American Red Cross Tips Help Kids Stay Safe When Home Alone

Develop and Practice Plan to Ensure Safety after School

As children around the nation are returning to school, many of them will be spending time home alone after school until their parents get home from work.

The American Red Cross has steps parents and children can take to make these after-school hours safer and less stressful.

 First decide if your child is mature enough to be home alone and ask him or her if they would be comfortable being alone. Parents and guardians should develop a home safety plan and discuss it and practice it with their children. After-school child care, programs at schools and youth clubs, or youth sports programs are alternatives for children who are not mature enough or uncomfortable staying home alone.

The Red Cross recommends that parents and guardians take the following steps if a child will be home alone after school.

If the child is going to go home after school, it’s a good idea to have them call to check in when they get home. For an older child, set ground rules about whether other kids can come over when the parents are absent, whether cooking is an option, whether they can leave the home.

Other steps that parents and guardians can include in their home safety plans: 

  • Post an emergency phone list where the children can see it. Include 9-1-1, the parents work and cell numbers, numbers for neighbors, and the numbers for anyone else who is close and trusted.
  • Identify neighbors whose home your child can go to in case of an emergency that requires your child to leave your home.
  • Practice an emergency plan with the child so they know what to do in case of fire, injury, or other emergencies. Write the plan down and make sure the child knows where it is.
  • Make sure the first aid kit is stocked and stored where your children can find it; keep it out of reach of young children.
  • Let children know where the flashlights are. Make sure that the batteries are fresh, and that the child knows how to use them.
  • Remove or safely store in locked areas dangerous items like guns, ammunition, knives, hand tools, power tools, razor blades, scissors, and other objects that can cause injury.
  • Make sure potential poisons like detergents, polishes, pesticides, care-care fluids, lighter fluid and lamp oils are stored in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children.
  • Make sure medicine is kept in a locked storage place or out of the reach of children.
  • Install safety covers on all unused electrical outlets.
  • Limit any cooking a young child can do. Make sure at least one approved smoke alarm is installed and operating on each level of the home.
  • Limit the time the child spends in front of the television or computer. Activate parental controls. Use programs that limit the sites children can visit, restrict chat sites and allow parents to monitor online activity. 

Safety Steps for Children 

When talking to kids about being at home alone, parents should stress the following steps, and post them somewhere to remind the child about what they should, or shouldn’t, do until mom, dad or caregiver get home: 

    • Lock the door and make sure all the windows are closed and locked.
    • If the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone.
    • Never open the door to strangers. Always check before opening the door to anyone, looking out through a peephole or window first. Only open the door for people that parents and guardians have given you permission to let in the house. If unsure, contact your caregiver.
    • Never open the door to delivery people or service representatives. Ask delivery people to leave the package at the door or tell them to come back at another time. Service representatives, such as a TV cable installer, should have an appointment when an adult is home.
    • Never tell someone on the telephone that the parents are not at home. Say something like “He or she is busy right now. Can I take a message?”
    • Do not talk about being home alone on public websites. Kids should be cautious about sharing information about their location when using chat rooms or posting on social networks.
    • Never leave the house without permission. If it’s okay to go outside, children should contact their parents and tell them where they are going, when they are leaving, and when they will return. If mom and dad are still at work, children should call them when they leave and when they return home.
    • Do not go outside to check out an unusual noise. If the noise worries the child, they should call their parents, an adult, or the police.
    • Don’t talk to strangers.
    • Do not have friends over to visit when your parents aren’t at home. Do not let anyone inside who is using drugs or alcohol, even if you know them.
    • If the child smells smoke or hears a fire or smoke alarm, they should get outside and ask a neighbor to call the fire department. 

Consider Babysitter’s Training for Youth Taking Care of Others

Many tweens and teens are responsible for watching younger siblings. The Red Cross Babysitter’s Training course provides 11 to 15 year-olds with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely and responsibly provide care for children and infants. Participants learn basic child care and first aid, develop leadership skills and learn how to develop a babysitting business. Contact any of the local Red Cross offices or visit www.redcross.org/babysitting for more information. 

 About the American Red Cross: 

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

 

Back to School: Travel Safely

Commuting and Travel Safety Tips for Parents and Students
Written by Katie Lawson, Staff Writer, Redcross.org

As summer vacations come to an end, students across the country are readying themselves for the start of a new school year. With all of the excitement this time brings, safety may not be the first subject that springs to mind. The American Red Cross encourages parents to take time to talk with their children about safety before school starts.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 24 million students nationwide start their school day with a trip on the school bus. Although NHTSA reports that riding on a school bus is nearly eight times safer than riding in a passenger vehicle, an average of 11 school-aged pedestrians are killed by school transportation vehicles each year. Whether they walk, ride the bus or travel by car, teach your kids these few tips to ensure they get to and from school safely.

