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An important message [Editorial]

When Averi McCotter, a fourth grader, and Tracy Morehead, her teacher, joined all of the other students and teachers in an assembly at Fountain Green Elementary in Bel Air last Tuesday afternoon, they had no idea about the news they were about to receive.

To the joy of those at the assembly, Averi had earned $10,000 for her school as the winner of a BGE contest to find artwork for the utility to use with a natural gas leak safety program.

Principal Alison Donnelly spoke for the school community.

“We are so excited about this award,” she said. “To be the first Harford County school to earn the top prize in this contest is truly an accomplishment, and I could not be prouder.”

Five other schools – including North Bend Elementary in Norrisville and St. Stephen in Kingsville - in the Baltimore area each received $5,000 from BGE in the contest.

This is a good deal for the schools and the company. The fortunate schools get money and public recognition. Fountain Green will be using its prize money to buy laptop computers, the principal said.

BGE gets incredible attention for a very important cause – educating the public not only about the dangers of a gas leak, but also how to recognize one and react to it.

Getting elementary school students involved is a really smart way to get the message out. With so many kids trying to figure out the best way to illustrate the issue, they are inadvertently learning safety tips.

Averi said that in her cartoon she was trying to tell people to not try and find the source of the leak when they smell natural gas.

“It’s important that they shouldn’t try to find it because it’s dangerous,” she said.

It certainly is. And getting that message out is the real point of the contest.

“Get out of the house right away. Don’t try to fix it, don’t try to turn off the gas,” Marc Haines, a safety specialist with BGE, told the assembled students and faculty. “Call 911 or 410-685-0123 [the BGE emergency reporting phone number].”

BGE has created a comic character – Captain Mercaptan – to help get the message to young people. One thing is clear: the odorless natural gas has a smell added to it, and it’s not a good one. It has smell of rotten eggs is an apt description.

“If it smelled like strawberries, would anybody call 911?” Haines asked those at the assembly before answering his own question. “No. We make it really bad so people call.”

That’s the important message. We congratulate Averi McCotter and the Fountain Green Elementary School community for winning the competition. And we applaud BGE’s continuing efforts to spread such an important safety message.

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