While for many of us summer is synonymous with vacation, relaxation and a time for a well deserved break from the rigors of the daily grind, the dog days of summer bring with them the need for an extra dose of vigilance as we head for the pool, fire up the barbeque or just spend our days enjoying the great outdoors.
If you are lucky enough to have your own pool, make sure to take proper precautions as, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, drowning is the number one cause of injury and death among children ages one to four. Children under age five represent nearly seventy five percent of child drowning fatalities, with eighty five percent of those fatalities taking place in residential pools – so while there is no question that pools equal fun, never forget that especially for small children, pools can be deadly. Be sure to install a fence at least four feet high with self-opening and closing latches as well as a lockable safety cover on the pool. Supervise kids very closely around water and be prepared for emergencies: know CPR, basic lifesaving skills and always take a phone to the pool area in case of an emergency. Be sure to keep children away from pool drains and check with your pool service provider to make sure that drains are compliant with all regulations. Finally, if you notice that you can’t find one of your kids, be sure to check the pool first, because once a child is in the water, a delay of even a few seconds can literally mean the difference between life and death.
If it is the smell of a freshly grilled steak that really screams summer to you, then by all means, enjoy the protein-fest, but do it safely. Never grill indoors, which can create carbon monoxide, and before barbequing, check air-tubes and hoses for holes or blockages. Situate your grill on a level surface, away from buildings, dry leaves and other combustibles. Use long handed utensils to avoid burns and splatters and skip the loose fitting clothes when you are manning the grill. Keep a fire extinguisher, water or a bucket of sand nearby for emergencies and use baking soda if needed to control a grease fire. With recent news stories of several cases of metal bristles breaking off grill brushes and becoming embedded in food creating major health hazards to those who unwittingly ingested them, toss your metal grill brush and clean your grill either with a grill stone or even a piece of crumpled up aluminum foil.
Keep germs at bay by marinating food in the refrigerator and then discarding the marinades once they have been used for raw meat, fish or poultry. Cook food thoroughly and never use the same utensils or platters for raw and cooked foods. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold: consider keeping cold food chilled by serving on platters placed on a bed of ice and keep hot food at or above 140 degrees. Discard food that has been kept outside for more than two hours and if the temperature is over ninety degrees, toss any food that has been out longer than one hour.
Thinking about a road trip? Be sure to tune up your car, get an oil change and check your wipers, headlights, turn signal, fluid levels as well as tire pressure. (Don’t forget to check the pressure on your spare tire as well!) Make sure your car is stocked with a first aid kit, vehicle owner’s manual, flashlight, tire pressure gauge, an extra set of keys, water and emergency tire inflator and sealant. Plan your route in advance and don’t even consider leaving your house without maps or a GPS. If you don’t have a GPS, try borrowing one from a friend or check your local newspaper to find out if there is a GPS gamach in your area. Especially during peak weekends, try to travel late at night or in the early morning and no matter when you travel, check the traffic websites, such as trafficland.com, to see road conditions. If you have a smartphone, there are great apps that will give you both a GPS and traffic conditions, so do your homework and find one that works for you.
Other no no’s? Don’t drive when you are tired. If you are planning on hitting the beer, don’t even think about hitting the road unless you have a designated driver.
If you will be spending time in rural areas, be on the lookout for deer. While they are beautiful to see, trust me when I tell you they are far less beautiful when they collide with your vehicle. Deer tend to travel in groups, single file, so when you see one deer crossing the road, keep an eye out for several of its little deer friends sure to be following right behind. Particularly if you are in the Catskills, where bungalow colonies and camps line the roads, be extra vigilant for small children darting out into the road unexpectedly.
Realize that the roads in rural areas are nothing like roads you may be accustomed to driving and treat them with proper respect.
“There are a lot of winding roads here and people from the city are not familiar with them,” said Joel Gold, chaplain for the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department in upstate New York. “There are kids walking on the roads and most of the tragedies that occur here are because of these roads.”
Catskills Hatzalah was quick to mention an important safety initiative that, over the years, has yielded tremendous benefits.
“The most important thing to remember is that young drivers should not be driving in the mountains,” cautioned a member of the Torah Safety Commission, an educational safety arm with Catskills Hatzalah. “After many of the camps adopted a policy of not letting drivers under the age of twenty-one drive in the mountains, even we were surprised at the drop in the number of tragedies that occurred annually.”
Pedestrian safety, particularly in rural areas where walkers and motorist share the road, is crucial. Walk facing traffic and always pay attention, avoiding distractions like texting or listening to loud music. For those who prefer to walk during the cooler night time hours, reflectors are a must, both for you and your stroller, should you be pushing one, and consider making yourself more visible by carrying a flashlight as well. Remember that pedestrians are prohibited on all interstates, parkways and expressways.
Whether in your backyard or at the playground, inspect flooring surfaces carefully, as falls cause almost seventy percent of playground injuries. Look for a minimum of nine inches of wood chips or mulch, sand, pea gravel or poured-in-place plastic rubber mats or tiles and avoid concrete, asphalt, grass, packed dirt or blacktop flooring. Make sure children have no strings on their clothing that could become entangled on playground equipment. Always supervise children at play, making sure that play areas are age appropriate, with equipment in good working order, anchored safely in the ground, with all s-hooks properly closed and no protruding bolts or exposed footings.
No matter how alluring they look, trampolines can be dangerous. An estimated 98,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for trampoline injuries in 2009 and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that parents not allow their children to use home trampolines. Should you decide to purchase one anyway, be sure to get a net enclosure and place your trampoline in a level area, away from structures or play areas. Never let more than one person on a trampoline at a time and always jump in the center of the trampoline. Make sure that there are shock absorbing pads covering the springs, hooks and frame of the trampoline, inspecting regularly for tears, detached springs or pads and rust and always supervise children on a trampoline. Finally, check your insurance policy to find out if there are any trampoline exclusions to your homeowner’s policy.
Lastly, neither you nor your child should go biking, skating, skateboarding, scootering, atv-ing or horseback riding unless you are wearing an approved helmet. According to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission, helmets reduce the risk of head injury by as much as eighty five percent when used properly and are required by law in twenty-two states. While there are mandated standards for bicycle helmets, improper fitting renders them much less effective and one study found that ninety six percent of children aged four through eighteen wore helmets that were improperly fitted. The Snell Memorial foundation, a worldwide leader in helmet safety, recommends replacing helmets every five years or sooner if recommended by the manufacturer. For increased safety always ride single file, in the same direction as traffic, and be sure to put reflectors on your bicycle if you ride at night.
Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who has written for various websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients in addition to having written song lyrics and scripts for several full scale productions. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and many private clients. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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