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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!