A Farm Girl, a Tornado and a Pickup Truck. [A Severe Weather Preparedness Testimony]

Rewind about 15 years….It was summertime and I was home alone on the farm. I’m not sure where the rest of my family was, but I was busy doing my chores: mowing the lawn, weed whacking, killing snakes… you know, the usual chores for a farm girl. I noticed the sky getting very dark so I went inside to check the Weather Channel (which didn’t show rain within 50 miles of the farm!).

As I was heading back outside, our phone rang. A family friend was calling to see if I was home alone. I told her yes, and she proceeded to tell me a tornado was reported 6 ½ miles west of town (our farm is 7 ½ miles west of town).

She said, “I don’t want you home alone. Get in the pickup and drive to your neighbor’s house.”

I asked, “Since the tornado is so close, shouldn’t I just stay home and go to the basement?”

She was adamant I go to the neighbor’s house so I was safe.

Really?

Well – she was the adult and I was the kid – so I listened to her and proceeded to drive a half mile TOWARD the tornado to get to my neighbor’s house. I won’t go through the hilarious details of a nervous teenage girl trying to drive a stick shift while in a panic. Let’s just say I narrowly avoided putting some new dents in my dad’s shop. We’ll leave it at that.

In the end, I arrived safely at our neighbor’s house. I don’t remember if the tornado caused any damage, but I do remember how scared I was and being very uneasy about driving during the storm. The typical protocol for our family was to go to the basement during storms. But I had never been home alone during a storm, so I wasn’t 100% confident I should ignore the advice from the adult on the other end of the phone.

Life Lesson: Create a plan for severe weather and make sure the whole family understands what to do.

It might seem like a no-brainer, but so many of us just don’t take the time. As severe weather season quickly approaches, now is a good time to make a plan and get prepared.

Here’s some suggestions and resources to help you get started:

  • Create a family emergency plan.
  • Be prepared for a tornado and have a shelter plan.
  • Communicate with your neighbors and other family members about your emergency plan and share your resources. Hiring a babysitter? Make sure they are aware of your emergency plan as well.
  • Keep fully stocked first aid kits in your home and vehicles, as well as a portable weather radio from the National Weather Service.
  • Register for alerts and warnings so you are aware of changing weather conditions.

For more safety tips and emergency preparedness resources, I’d recommend checking out Ready.gov, FEMA’s “America’s PrepareAthon!” campaign and the National Safety Council’s Emergency Preparedness page.

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Spring/Trauma Season Has Arrived! Tips for parents and community members to keep kids safe and out of the ER

Since becoming a mom, Spring is starting to be one of my favorite times of the year. The warmer weather slowly reacquaints itself with North Dakota, meaning there’s more opportunity for my little monster to burn off steam outside. Most parents and daycare providers know this means better appetites at dinner, better naps in the afternoon, and a better night sleep for everyone!

Unfortunately, pediatric experts equate warmer weather with something a lot less desirable. They call it, “Trauma Season.” Safe Kids Worldwide says summer season represents millions of ER visits by children 14 and younger due to unintentional injuries, some resulting in death.

Soo….Happy Spring?

Luckily, whether you have children or not, there are things we can all do to help keep the little munchkins safe.

  • Stay focused when you’re behind the wheel!
    More children are riding bike, skateboarding and walking during warmer weather. Be extra cautious and alert when you’re driving, especially during before and after school hours.
  • Protect their heads!
    ALWAYS have your children wear a helmet. Don’t have kids? You can still set an example for them by wearing your helmet!
  • Start teaching them safe pedestrian behaviors. Simple rules to start with include:
    • Avoid distracted walking – put down your device and look left, right and left again when crossing the street.
    • Children under 10 should always cross the street with an adult.
    • Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
    • It’s always best to use sidewalks or paths when available.
    • Cross the street at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.

Remember, child safety isn’t just a parental responsibility – it’s a community effort. We can all help prevent injuries this spring by setting a good example and encouraging safe habits.

For more child safety tips, you can check out one of our favorite resources here. Or, contact our Home & Community Coordinator, Peter Pomonis, at 701-223-6372 or PeterP@ndsc.org.

Home Safety: Planning For and Preventing Home Fires

In the last week, there have been two home fires affecting families from the town I live in. So often after tragedies such as these, you hear the families say they hope no one ever has to endure what they just went through. Luckily, my job gives me the platform to help them with this wish.

Below are a few simple tips to help you improve the safety of your home. It’s important for you and your family to know how to prevent home fires, as well as how to react in the event of a fire. Just a little bit of planning can make a big difference for your family.

Home Safety: Fire Prevention & Planning

  1. Create and practice a home escape plan to use in the event of a fire, including two escape routes for every room.
  2. Complete a home fire safety checklist and identify fire risks in your home.
  3. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors monthly, and change the batteries at least once per year.
  4. Make sure children know what your fire alarm sounds like and how to react in an emergency.
  5. Equip your home with fire extinguishers and learn how to use them (contact your local fire department).

