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Local celebrities tape promotions for fire safety
May 08, 2002

WINNIPEG celebrities are lining up to help promote fire and home safety in a project headed by firefighter Shane Ferguson.

In fact, so many local personalities want to add their names to the safety messages on Ferguson's web-site project -- www.stayingalive.ca -- that "the hardest part of it has been coordinating the time for people," says Ferguson.

McMaster and JamesSo far, the project has involved radio and television on-air staff from A Channel, Global TV, CKY, CBC, Hot 103, and 92 FM. Musician/actor Tom Jackson and pop singers McMaster and James have added their voices to the project as well. A growing number of sports figures will be participating in the months ahead, with Goldeyes owner Sam Katz joined by current Goldeyes, past and present Winnipeg Blue Bombers Wade Miller and Chris Walby and Jimmy Roy of the Manitoba Moose.

Messages from the local celebrities are sprinkled throughout the Staying Alive web-site, which contains a wealth of safety information.

One page provides safety advice for baby-sitters. Another contains sample floor plans of houses and apartments and offers advice on creating a family fire escape plan. Another page focuses on arson and nuisance calls and describes the many ways these activities can turn tragic. Reminders to check smoke detectors and to double-check all candles after they've been extinguished are included.

Mitch DorgeA key ally in the project has been Winnipeg musician Mitch Dorge, drummer with the Crash Test Dummies and an independent musician and producer. Dorge not only spoke several safety messages for the site, but also offered to record other people's messages at his home recording studio.

"Mitch has been terrific," says Ferguson.

Dorge's involvement came about in typical two-degrees-of-separation Winnipeg fashion.

"His wife's brother-in-law is an old roommate of mine," says Dorge. "So Shane called to see if I could help. I said, 'I have a studio in my home. Why don't you bring the people to my home?'

"I've always been an advocate for supporting good causes. For me, it's one way of giving back to the community."

Dorge was already involved in an educational project of his own when he began helping Ferguson. He has developed a program called In Your Face and Interactive, in which he visits schools and other organizations to deliver a "seize the day" message that encourages audience members to pursue their dreams. His self-esteem-boosting program was a good fit with the Staying Alive web-site, which discusses peer pressure and the way in which it can lead kids to do dangerous and destructive things.

"Part of the reason kids are hanging out at the 7-11 or the malls or destroying property is a question of self-esteem," says Dorge.

The growing project developed from work Ferguson has been doing in schools for 10 years. The Winnipeg firefighter worked on a safety curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 8 students that has been employed in the Core Area, Windsor Park and St. Vital.

A few years ago he was invited to organize a shopping mall safety event and brought in firefighters and paramedics for the occasion. Part of the event was a contest to design a home fire safety plan, and winning plans were posted on a web-site, which eventually grew into the current site.

Ferguson says the site has already generated 300,000 hits, and he expects it to grow with the addition of on-line fire safety games. Schools are logging in during computer classes, generating plenty of Internet traffic. "I've been approached by two companies that are interested in helping it go national," says Ferguson.

The site will also be bilingual once it is more completely developed, he says, as ST. Boniface College has offered to translate it to French.

2002 Winnipeg Free Press. All Rights Reserved.

Bob Armstong

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