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The upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend is the unofficial start of summer when all of us will begin enjoying the outdoors and sunshine. The American Red Cross wants everyone to have fun and offers 20 things you can do to be safe all summer long.

“Summer is finally on the way and many of us will travel, grill delicious food and cool off in the pool or at the beach,” said Dave Skutnik, Director of Communications “We want everyone to enjoy the summer and be safe at the same time, so we are offering these 20 safety tips people should follow.”

DRIVING SAFETY

  1. Be well rested and alert, use seat belts, observe speed limits and follow the rules of the road. Clean your headlights and turn them on as dusk approaches or in inclement weather.
  2. Don’t drink and drive. Have a designated driver available.
  3. Give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  4. Use caution in work zones. There are lots of construction projects underway on the highways.
  5. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely.

WATER SAFETY

  1. Ensure that everyone in the family becomes water competent. That is, learn to swim well, know your limitations and how to recognize and avoid hazards, and understand how to help prevent and respond to emergencies around water.
  2. Adults should actively supervise children and stay within arm’s reach of young children and newer swimmers. Kids should follow the rules.
  3. Fence your pool in with four-sided fencing that is at least four-feet in height and use self-closing, self-latching gates.
  4. Wear your U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket always when on a boat and if in a situation beyond your skill level.
  5. Swim as a pair near a lifeguard’s chair – everyone, including experienced swimmers, should swim with a buddy in areas protected by lifeguards. If in a location with no lifeguards, such as a residential pool, designate a “Water Watcher” to keep a close eye and constant attention on children in and around the water.

BEACH SAFETY

  1. If you plan to swim in the ocean, a lake or river, be aware that swimming in these environments is different than swimming in a pool. Be sure you have the skills for these environments.
  2. Swim only at a beach with a lifeguard, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards and ask them about local conditions.
  3. Make sure you swim sober and that you always swim with a buddy. Know your limitations and make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.
  4. Protect your neck – don’t dive headfirst. Walk carefully into open waters. Watch out for and avoid aquatic life.
  5. If you are caught in a rip current, try not to panic. Signal to those on shore that you need assistance. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.

GRILLING SAFETY

  1. Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  2. Never grill indoors – not in your house, camper, tent or any enclosed area.
  3. Make sure everyone, including pets, stays away from the grill.
  4. Keep the grill out in the open, away from the house, deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  5. Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill to keep the chef safe.

 

Written by Randy Hulshizer

It’s almost that time of year again! For many, the upcoming warm, humid summer months are a time to head to the beach for a cool dip in the ocean, kick back with a glass of lemonade or iced tea in a shady backyard, or simply find a cool, air-conditioned place to relax. Instinctively, people tend to choose activities that alleviate discomfort from the heat, but sometimes the heat and humidity are so bad that the weather service and local governments issue warnings to  ensure people understand that heat is not only uncomfortable—it can be dangerous.

Despite the frequent and clear warnings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 681 people die in the U.S. each year due to heat-related factors. The majority of heat-related deaths occur in individuals over the age of 65 and most are preventable.

Hurricane Matthew 2016

Photo by Daniel Cima

The reason for the high number of elderly deaths due to heat are three-fold. First, as the human body ages, it becomes less adaptable to sudden changes in temperature or other environmental factors, such as humidity and air pollution. Second, many people over the age of 65 have chronic medical conditions or take multiple prescription medications, both of which could affect the body’s ability to adapt to environmental changes. And third, many people over the age of 65 simply ignore the warnings.

According to a 2007 survey of more than 900 individuals over the age of 65, only about half heed excessive heat warnings. Some individuals stated that, although they knew that “elderly” people were at higher risk of heat-related conditions and death, they did not consider themselves “elderly,” and therefore the warnings did not apply. In addition, most reported that they had access to air-conditioning, but about a third of them said they didn’t turn it on because it cost too much.

