s theme).
Tag them on Facebook @Operation.Lifesaver or Instagram @operation_lifesaver_inc and use the hashtags #RailSafetyWeek, #OperationLifesaver, and #STOPTrackTragedies.
Take the Pledge
Across the United States, a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours. So, the need for Operation Lifesaver and the sharing of the Rail Safety message continues.
Kids and adults are encouraged to take the Rail Safety Pledge and commit to making safe choices around trains and railroad tracks.
Rail Safety Resources
To access OLI’s wealth of rail safety resources customized for different audiences, visit oli.org. There you can also request a free rail safety presentation or learn how to become a volunteer in your area.