For children, summer is synonymous with fun. As they step out of school and into sunshine, and swimming pools, Rainbow Fleet reminds parents and caregivers that the best summer is always a safe summer.
Here are six ways to move forward with safe plans for the season:
Tighten up on car seat safety.
More than 60% of American families will hit the road this summer, according to leading national statistics. Whether traveling across the country or just around town, car seat safety is an important way to protect the children in your care. In the case of an accident, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports proper car seat use reduces injury by 71-82%.
Before transporting children this summer, conduct a quick safety assessment to ensure you have the correct car seat for the age, weight and height of the children in your care. Be sure all car seats are installed and fitted correctly. Safekids.org has information to guide caregivers through this process or find a free car seat inspection site by visiting ohso.gov/child-passenger-safety.
Avoid hot car fatalities.
An average of 38 infants and children under the age of 15 die after becoming unintentionally trapped in cars each summer, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Oklahoma currently ranks in the top five states for hot car deaths, with four child fatalities in the summer of 2020. In total, 883 children have died in hot cars throughout the country since related data collection began in 1998. More than 70% of deaths occurred in babies and toddlers under age 2.
Take these prevention steps:
Temperatures inside an enclosed space like a car get hot faster than one might assume, even on relatively mild weather days. Over just a 25-minute period, for example, a car at 73 degrees F. without ventilation can reach 100 degrees F. At least two deaths since 2005 took place while the day’s recorded temperature was in the low 70s.
Leave your phone, purse, a shoe or another essential item on the floor under your child’s seat. Forcing yourself to retrieve this item before leaving the car reduces the chance of forgetting a child in the car.
Set an alarm on your phone – or even a series of alarms – around the time you typically reach destinations like work, home, daycare or field trip venues. The alarm may interrupt the distraction and fatigue that often lead to hot car accidents.
Always know how many children you are transporting and double check the number who exit upon arrival.
Teach children to stay out of parked cars. As soon as your child is old enough to understand, talk to them about the dangers of hot cars. Let them know it is never safe to play, hide or stay in a car, no matter where it is or what the weather is like.
If a child in your care is missing, check cars or child care center buses and water features like swimming pools first, before proceeding to check indoors in your home or child care site.
Call 9-1-1 if you find a child in a hot car. Signs of distress may not always be apparent. It is always better to take precautions to save a child inside a hot car.
Stay safe in the sun.
Oklahoma summers can really bring the heat. Before enjoying outdoor activities, apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and try to minimize skin exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
It’s also important to keep kids hydrated and recognize the signs of heat stroke or exhaustion before it happens. Signs include increased thirst, rapid breathing and heartbeat, confusion, weakness, dizziness, headache and a lack of tears or perspiration. If you notice these signs, bring the child inside immediately and help them hydrate while seeking professional medical advice.
Be alert around water.
The CDC reports as many as 11 drowning deaths every day in the U.S. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1 to 4 and the second-leading cause for ages 5 to 14, after car accidents. If you plan on spending time with a wading area, at the community pool, lake or beach this summer, here are some steps to take:
Have designated supervision. If everyone is watching the pool passively, it can be as if no one is actually watching actively. Make sure a responsible adult is focused on children in or around the water. If you plan to take turns supervising, train caregivers with CPR skills and a clear verbal hand-off of responsibility.
Sign up for swim lessons. Children – and even infants – can learn life-saving skills like floating and exiting the pool, which can buy them valuable time between distress and rescue.
Use life jackets. Floaties and puddle jumpers are insufficient for safety around water. Use properly fitted life vests that cannot be popped or deflated.
Choose swimwear wisely, with visibility in mind. A recent study proved neon yellow, green and orange as the top three most recognizable colors in the water. Dressing your child in these high contrast choices could lead to a quicker rescue in the case of emergency.
Equip children with essential information.
There are some safety lessons that benefit children in every season but as field trips and off-site activities increase over the summer, be sure your child knows information that would be essential in the case of emergency or separation. Children should memorize:
Primary contact’s telephone number
Their parent or caregiver’s name
Teach children to:
Check first with parents or caregivers before going anywhere or getting into a car, even if it’s with someone they know
Say no if someone tries to touch them or treat them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, and then to tell a trusted adult
Get everyone on board.
There is nothing more important than keeping children safe. Consistent, open communication with the children in your care and other adults is crucial. Take the time to explain risks and related safety measures. These conversations should not strike fear, but rather, an increased sense of security as families understand the steps they can take to promote their own safety.
Our upcoming training opportunities like CPR & First Aid or How to Create A Safe Sleep Environment can prepare caregivers for a safer summer. As always, Rainbow Fleet is here to support Oklahoma children as they learn, develop and grow.