The Red Cross encourages everyone, especially the elderly, to pay attention to the warnings and take appropriate action: stay in air-conditioning if possible; drink plenty of water; stay out of the sun; wear lose-fitting, light-colored clothing; don’t engage in strenuous activity; and get plenty of rest. If you know someone over the age of 65, check on them occasionally to be sure they are weathering the heat safely.

The 4th of July is only a day away! Who doesn’t love this holiday? We celebrate the founding of our nation, we get together with friends and family, we grill delicious food and, if we are really lucky, we get to see an awesome fireworks display.
Sadly, this summer of 2013, the weather is not cooperating. For the last week, we have been experiencing intermittent heavy rain along with lightening and thunderstorms. This weather pattern is supposed to continue throughout this week as well. Although the pattern may clear at the end of the week, some of us could be spending the Fourth dodging thunderstorms. Therefore, it is very important to know some basic outdoor weather safety tips when it comes to thunder and lightning. Despite the weather, the American Red Cross wants everyone to have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
The safest place to be during a lightening storm is inside an enclosed building. If you can’t get to shelter, below are tips to keep your safe.
1. Avoid small shelters and pavilions in open areas that may attract lighting strikes
2. Do not try to hide under trees, but if trees are you only shelter choose the smallest tree possible.
3. Avoid bodies of water such as swimming pools, lakes, ponds, rivers, and oceans
4. Avoid being on high ground, and near tall objects or metal objects such as fences, wires, bikes, construction equipment and wires.
5. Distance yourself at least 15 feet away from other people in the area to prevent lightening bolts from jumping from one person to another.
6. If you are in the immediate area of lightening, crouch down with feet together and head down to prevent the possible attraction to lightning strikes.
7. When driving, if possible, pull off the road to avoid being blinded or startled by the lightening. Do not get out of your vehicle and make sure all windows are rolled up.
If someone is struck by lightening they usually lose consciousness. After a person has been struck, no electrical charge will remain in their body, and they can safely be handled without shocking others. Intense electrical shock can stop a person’s heart, and proper CPR can be critical until emergency helps arrive.
Basically, it’s important to use common sense. Check local media for weather reports and be informed. If the weather looks frightful, move your celebration inside or, at least, near to a sturdy shelter. Stay safe and Happy Fourth of July from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross.

~posted by communications volunteer, Sarah Peterson

It can take less than three minutes for a young child to drown in water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.” As pools open all over the region this Memorial Day Weekend, we at the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) urge you to take precautions.

Here’s a story for you. Let me preface this by saying that I’m a highly devoted mother. I can’t say I practiced attachment parenting with my three sons but they practiced attachment child-ing on me so it all amounts to the same thing. So, moving on, we were vacationing at a hotel with a small beach and a pool and one climbed up from the beach to the pool via a steep stairway. Consequently, one always arrived at the pool from the beach slightly breathless and disheveled as well as carrying numerous water and sand toys, towels and other essentials. In addition, the climb was spent urging the small boys ahead of me to “hold on the rail”, “keep going”, “watch where you step” and “be careful!” It’s no wonder that my first instinct, upon reaching the pool deck, was the to find a lounge chair and unburden myself.

Well I don’t really know how long the unburdening took, but when I turned around my three year old was sinking fast. The wide expanse of blue in the deep end sidetracked him on his way to the kiddy pool and he jumped right in. I didn’t hear him hit the water. I didn’t hear his subsequent struggle. I needed to see what was happening to understand that a serious emergency was underway. Thank goodness I hadn’t decided to re-apply sunscreen while continuing to look the other way. My fellow pool visitors were reading, drinking, sleeping and sunbathing. They had not noticed either and, like most hotels, the pool was unguarded.

Most pools that children drown in are unguarded. Most are in the back yards of residential homes. Some are baby pools containing three inches of rainwater. Small children are curious. They will find the water and try to play in it. After all, baths are fun!

