Step 3: Review Accreditation Criteria
Safe Communities America, Inc. is the
non-profit, coordinating and accrediting
organization for Safe Communities in
the United States.


At this point, you have established an organized, active community safety coalition, secured the support of local leaders and organizations, gained access to the injury data that your coalition will need to prioritize and evaluate prevention projects, and completed an inventory of the existing injury prevention and safety promotion resources in your community. You are now ready to review the criteria for accreditation as a Safe Community. 

To be accredited, a community must demonstrate capability and competence in each of four major areas.  These areas have been found to be essential to the development and implementation of effective, evidence-based injury prevention programs at the community level. 

Sustained Collaboration

It is nearly impossible for a single organization or agency to address all of the injury prevention needs in a community.  Instead, different organizations typically focus on different needs - the police department focuses on traffic safety and violence reduction, a injury prevention coalition for kids focuses on safe playgrounds and safe walking routes to schools, the fire department focuses on smoke alarm promotion and fire prevention, a bicycling club focuses on bike safety, while a women's advocacy program focuses on reducing intimate partner violence. All of the organizations are doing good work, but there is little or no effective collaboration and coordination between the groups. 

The goal of the Safe Communities model is to develop a community-wide, collaborative and cooperative approach to addressing injury issues. The Safe Communities coalition becomes the umbrella organization that brings together many organizations and programs to work together to reduce injuries. The goal is not to extinguish the unique identities and missions of the member organizations but to share information, resources and ideas in a way that improves the work of all partners. 

It isn't enough to simply organize a coalition; the coalition has to demonstrate that its members can and will work together to reduce injuries in their community. Your coalition should have been in existence for at least several months, and have begun to review data and implement prevention projects, before you apply for Safe Communities accreditation. In many cases, it will take a year or more to build an effective coalition and demonstrate on-going, sustained collaboration. 

Data Collection and Application

One of the key elements of the Safe Communities model is that it is data-driven. This means that Safe Communities coalitions examine injury data from their community to determine the most common (and most dangerous) injuries and then focus their prevention efforts on those types of injuries. To utilize a data-driven strategy, your coalition must determine what injury data are available and how they can be accessed, then access and analyze those data and use the results of their analyses to develop and prioritize prevention projects. 

The use of a data-driven strategy does not mean that individual coalition members and member organizations must give up their own priorities. For example, a boating club may want to remain focused on drowning prevention, despite the fact that the data show that drownings are rare in the community. Members of the Safe Community coalition must be willing to support the data-driven projects developed by the coalition, but they remain free to work on their own focus areas as well. 

Identifying sources for injury data, arranging for access to the data, and collecting and analyzing the data can take a significant amount of effort. Ideally, your coalition should include partners such as hospitals, your local public health department, clinics and health care providers, and/or health care companies that already have access to data and that have the expertise needed to review and summarize the data. 

Effective Strategies to Address Unintentional and Intentional Injuries

Once your coalition has identified the priority injury issues in your community, the next step is to design and implement projects to prevent those injuries. The methods chosen should be based on scientific evidence rather than on intuition or what's been done before in the community. The goal is to adopt strategies that have been tried, evaluated, and found to be effective. 

You can click here, here (PDF), here, here and here to find examples of evidence-based injury prevention projects. Your coalition may adopt variants of these strategies that have been adjusted to fit your community or other evidence-based strategies. 

In some situations, there may not be an existing, evidence-based prevention strategy that addresses an injury priority identified by your coalition. In such cases, the coalition should use the best evidence available when designing a prevention program. If evaluation determines that the effort was successful, it may join the list of evidence-based strategies. 

Evaluation Methods

It is important to evaluate prevention projects to be sure that they are achieving the desired results. Your coalition should plan for the evaluation of each project as it plans the project. The evaluation plan will require you to answer several questions. What data will you need to determine whether, or how well, the project is working? Do you have (or can you get) those data? What will you consider to be a success? How will you determine if you have achieved your goals? The answers to these questions, and others, will guide the development of your evaluation plan. 

Once your coalition has developed an evaluation plan for each of its projects, it will need to implement those plans. Data will need to be collected and reviewed to determine whether or not the project is working as anticipated. Regular, ongoing evaluation activities should be used to guide the course of each project, while final evaluations can be conducted to determine whether or not target goals were met. 


Meeting the Criteria 

Meeting the criteria for accreditation as a Safe Community is not a trivial process. It takes time, effort, and commitment to build a coalition that can meet the requirements for accreditation. It is not, however, an unreasonably difficult process. Communities large and small, from across the US and the world, have met the criteria and been accredited. Becoming accredited as a Safe Community is an achievement, and the mark of a serious commitment to preventing injuries in your community. 

If you decide to make that commitment, your community will not be alone during the coalition development and application process. Existing Safe Communities and the Safe Communities Support Center at the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center will work with you to provide advice, answer questions, and help you develop the capacity to become part of the Safe Communities Network.