Best summer safety advice

The best way to keep the fun happening all summer long is by putting safety first. From bike safety rules to bullying, here's what you need to know to keep yourself and those around you safe and happy.

By Ann Douglas

Best summer safety advice
©iStockphoto.com/Mari
Download our summer safety board game for a fun and engaging way to educate yourself and your entire family on essential tips to stay safe this summer.

Water safety

On average, 400 Canadians drown each year. In fact, drowning is one of the leading causes of death among children ages one to four.

To keep kids safe around water:
• Make sure an adult is in charge of watching them at all times. "Don't just assume that someone is watching them," says Janelle Warren, a first aid, swimming and water-safety program representative with the Canadian Red Cross.

• Ensure your backyard pool is surrounded by a fence that's at least 1.2 metres high, with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Proper fencing around pools can prevent seven out of 10 drownings among children under age five.

• Drain wading pools and small backyard pools when they are not in use.

• Ensure young children have life jackets on whenever they are in, on or around water. And check that the life jackets fit, are buckled up properly and are in good condition.

• Teach children basic water-safety rules and sign them up for swimming lessons.

Pedestrian safety
Help your children cross the road, and coach them on the basic rules of road safety until they demonstrate that they are ready to make safe decisions on their own. And don't expect that to happen too soon. Research indicates that children aren't capable of making safe decisions about crossing the street until they are at least nine.

"Kids under the age of nine simply haven't developed the physical and cognitive skills to do this. They have trouble determining the speed of a vehicle, they lack a sense of vulnerability and their peripheral vision isn't fully developed," explains Pam Fuselli, vice-president of government and stakeholder relations for the child-safety nonprofit Parachute.

And here's something to think about the next time you're behind the wheel: A pedestrian who is struck by a car travelling 64 kilometres per hour has an 85 percent chance of being killed, while someone hit by a car moving 48 kilometres per hour has a 48 percent chance.

Bike safety
"The skull is only one centimetre thick, so it needs protection," says Fuselli. Fortunately, bike helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by 85 percent – provided that people wear them.

•Model the importance of bike helmets for your child by wearing your own each time you head out for a ride.

•Replace helmets if they are more than five years old, no longer fit, have been in an accident or are showing signs of wear.

•When purchasing a new helmet, look for one that meets the government's quality standards and is designed for your particular use. (In other words, don't ask a hockey helmet to do the job of a bicycle helmet.)

Playground safety
• Ensure that backyard playground equipment is properly anchored and that a deep, soft surface (15 to 30 centimetres of sand, pea gravel or wood chips) is provided under swings, climbers and slides to protect against injuries caused by falls.

• Teach children basic playground safety rules, such as waiting their turn, going down slides feet first, holding onto railings, sitting down on swings and steering clear of moving swings.

• Keep children under age five off any equipment that would take them more than 1.5 metres off the ground.

• Beware of strangulation hazards posed by drawstrings, skipping ropes and bike helmets.

Sports safety
Summer is a great time of year to be active and outdoors, for parents and kids alike. To ensure that you stay healthy while you're staying fit, Warren offers these tips.

• Confirm that all sports equipment you are using is in good working order.

• Incorporate a warm-up and a cooldown into your workout to reduce the risk of injury or strain.

• Minimize the likelihood of heat exhaustion by exercising during the cooler times of day and drinking plenty of water before, during and after activity.

• Wear sunscreen and cover up as much exposed skin as you can. Don't forget to wear a hat with a brim that covers your face and shields your neck to protect yourself from a burn. And remember: You need to protect yourself from the sun's damaging effects on sunny days and cloudy days alike.

Car safety
It may be tempting to leave kids in the car for just a second while you dash into a store to pick up a few items, but resist that temptation. The temperature inside a car can soar within minutes, especially over the summer, with potentially tragic results.

Campfire safety
Before you plan a campfire for your kids, take a moment to assess their abilities and outline some rules. "Ask yourself if they are ready for the safety that goes along with the activity," suggests Warren. If you decide to go ahead, be sure to provide adult supervision during and after the campfire. The ashes from a campfire remain hot long after the fire has burned out.

Bullying
• Be alert to the potential for bullying. Bullying is more likely to occur when children encounter new situations and groups of peers. "The first few days of summer camp might be a vulnerable time," says Debra Pepler, a psychology professor at York University and cofounder of PREVNet.ca.

• Talk to the program director. Find out what strategies have been put in place to prevent bullying and how staff will respond to any incidences of bullying, should they occur.

• Make sure your child knows what to do if it happens, says Amélie Doyon, national advisor of the Canadian Red Cross anti-bullying program Respected: "Make it clear that no one deserves to be bullied. If they feel unsafe, they have the right to ask for help."


Thanks to Janelle Warren, a first aid, swimming, and water safety services representative with the Canadian Red Cross; Amelie Doyon, violence prevention advisor for the Canadian Red Cross' RespectED, a violence and abuse prevention program; Pam Fuselli, vice-president of government and stakeholder relations at the non-profit Parachute; and York University psychology professor and bullying expert Debra J. Pepler, co-founder of PREVnet.ca for their help with this article.

For camping tips, expert advice and guides to some of the best campgrounds in Canada, visit our expert's guide to the great Canadian outdoors.

This story was originally titled "Summer Safety Guide" in the July 2013 issue.

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