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What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers

What Would You Do? A Kid's Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers
Keeping Children Safe

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Teaching Young Children How to Call 911


It is important for you, as parents and grandparents, to teach your children and grandchildren how to act calmly and responsibly in emergency situations. That includes teaching them how to call 911 if an emergency should arise. This is especially true if you are unavailable or incapacitated in such a way that you cannot solicit help yourself. Children need to be instructed in the ability to reach out for assistance whenever and wherever they may need it.
You should start by explaining to your young children the purpose of 9ll. Explain to your children that, by dialing 911, they will be able summon help from police, firefighters and paramedics if they are ever in trouble.
Ensure your children that, by dialing just those three numbers, help will be on the way and that they should remain as calm as possible. Explain to your children who they should expect to show up when they call 9ll and that they have permission to let the emergency workers in the house. This is particularly important if you have been teaching your children to understand the concept of strangers and whom they should and should not trust. I refer you to the strategies presented in my book, What Would You Do? A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers, to help children better understand stranger safety.
Help your children to understand what constitutes an emergency and that 911 should only be used for actual emergencies and not for pranks or non-emergency situations. Teach them to distinguish between a real emergency and something that is merely an unpleasant situation. They should understand that such things as lost pets, missing toys, or a spat between siblings are not emergencies and do not warrant a 911 call. By helping your children better understand what types of situations warrant emergency responders and which ones need to be handled by you or another adult can help to prevent unnecessary 911 calls.
Teach your children the necessary critical information that they would need to provide in the event they would have to dial 911. Your children should know their complete names, their address and telephone number, as well as your name. Children knowing such critical information will make the 911 dispatcher’s task much easier. In the event that your child would be too shaken up to provide the dispatcher the necessary critical information, emergency dispatchers can trace a call to determine your child’s location.
Talk with your children about accidental dials. It is possible for a child to make an accidental dial to 911 from a land line, but it is more likely for an accidental dial to be made from a cell phone, especially a cell phone that has an emergency dial feature. Children who have made an accidental 911 call may tend to panic and hang up the phone. Hang-ups from accidental 911 calls force the dispatcher to have to call back or to send help to make sure there is no emergency. Instruct your children that, if they should accidentally dial 911, they should stay on the line and explain to the dispatcher that they made a mistake and that there is no emergency.
When you are teaching your small children how to actively dial 911 for emergency services, it would be a good idea to remove the battery from a cell phone or completely unplug the line from a landline phone to prevent accidental dials as the children practice dialing the number.  


Picture credit Cécile Graat

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Protecting Children from Accidental Poisoning

“It is better to be safe than sorry.” This old adage rings true for any situation that involves the health, safety, and well-being of children. Because poison control centers around the country report that more than 50% of the incidents they handle involve accidental poisoning of children under the age of six, it is certainly better to be safe than sorry when it comes to preventing such incidents. Parents should practice the following safety precautions to protect their children:
ü  Keep household cleaners out of the reach of children. It’s not uncommon for household cleaners to be stored underneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks. Storing them there is a very unsafe practice, even if locks are put on the cabinets to “baby proof” them. There is no baby proofing apparatus that is completely infallible. It would be safer to move household cleaners and chemical products to a very high shelf that is completely out of a child’s reach.
ü  Keep all prescription and over-the-counter medications out of children’s reach. Make sure that all medications kept in the house have child-resistant caps. If visitors are staying in the home, be sure that their purses, luggage, and other belongings are not accessible to children. Grandma’s purse, for instance, is often associated with being a fun thing for children to explore. This is especially true for toddlers and pre-school children. Make sure that children do not have access to visitor’s belongings so that, if there are medications in them, children are safe from them.
ü  Practice safe food handling. Food poisoning is another form of poisoning. Keep all food at the proper temperature and prepare it in such a manner that harmful bacteria is eliminated. Avoid cross-contamination, and keep counter tops used for food preparation clean and sanitary. Wash hands carefully before preparing food, and consistently while preparing food, especially after handling meat products. Clean the counter top and wash hands thoroughly after handling meat products and before transitioning to handling other ingredients in the recipe. Make sure children don’t access the contents of garbage cans. Even the unsavory smell of garbage may not deter the curiosity of small children.
ü  Take the necessary precautions to prevent lead poisoning and carbon monoxide poisoning. Make certain that none of the paint in the home contains lead. This is particularly true for surfaces painted with old paint from a time before the dangers of lead poisoning from paint were known. Because carbon monoxide is tasteless, odorless, and colorless, the only way to protect from it is to make sure that the home has carbon monoxide detectors and that the batteries are replaced, as necessary, and that the detectors are checked to make sure they stay functional. A good strategy is to use the start and end of daylight savings time to change clock batteries, smoke detector batteries, as well as the batteries in carbon monoxide detectors.
ü  Take extra precautions with products kept in kitchens, bathrooms and garages as these are the most common locations for accidental poisonings. Ensure that all potentially dangerous products are stored out of children’s reach. Store all chemical products in their original containers. The original containers list important information that doctors and poison control specialists will need to ensure that children get the proper treatment in the event of an accidental poisoning emergency.
ü  Learn to recognize the signs that a potentially poisonous substance has been ingested. Such signs include a chemical smell on the breath, burns or redness around the mouth, dizziness, sleepiness, vomiting, confusion, seizures, and unconsciousness.
Picture credit: greschoj