Summer is here! This is a time of outdoor fun in the sun for our children. School is closed and children often play outside from early morning and late into the evening. Family outings and vacations are in full swing to places like the local zoo, area water parks, the beach and famous sites like the world’s largest ball of twine. While these outings are a wonderful occasion for children and parents to bond, they also can expose our children to people looking for an opportunity to exploit a child.
Summer is not a time to fear, but the time to review your family safety guidelines, and to make any necessary changes to accommodate a new season. When playing outside remind younger children about what areas are acceptable to come and go from. Can they only play in the backyard due to a busy traffic way out front? What rules are set involving talking to neighbors, the mail person, or local delivery person? Make it a rule that no one goes any where with out telling mom or dad. Children need to know what their responsibility is in certain situations.
When a child is going to walk to a friend’s home, establish what path they will follow before they leave home. Remind them to go this way each time so you know where to look for them should they be hurt or not arrive at a friend’s home. If possible have children will walk in groups of two or more when out, although not fail safe, there is some safety in numbers.
Invest in a set of two-way radios so your child can check in with you easily and call you in an emergency. Teach children this is not a toy but a responsibility just like a cell phone. What this author likes about using a two-way radio is the fact of only needing to push to talk one button in the event of an emergency. A cell phone takes time to open, and dial and wait for the call to go through and for the other person to answer. Cell phones are still a good thing to carry around in the event the battery on the radio would die unexpectedly.
Do not allow children to use public restrooms alone, as many restrooms are isolated or toward the back of a facility. If necessary, take young children of the opposite sex in with you. You may receive from disapproving stares or comments but in the end, these stares are better than the alternative. It only takes a second for someone to violate a child alone in a restroom.
Teach children your cell phone number and their home address. If separated from your child, you will usually have your cell phone with you, yet no one may be at home to answer the phone. Teach children who to ask for assistance if separated. They should ask a store employee or someone who has kids with them. Tell them to look for someone who looks like a mom or grandma.
Show children what public pay phones look like and make them aware that 911 is a free call. Let your children practice dialing 911 from a cell phone and show them how to hit the green colored send button.
Cell phones are so common in homes many people are opting to use a cell phone rather than a landline.
If someone knocks on the door, adults are responsible to answer the door. Children should never answer the door without a parent or safe adult with them. Teach them to come and get you before they open a door to a stranger. Show them how to lock the doors correctly, especially if you are away from home and staying in a hotel.
One of the most important family decisions maybe deciding your emergency meeting place. An emergency meeting place is a safe place where everyone will go immediately in the event of a fire or need to exit the home. A good idea is to use a physical location such as a neighbor’s tree or front porch. The family meeting place should be on the same side of the street, as your home, as emergency vehicles will be arriving from all directions if there is a fire.
When away from home your family meeting place should always be the family vehicle. When you leave your hotel room, always take your room key, cell phone, shoes and vehicle keys. Recently while travelling in the dead of winter in Boston, our hotel fire alarm rang. Two out of the five of us were in the pool area. I quickly used two-way radio to make sure my husband and the two girls were aware the fire alarm was sounding as my son and I prepared to leave the pool area.
My son was soaking wet from the pool. Even wrapped in several towels, my son had little relief from the below freezing temperature and the biting cold north wind. When my husband and the girls found us, the girls had hopped out of bed and did not think to grab their shoes or coat. My husband and I later realized if I had my car keys with me, my son and I could have gotten into our vehicle out of the wind, while we waited for him and the girls to arrive.
Now we always determine the fire exit closest to our room and we always take our shoes and car keys with us when leaving the hotel room to use the pool facilities. The two-way radios are a great asset while in a hotel or mall and the car is our mandatory meeting place. I have taught my children to determine where a second emergency exit is located; beside the original door entered. In an emergency, most people will gravitate to the same door they used to enter a room. A second emergency exit also helps in the event your original door is blocked. This is something everyone should practice when out to the movies or shopping.
By educating and reviewing our safety guidelines with our children, they learn how to react in an emergency. We may never need to know how to find the fire stairs in a hotel, but in the middle of the night in a hallway filled with thick black smoke or if the emergency lights are the only ones available finding the emergency exit will be near impossible and possibly life threatening. Educate and stay safe!