Here at the SEPA Red Cross, disaster prevention is part of our mission. Please consider taking the following precautions while enjoying the water:

  • Consider designating a responsible person as a lifeguard for small swimmers.
  • Don’t depend on rubber inflatable devices, such as “floaties” to keep children safe
  • Put up a fence around a larger pool and install an alarm.
  • Set clear guidelines for the use of diving boards and pool toys.
  • Make sure baby pools are empty or supervised and limit access to above ground pools by blocking ladders, etc.
  • Learn how to respond to a water emergency.
  • Please follow this link to the national Red Cross site.

These are simple steps but they can prevent a horrible tragedy.

My son is now a handsome 14 year old with lots of lip for his mother, but I’ll never forget how quickly he was in danger in the water. Every parent should give water priority in the collection of hazards that threaten our children. If you are a parent or caregiver, “child drowned” is a very sobering Internet search but may be a five-minute journey worth taking as a new summer season comes upon us.

Ever heard of Wave Board Basketball? Neither had I until I caught my kids playing it in our driveway on a warm evening a few weeks ago. Like any responsible parent, I try to limit my use of profanity unless absolutely unavoidable but sometimes I find the word “bleeping” comes in handy in a pinch. Such as, in the case of the Wave Board Basketball incident, “Where are your BLEEPING helmets?!!!” Just saying. . .  Which brings me to the topic of this SEPA Red Cross blog. Summer Safety.

Summertime . . .and the livin’ is easy . . . and slightly more risky. . .which sadly doesn’t really fit with that lovely tune but is true nonetheless. Enjoyment of outdoor, athletic pursuits is what summer is about for most of us and our beautiful city, Philadelphia, offers so many opportunities for warm weather recreation. Fairmount Park makes us rich in bike trails and hiking paths. Smaller city parks offer basketball hoops, playgrounds, skateboard parks and soccer fields. Our own neighborhood streets and driveways host street hockey, jump-roping and, apparently, Wave Board Basketball. Everybody get out and run around! It’s fun. Just please remember to take a few precautions so we all stay safe and healthy.

Wear your helmets. It’s that simple. Be helmeted on your bicycles, wave boards, skateboards or any other apparatus that rolls you around at high speeds. Used children’s helmets are easy to find at garage sales. As with the oxygen mask on the airplane, helmet your children first before helmeting yourself. Our heads are incredibly fragile and brain injury can be absolutely devastating.

Respect the temperature and humidity. Here, in the Philadelphia area, we have several summer days where temperatures reach the high 90’s. That’s hot and attention must be paid. Small children, the elderly and the chronically ill are most susceptible to extreme heat but everyone should be aware of the risk of heat stroke. If you feel dizzy or nauseous while being active on a hot sunny day, find some shade, a cool drink and rest for a while. If you start feeling cold and goosebumpy even though the beach or pavement is like a frying pan under your feet, find a cooler venue to recuperate. Plan your activities for the early morning or evening when the sun is less intense. Watch out for your friends and keep your elderly neighbors in mind. The heat is great when you climb out of the pool but it can be very harmful.

Use sunscreen. That’s a no-brainer in families like mine who are so pale we’re almost translucent, but the truth is everyone should be using sunscreen. The sun is very powerful and it’s beaming all kinds of ultra-violet light at us, especially at the beach, on the water or any place where shade trees are scarce. Even if your skin does not burn, it’s still on the receiving end of that radiation infusion. Protect yourself. Protect your children. Don’t forget to reapply every couple hours if you are swimming or sweating!

Drink water, but not too much. It’s very important to stay hydrated. We are humans, not lizards and when we start to shrivel from dehydration, we become quite ill. By the same token, we can hurt ourselves by drinking too much so don’t overdo it. Water is an essential accompaniment to all summer activities. My family owns about 20 different water bottles that fit awkwardly in a cabinet over the kitchen sink and sometimes fall on my head when I open the door too forcefully. My children love this.

Be safe in the water. Make sure kids learn to swim. It’s an essential life skill. The Red Cross offers lots of opportunities for swim instruction in our region. Wear life jackets on boats. Made sure the people you care about are safe in and around the water.

Summer is a fantastic time of year. The American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania hopes you enjoy it safely!