Patrick-Murray Administration Issues Summertime Safety Tips
BOSTON — As the Commonwealth prepares for summer, the Massachusetts the Department of Children and Families (DCF), Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) would like to remind families and caregivers about important information that will help keep young children safe this summer.
Infants, toddlers and young children (ages 0-5 years) are generally not aware of dangers around them and depend on adults to keep them safe. During warm weather, taking steps to prevent falls from windows and encourage water safety, especially around pools, and in cars can prevent injury.
Falls are the leading cause of injury to children, and falls from windows involving young children are especially serious. In order to prevent window falls:
- Keep beds, furniture and anything a child can climb on away from windows.
- Open windows from the top, not the bottom, when possible.
- Lock all unopened doors and windows.
- Be sure children are always supervised.
- Install quick release window guards; screens do not protect children from falling out of windows. You can buy quick-release window guards in most hardware stores.
Water and Pool Safety
Drowning is a leading cause of death among young children. To help prevent water-related injury and drowning:
- Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and children swimming or playing in or around water at all times.
- Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within an arm's length at all times providing "touch supervision."
- Adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity while supervising children.
- Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
- Learn to swim. Formal swimming lessons can help prevent drowning. But, remember, constant, careful supervision and barriers such as pool fencing are necessary even when children have completed swimming classes.
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The Red Cross offers a wide selection of CPR/AED, first aid, lifeguarding, swimming, and water safety training. For information on classes, visit www.redcross.org/take-a-class.
- Do not use air-filled or foam toys, such as "water wings," "noodles," or inner-tubes, in place of life jackets (personal flotation devices). These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
- Remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool after use so that children are not tempted to reach for them.
- When swimming at a public pool or beach:
- Swim only in designated swimming areas.
- Always swim with a buddy.
- Select swimming sites that have lifeguards, whenever possible.
- When a child is missing, check the water first.
- Install a four-sided pool fence that completely separates the house and play area of the yard from the pool area. The fence should be at least four feet high. Use self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children.
- After the children are done swimming, secure the pool so they can't get back into it.
- Consider additional barriers such as automatic door locks or alarms to prevent access or notify you if someone enters the pool area.
- Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd's hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool.
If you Have a Swimming Pool at Home
Many young children under 5 who drown are not in their swimsuits and not supposed to be in the water. Children have a natural curiosity and attraction to water. Preventing access to swimming pools for small children is essential.
Recreational Camp Safety
Summer camps provide a host of recreational opportunities for children. The Department of Public Health’s brochure Information about Recreational Camps in Mass., Questions & Answers for Parents provides useful information on a range of important topics including health and safety.
Cars can be unsafe — and not just because of car crashes. Children left in a hot car can die from overheating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that a closed car, sitting in the summer sun, quickly turns into an oven, with temperatures rising from 78 degrees to 100 degrees in just three minutes and to 125 degrees in six to eight minutes. In addition, children can be injured while getting out of moving cars or be run or backed over by motor vehicles. To assist in keeping your young children safe in and around cars:
- Never leave children alone in a parked vehicle, even when they are asleep or restrained, and even if the windows are open.
- Always lock your car and keep the keys out of children's reach. Make a habit of looking in the vehicle - front and back - before locking the door and walking away.
- Ensure adequate supervision when children are playing in areas near parked motor vehicles.
- Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up for childcare.
- Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as placing your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat so that you will have to check the back seat when you leave the vehicle.
If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Cool the child rapidly. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Please remember all children ages 12 and younger should ride in the back seat. Be sure they are properly restrained every time they ride with you — even during those quick trips to the corner market. Infants and toddlers should remain in rear-facing car seats until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer. At a minimum, children should ride rear-facing until they have reached at least 1 year of age and weigh at least 20 pounds. At that time they should be transitioned into a forward-facing car seat. Once your child outgrows the height/weight restrictions on their forward facing car seat they should be transitioned into a booster seat until they reach eight years old or 57 inches in height.
DCF and DPH believe in the importance of preventing injuries. While the likelihood and severity of injury can be reduced by a variety of safety items — window guards, stair gates, outlet plugs, life vests, car seats — parents and caregivers are the critical partners in ensuring a young child's safety.
DPH and DCF are continuing to collaborate in a number of childhood injury areas, abusive head trauma/shaken baby syndrome, safe sleep and unintentional injury prevention, aimed at both prevention and child protection. It is our belief that our collective action, sharing of respective knowledge and resources and coordination with other systems, such as health care, public safety and, most importantly, caregivers, will lead to better prevention and safety for the Commonwealth's young children.
About the Department of Children and Families (DCF)
The Department of Children and Families is charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect and strengthening families. There are currently 7,000 children in foster care across Massachusetts and more than 40,000 children in all served by the Department. With the understanding that every child is entitled to a home that is free from abuse and neglect, the Department's vision is to ensure the safety of children in a manner that holds the best hope of nurturing a sustained, resilient network of relationships to support the child's growth and development into adulthood. Programs through the Department of Children and Families include foster care, adoption, adolescent services and domestic violence services.
About the Department of Public Health (DPH)
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health serves all the people in the Commonwealth and promotes healthy people, healthy families, healthy communities and healthy environments through compassionate care, education and prevention.
About the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA)
The Office of the Child Advocate works to ensure that every child involved with state agencies in Massachusetts is protected from harm and receives quality services. The OCA is an independent office and reports directly to the Governor. Among its other responsibilities, the OCA operates a Helpline and reviews fatalities, near fatalities, and serious injuries of children receiving services from state agencies.
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