Staying Safe This Summer
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Theresa Skutt
The final bell of the school year will soon commence the start of summer break, and with the recent news of Zionsville Fire Department’s newest public safety tool, the “Public Safety Vehicle,” cruising around town promoting safety, we decided to ask the expert on general safety, Vincent Randolph, public educator at ZFD, what people should be thinking about in order to have a fun and safe summer as they explore all of Zionsville’s outdoor amenities, as well as their own backyards.
“I want everyone to have a great summer, and having a fun summer is also having a safe summer,” Randolph emphasized. “Between the ages of 1 and 4 years old, drownings are the second-leading cause of death in that age range—that is a national statistic. The first leading cause is birth defects. I would like to urge parents and guardians that if you are around a water source, to keep an eye on your child. Even if your child knows how to swim, it doesn’t give him or her free rein to just go.”
- You should always have a responsible adult nearby. If someone is caring for your child and the plan for the day is a little pool fun, it’s good for that person to be present and have the child come out of the pool just to take a breather and then go back in. That way the child doesn’t wear him- or herself out.
- Keep a phone close by so that if an emergency arises, that person can get help on the way right away.
- If they have floaties, make sure they are used and that it’s not the first time that the child has put them on. You should familiarize your child with any type of equipment that you will be putting on them before the summer play starts. And teach them how important is for them to keep them on.
“If a child has darted somewhere and you can’t find them, the first place that we want you to look is nearby water sources,” he stated. “We tend to look everywhere else first. I want to urge everyone that if a water source is nearby, to check that water source first. It takes approximately six minutes, without oxygen, for the brain to start to deteriorate, and that is irreversible. It only takes 2 inches of water to cause an accidental drowning, so even the play pools, dump that water. After a rainy day, dump that water. When it comes to a baby sitter or caregiver, we urge them to have their CPR certification. The vital time between the incident occurring and our crews arriving on the scene may only be three to four minutes, but that’s crucial life-saving time. ZFD offers a CPR certification class for those interested in becoming certified.”
“When it comes to you and/or your child riding your bicycles, make sure everyone has the necessary protective equipment,” Randolph said. “For the kids, especially, have knee and elbow pads and a helmet. Make sure they understand that just because they have those, they don’t suddenly have super powers. Make sure that your child is used to wearing this equipment and knows he or she has to keep it on. A lot of time, kids don’t want to wear their helmets, and we need those worn. On July 4, we do our bicycle parades through the neighborhoods. We need for the parents to know that any child that will be participating in a ZFD-led bicycle parade will be required to wear a helmet. I don’t want to turn any kids away, so we are urging all the parents to get a helmet before our first bicycle parade.”
Bicycle safety is not just for children and youth cyclists. Randolph also mentioned some safe practices for adults.
“Your clothing is important,” he stressed. “Please mark your bicycle with reflective wear. If you have a sidesaddle bag for your bicycle, keep a reflective jacket in there. You have to be seen. You can’t trust the eyesight of the person driving the car. It’s your life we’re talking about.”
Trail and Park Safety
As the trails are developed and expanded, I think it would be good for people to remember that those areas were habitats before they were trails. We have to be aware and almost anticipate encounters with wildlife when using the trails.
- Consider covering your arms and legs to protect them from bites and anything you may not want to contact your skin.
- Remain hydrated. That is important for all ages. Remember, if you feel thirsty, you are already beginning to dehydrate.
“When it comes to being out and about, specifically our youth and teens, we want to make sure that we have means of communication and a plan,” Randolph said. “For example, have your child text you or call you every 30 minutes. I urge parents to come up with a text code word or an emoji that if a child finds him- or herself in duress or lost or needing help from an adult, they can discreetly send a message. I also recommend that parents or guardians change their ring tone or notification alert so that it is different from others that they receive.”
“Nationally speaking, fire pits, grills, etc., those cause approximately 10,000 fires each year because they aren’t managed well,” Randolph shared. “There needs to be at least a 10-foot distance between a grill of any kind and a structure. About 16,000 individuals are injured because of grills, and about half of those are thermal burns. Along with having that 10-foot distance, keep a 3-foot circumference around the grill. No pets and no children in that area. No bags of charcoal. That is a ‘no-go’ zone. Please invest in longer tongs and spatulas as well.”
Randolph continued, “Summer is a lot of fun, and grilling is a lot of fun. I always say, ‘If it’s on the heat, stay until the job’s complete.’”
When it comes to your home, create and practice fire drills in your home and do so often. Don’t forget to test your smoke detectors and to change the batteries. Randolph recommends having scheduled drills and unscheduled drills during the day and at night so that all members of your household are prepared in the event of a real fire or severe weather emergency.
“So many little ones and even adults are injured by fireworks every year,” Randolph said. “You want to make sure that fireworks are only lit by adults. There is a certain maturity and wisdom that comes with age, so you want to make sure that there is a responsible adult lighting those fuses. It may seem like a simple enough reminder, but if a firework doesn’t light, don’t approach it—it may be delayed. Move the lighting/staging area elsewhere and have a source of water close by, and I don’t mean a cup or small pail. I want to urge people to have a bucket or buckets or access to a hose. Choose a blacktop area and not grass to do so.”
At the end of the day, Randolph would like to encourage everyone to have a safe and fun summer with their family and friends while being vigilant, considerate and smart about their outdoor fun.
“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being a vigilant parent,” he said. “I know from having a toddler that silence is not golden. Silence is suspicious. I can’t express that enough.”
To learn more about ZFD’s public education programs and CPR certification programs, visit the website at zionsville-in.gov/235/Fire.