Tips for School Bus Riders

  • Line up facing the bus, not along side it.
  • Do not play in the street while waiting for the bus.
  • Carry all loose belongings in a bag or backpack.
  • Never reach under the school bus to get anything that has rolled or fallen beneath it.
    The bus driver may be sitting too high up to see you.
  • After getting off the bus, move immediately onto the sidewalk and out of traffic.
    If there is no sidewalk, try to stay as far to the side of the road as possible.
  • Wait for a signal from the bus driver before crossing the street.
    Walk at least 10 steps away from the front of the bus so the driver can see you.Never cross the street or play behind the school bus.

Tips for Pedestrians or Bike Riders

  • Never walk alone—always travel with a buddy.
  • Pay attention to all traffic signals and crossing guards along the way.
  • Never cross the street against a stop light. Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.
  • Avoid ill-fitting clothing that could get caught in spokes or pedals or restrict movements, and wear reflective colors and material to be more visible to street traffic.
  • Walk your bicycle across all intersections.

Tips for Car Drivers and Passengers

  • Everyone in the car should wear a seatbelt, as they lower the risk of injury in the event of a crash by 45 percent.
  • Make sure babies and young children are in safety seats at all times, and that safety seats have been properly installed.
  • Read your car’s manual for safety precautions specifically relate to the car and its airbags.
  • Remind teenagers to take extra precautions if they are driving to school or riding with another teenage driver.

Tips for College-Bound Students

  • Students heading off to college—perhaps for the first time this year—may be inexperienced at driving long distances or driving alone. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, according to NHTSA. The risk of crashes is higher among 16- to 20-year-olds than among any other age group, and, unfortunately, young adults also are less likely to be buckled up than any other age group.

When preparing college-aged children for a long drive to school, make sure they take these precautions:

Preparing for the Trip

  • Before packing the car, do a simple safety check. Turn on the lights and walk around the vehicle to ensure that all lights are in working order. Also check turn signals and look for any fluid leaks or things hanging from the vehicle. Make sure the tires are properly inflated.
  • When packing your belongings in the car, make sure you pack carefully so there is nothing blocking your view through the rear window. Check your mirrors before you leave to be sure you have an unobstructed view of the road.
  • Prepare an emergency supplies kit for your vehicle and keep it in your car at all times. Include a first aid kit and manual as well as items such as a blanket, flares, a flashlight and batteries, jumper cables that can be helpful and may even be lifesaving in the event of an emergency.
  • No matter how far your trip is, be sure you are well rested before you hit the road.

Hitting the Road

  • Leave early and give yourself enough time to travel at a comfortable pace. Remember, speeding does not increase your ability to arrive on time; it only increases your chances of not arriving at all.
  • Should you find yourself getting tired from the drive, pull over to a rest stop or gas station to walk around and refresh yourself.
  • Do not talk on your cell phone while driving. Phones are distracting and impair your ability to concentrate on the road. If you must use the phone, pull over to a safe, well-lit parking lot and place your call there or at least use a hands-free earpiece.
  • When driving in inclement weather such as rain storms, reduce your speed. Don’t make sudden moves if the roads are wet. Applying the brakes slowly and steadily will help you keep better control of your vehicle.
  • And, remember to always wear your safety belt and require any passengers who ride with you to do the same.

For more information about preparing for emergencies or for facts and tips about safety, visit RedCross.org.

Red Cross Offers Flu-Prevention Tips for Kids Going Back to School

As parents and teachers know, children have a way of picking up colds and other illnesses at school. As the number of swine flu (H1N1 Flu Outbreak) cases increases in the U.S., it becomes even more important to teach kids how to stay healthy.

Teach Good Health Habits
Proper and consistent hand washing is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of flu. Teach kids by example by showing them proper hand washing technique:

  • Wet hands with water and apply an amount of soap recommended by the manufacturer to hands.
  • Rub hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds, covering all surfaces of the hands and giving added attention to fingernails and surfaces where jewelry is worn.
  • Rinse hands with water.
  • Dry thoroughly with a disposable towel.
  • Use towel to turn off faucet.

For younger children who may rush their hand washing, have them sing a short song such as “Row Row Row Your Boat,” or the “Happy Birthday”song, which will ensure they wash for at least 20 seconds. Placing hand-washing reminders at children’s eye level will also help them become consistent hand washers.

Teach kids to adopt these other healthy habits in order to prevent the spread of germs:

  • Avoid sharing objects such as utensils, cups, and bottles.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands afterwards. If tissue-less, cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper arm, not your hands.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth to keep germs from entering your body.

Parents should also prepare for the potential spread of swine flu by talking with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick. Also ask your child’s school or day care if there are plans to encourage sick children to stay home to reduce the spread of the disease.