Who will you leave behind? (The Risk of Unsafe Decisions)

At the NDSC, we’ve been celebrating National Safety Month and this year’s theme is, “What I Live For.” We asked everyone in our office to display what they live for on one sheet of paper. This got me thinking: What is it that I’m living for? Why do I choose to make safe decisions?

During that moment of reflection I realized something – to me – my safety has nothing to do with my dreams or aspirations. When I became a wife and a mom there was a shift in my world. For me, my safe decisions are not about whether or not I get to see my son graduate from high school – it’s about HIM not having to grow up without a mother. It’s not about the fact that I want to grow old with my husband, it’s about him not having to raise our child alone. These are the things that motivate me to make safe decisions each and every day.
what-i-live-for-2

If you have trouble justifying making safe decisions in your life, take a step back and think. Just for one moment think about the number of people your unsafe decision could affect. Parents, cousins, friends, classmates, coworkers, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, in-laws – the list is endless.

So put down your phone and put both hands on the wheel.
Secure your safety harness.
Make a plan for emergencies.
Read the safety warnings and heed their advice.

If you feel inclined, download the free safety resources available during National Safety Month. By utilizing the checklists and following the safety tips, you can help make this world a safer place. Because, in the end, safety isn’t just about you. It’s about those you’d leave behind.

Don’t be Helpless. Be the Help. [Reflections after my dad’s heart attack}

I’ll never forget the phone call. Within just two hours of my dad leaving my house, my mom called to let me know he had a heart attack. Multiple heart attacks actually. He started having chest pains on his way home from my house and drove himself to the hospital in Minot. That was a phone call I never expected to get, especially with my dad only in his early 50’s. But what scared me even more, was I wouldn’t have known what to do if he had the heart attack at my house.

Man Having Heart AttackThey say 75% of cardiac arrests occur at home, but 70% of Americans feel helpless to act because they don’t know how to administer CPR or they’re afraid of hurting the victim.
Would you know what to do?

June 1-7 is CPR/AED Awareness Week and the NDSC is on a mission to empower North Dakota citizens to act in a cardiac emergency. Our goal is to educate citizens about the importance of getting trained in performing CPR and using an AED so we can increase survivability rates in North Dakota.

Don’t be helpless during a cardiac emergency. Be the help that could save someone’s life. This June, we challenge you to make a commitment to prepare your family and business for a cardiac emergency.

Step 1: Know the facts.

  • The difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest:
    • A heart attack occurs when part of the heart’s blood supply is reduced or blocked, causing the heart muscle to become injured or die. The heart attack victim is awake and may complain about one or more symptoms.
      A heart attack can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
    • When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, blood stops flowing to the brain, the heart and the rest of the body, and the person collapses. In fact, the victim is clinically dead and will remain so unless someone helps immediately. For the best chance of survival, CPR should be started and an AED used within 3-4 minutes after the person collapses.

Step 2: Know the symptoms and how to react.

  • Signs and symptoms of a heart attack:
    • Persistent pain, pressure or discomfort in chest
    • Pain that may spread to neck, jaw, shoulder or arm
    • Shortness of breath
    • Dizziness, pale skin, sweating
    • Women are more likely to experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, indigestion, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
  • If you see someone experiencing these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.
    • Have the victim rest in a comfortable position.
    • Remain with the victim and monitor them until help arrives.
  • If they become unconscious and stop breathing, start CPR immediately. Push hard, about two inches, and fast on the middle of the victim’s chest until an AED becomes available or help arrives.

Step 3: Get certified.

  • Empower yourself by completing a CPR/AED course that will teach you further techniques and procedures. You can find certification courses across the state. To learn more about NDSC courses, call Rachael at (800) 932-8890 or visit www.ndsc.org/firstaid.

Drivin’ in “the zone” – The dangers of complacency behind the wheel.

Peter Pomonis, North Dakota Operation Lifesaver State Coordinator

Do you ever park your car at your destination, only to realize you don’t remember the majority of your drive? I can’t be the only one this has happened to! Unfortunately, this complacency behind the wheel could land you in a world of hurt. In the past 5 years, there have been 123 collisions between vehicles and trains in North Dakota. Of our nearly 3,500 public railroad crossings, only 604 have active warning devices (gates and/or lights). This means it is extremely important for drivers to be alert, recognize the signs and signals leading up to a crossing and to always assume there is a train approaching.

Whether you are driving to and from work, or just daydreaming on your way to the grocery store, ND Operation Lifesaver reminds all drivers to pay attention to your surroundings, EVERY time you are behind the wheel. I promise, you do not want your 2 ½ ton car having an unexpected meeting with a 6,000 ton freight train constructed of solid built American steel.

Here are some tips and facts to help you cross the tracks safely, every time:

advanced warning signBe on the look out for the yellow Advanced Warning Sign, which alerts you of railroad tracks ahead.

If you see a train coming – WAIT! Don’t be tempted to try to beat a train. An approaching train may be closer and traveling faster than it appears.

crossbuckEvery public railroad crossing is required to have a crossbuck. This sign tells drivers to yield to trains, as trains always have the right-of-way.

Don’t get stuck on the tracks. Before you cross, be sure there is room on the other side to clear the tracks by at least 15 feet.

ensReport any problem you see at a crossing. Call the emergency notification number posted on or near the crossing, or notify local law enforcement.

Eliminate distractions inside your vehicle, such as your looking at your cell phone, playing loud music, or eating.

For more safety tips and rail-safety resources please visit www.ndsc.org/OperationLifesaver or www.oli.org. Or, invite an Operation Lifesaver volunteer to speak to your organization or business! Click here to request a free presentation.

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.