Fore more tips on preventing home fires, click here. Or to learn more about teaching your children about fire safety, visit www.safekids.org/fire.

Questions? Contact our Home & Community Coordinator, Peter Pomonis, at peterp@ndsc.org.

5 Tips from a Former Car Seat Tech

CAR SEAT – two words that can cause major anxiety for parents – new and experienced alike. As a parent, it can seem like an impossible task to correctly install the car seat AND correctly secure your child in it. The list of questions goes on and on: What clothes can they wear in the winter time? Where is the car seat supposed to be placed? Why can’t I use add-ons? What in the heck is LATCH?!

As a former trained Car Seat Technician I understand why parents get so overwhelmed. So, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve picked up as a parent and former technician:

  • There is no perfect car seat. I see a lot of parents asking for advice on the best car seat to buy. The BEST thing you can do, is find a car seat that fits your vehicle AND your child.
  • Car Seat Checkups are worth it. There is no better feeling than leaving a car seat checkup knowing you just did your due diligence to make sure your child was safe. As parents, we can’t know it all. Let the technicians at the car seat checkups help you.
  • NEVER buy used. Unless you know the full history of the car seat and you trust the person you’re buying it from, don’t buy a used car seat.
  • Follow the guidelines. The guidelines are set to keep your child as safe as possible in a crash. Learn the guidelines and trust the experts! This starts with reading the owner’s manuals for both your vehicle and the car seat.
  • Weary on winter wear? You’re not alone. There are a LOT of questions surrounding what children can and can NOT wear in the car seat. Here’s the general rule: secure your child in the car seat wearing normal clothing (think “strap before you wrap”). Adjust the harness to the appropriate tightness. Then, put your child in the jacket you want them to wear and try to buckle them in. If you can secure them in the seat WITHOUT loosening the harness straps, you’re good to go. If not, there’s too much fluff for it to be safe. If you want further explanation, The Car Seat Lady does a great job in her blog, The Dangers of Fluff. Read it here: http://thecarseatlady.com/dangersoffluff/

Yes, car seat safety can be complicated. But there are tons of resources out there to help us parents along the way. Here’s a list of my favorites:

5 Tips for Holiday Party Planning

New Year’s Eve is a great night to throw a party and enjoy the company of family and friends. But hosting a party is a lot of work: planning the menu, buying the food, sending invitations, and organizing the entertainment. Perhaps the most important part of hosting a party where alcohol is involved is ensuring the safety of your guests, both during and after the event.

In 2013, 48% of all vehicle crashes in North Dakota were alcohol related. And according to the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center, in 2009, 9 traffic fatalities and 205 traffic-related injuries were attributable to driving after underage drinking.

If you are hosting a party this holiday season, please do your part to help keep North Dakota’s roads safe:

  1. Avoid making alcohol the main focus of your party.
  2. Make sure to offer plenty of non-alcoholic choices.
  3. Plan to serve foods that slow the effects of alcohol, such as foods high in protein and carbohydrates (think meat and cheese tray).
  4. Stop serving drinks at least 1 hour before the end of the event.
  5. Think ahead – recruit people who will not be drinking to help ensure that everyone has a safe and sober ride home.

For more tips, check out this free party planning guide from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/PHD833/PHD833.pdf

5 Tips to Get You to Your Christmas Destination Safely

A few weeks ago, my brother surprised us with a phone call saying he’d be coming home from Japan for Christmas. Needless to say, my excitement level went through the roof! I spent this last weekend rushing and preparing: wrapping, cleaning, shopping…I should have added baking to that list, but Sunday night came quicker than anticipated!!

I have exactly 5 work days left before my husband, son and I hit the road for the family farm. I’m sure my to-do list is very similar to yours. It’s important for us to remember that, amongst all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, there are simple steps we can take to make sure we arrive at our Christmas destination safely:

  1. If you need to use the restroom or fill with gas, try to avoid rural rest stops. Instead, stop at high-traffic gas stations such as truck stops. They are usually well lit and in high-traffic locations.
  2. No matter the length of your trip, make sure you and loved ones are buckled up.
  3. If you are traveling with gifts, put them in a locked trunk where they are out of site from potential thieves.
  4. Plan and prepare for inclement weather.
    Give yourself plenty of time, check the road and weather reports (not while driving!), and stock your car with winter survival gear. On my phone, I downloaded the ND DOT’s app called ND Roads, as well as the KX Weather App.
  5. Let someone know when you plan to leave, what route you’re taking, and your estimated time of arrival.

Not traveling this Christmas? Please share these tips with family or friends who may be traveling!

Toy Safety for Santa (and you)

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were an estimated 265,000 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospitals in 2012. That’s 726 injuries each day or about 30 injuries every hour. If your children have been good this year, they might receive a few toys from Santa this holiday season. The North Dakota Safety Council provides the following safety tips for Santa (and you) when choosing gifts for your little ones:

  • Consider your child’s age when purchasing a toy or game. It’s worth a second to read the instructions and warning labels to make sure it’s just right for your child.
  • Purchase the proper safety equipment when giving certain gifts. For instance, if a bicycle is on your child’s wish list, makes sure a helmet is also purchased.
  • Keep a special eye on small game pieces that may be a choking hazard for young children. While these kinds of games are great for older kids, they can pose a potential danger for younger, curious siblings.
  • After play time is over, use a bin or container to store toys for next time. Make sure there are no holes or hinges that could catch little fingers.
  • Sign up to receive product recalls. Safe Kids Worldwide and www.recalls.gov are two valuable resources.

