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Date of Issue: October 08, 2008

Tiff proclamation

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Round of support
Christine Olson received the support of lawmakers and law enforcement in her efforts to put families first with TIFF's Initiative - Florida's emergency contact information program. At the podium is Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp. Standing as Kottkamp presents the governor's TIFF proclamation are, from left, Electra Bustle, head of the state department of highway safety, Linda Moore, Olson, Karen Mahlios, vice president of TIFF, and Manatee County Sheriff's Office Lt. Rick Wells. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

State officials recognized Christine Olson Oct. 2 for the fortitude and perseverance that continues to drive her in her mission “To Inform Families First.”

The recognition came two years after Olson’s launching of Florida’s emergency contact information program with the help of state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Olson’s daughter Tiffiany was killed in an accident Dec. 7, 2005. She was thrown from a motorcycle and died instantly, Olson said. Neither Olson, nor the family of Tiffiany’s boyfriend, Dustin Wilder, were immediately notified by law enforcement that the two had been involved in an accident.

“The accident happened at 7 p.m. and by 11 p.m. the newspaper had already gone to print with the story. I was still in bed,” Olson said.

“The national average is six hours before families are notified,” she said. “Think what you can get done in six hours.”

“This is the culmination of democracy in action,” said Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who presented Olson with a proclamation by Gov. Charlie Christ at an event held at Manatee Community College on the second anniversary of TIFF’s Initiative.

“Think about the inner strength and courage it took to turn a personal tragedy into something millions of people can benefit from,” said Kottkamp. “This program is the first of its kind in the nation and it’s an example of how we can turn a citizen’s idea into legislation.”

It took six and a half hours before Olson heard news of the accident and almost instantly, she said, she knew that something different needed to be done to spare other families from suffering that delay.

Working with lawmakers and law enforcement, Olson spearheaded implementation of a system in which law enforcement can obtain emergency contact information for accident victims. In less than 10 months, that system was added to DAVID, a database officers utilize to access information from their patrol-car computers.

Providing emergency contact information is voluntary. To do so, log onto the DHSMV Web site at www.hsmv.state.fl.us, click the “driver’s license” link, and then the new “emergency contact information” link.

To register, enter your driver’s license or identification card information and birth date. You will be able to provide contact numbers, including cell phone numbers, for two people.

While more than 1.6 million Florida drivers have registered, that’s only one in 12. And since its inception, 200,000 contacts have been resourced by law enforcement for notification.

Olson maintains a Web site and recently created a non-profit To Inform Families First. The TIFF team has its sights set on putting the emergency contact system into place throughout the country and around the world. Ohio launched a program modeled after Florida’s on Oct. 2, and is the first state to follow Florida’s lead.

At the close of last week’s event, Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston presented Olson with a key to the city.

“What is remarkable is that in a time of grief you thought about other people,” Poston told Olson. “This key doesn’t open the vault, it opens our hearts to you. Thank you so much.”

To reach Olson, call 941-795-1869 or e-mail christinesjourney@yahoo.com.