The ‘Trick’ To Staying Safe on Halloween

Halloween is an exciting time for kids, but the North Dakota Safety Council (NDSC) reminds the public that pedestrian safety should be a top priority for both drivers and parents. On average, twice as many kids are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year. With hundreds of kids hitting the streets this Friday, the NDSC offers a few simple tips to help keep kids safe:

Tips for Ghouls and Mummies:

  • Children under 12 should trick-or-treat and cross streets with an adult. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, remind them to stick to familiar areas that are well lit and to trick-or-treat in groups.
  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Make sure your little ghouls and goblins walk, not run, across the street.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the side as possible.
  • Make sure you child’s creative costume is also safe. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and choose light colors. Masks can obstruct a child’s vision, so choose non-toxic face paint and make-up whenever possible.
  • Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights in order to see better, as well as be seen by drivers.

Tips for Drivers:

  • SLOW DOWN.  Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., so be especially alert for kids during those hours.
  • Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Slowly and carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys.
  • Reduce any distractions inside your car, such as talking on the phone or eating.
  • As always, NEVER drink and drive.

For more information on pedestrian safety, contact Peter Pomonis, NDSC Home & Community Coordinator, at (701) 223-6372 or PeterP@ndsc.org.

Look Left, Right, and Left Again – oh, and put down your PHONE!

This morning, as I opened up one of my weekly news feeds, a headline caught my eye:
40 percent of teens have been struck or nearly struck by car while walking

At first, I thought it was an article about pedestrian safety related to distracted drivers. I was blown away when I read that more than 400 out of 1,000 teens were hit, or almost hit by cars because THEY were on their phones. I’ve seen the videos on YouTube of distracted walkers running into light poles but, even as an employee in the safety industry, I never realized it was this serious of a safety problem.

In case you need your eyes opened like I did, here’s a few of the stats released by Safe Kids Worldwide:

  • Safe Kids Worldwide surveyed 1,040 teens 13 to 18 years old about their pedestrian behaviors. Forty percent of the teens reported they have been struck or nearly struck by a car, bike or motorcycle.
  • Among teens who said they had been struck or almost struck while crossing a street:
    • 47% were listening to music
    • 40% ran across the street
    • 37% crossed from the middle of the block
    • 20% were talking on the phone
    • 18% were texting
    • 8% were looking at websites on their phone

It’s amazing to me that, with as far as we have come in improving safety for our children, it still goes back to the basics: look left, right and left again before crossing the street.

But, it’s obviously time to make a few adjustments for this technology-driven world:

  • Do not use phones or headphones when crossing a street.
  • Make eye contact with drivers before crossing.
  • Stay alert when it is dark.
  • Cross at a traffic signal or crosswalk.

And parents, don’t stop talking to your kids about pedestrian safety once they reach their teens. According to this survey, it looks like they could probably use a refresher!

                                                                                                                                      
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Youth Sports: Keeping your young athlete off the IR list

In 2013, 1.24 million kids were seen in emergency rooms for sports injuries nationwide. That’s 3,397 every day, 141 every hour, or 1 every 25 seconds.

The culture of youth sports in today’s environment is extremely demanding of our children and is resulting in many injuries. Whether it’s a 9-year-old traveling basketball team or a high school swim team, the pressures of winning and being “tough” start at an early age. Playing through injuries is a trait often admired in sports culture, however, your kids may be doing more harm to their bodies than you think!

The North Dakota Safety Council offers the following tips to parents and coaches to help keep players off the injury reserve list:

  • When in doubt, keep them out. 
    If a child is suspected of being injured, keep them out of play.
  • Set ground rules at the beginning of the season.
    Coaches should bring together parents and athletes before the season to agree on the team’s approach to prevent injuries.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of concussions.
    Concussions can cause permanent brain damage, affecting your child for a lifetime.
  • Make sure your athlete has the proper protective equipment available and that it fits properly.
  • Teach athletes ways to prevent injuries such as: proper techniques, strength training, warm-up exercises and stretching.
  • Prevent overuse injuries.
    Encourage your young athletes to take time off from playing one sport to give them opportunities to develop skills in another sport.
  • Encourage athletes to speak up when they’re injured.
  • Put an end to dirty play and rule breaking.
  • Get certified.
    Learn First Aid and CPR so you can respond correctly to injuries.

Following these guidelines will help your young athletes enjoy a successful and LONG sports career.

Peter Pomonis
NDSC Home & Community Coordinator

Sources:  http://www.safekids.org/infographic/exploring-culture-youth-sports
and
www.cdc.gov/concussioninyouthsports

                                                                                                                                            
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