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Be Ready and Be Safe as you Prepare to Head Back to School

By Stephanie Dunn Ashley

Although the temperatures are blaring this summer and beach time is a respite, school bells will be calling students back to the classroom soon.

At the American Red Cross, we want you all to take steps to help kids remain safe as they head back to school.

As a parent, I’m getting ready to send my girls back to college in another state. We have discussed potential weather-related disasters, drawn up an emergency plan for their dorm, and noted the dangers of being distracted. A few more topics we have discussed include:

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports distracted walking can be dangerous, even deadly. Teach your students the following:
• Don’t text or talk on your phone while walking. If you must text, move out of the way of others and stop on the sidewalk.
• Never cross the street while using an electronic device.
• Do not walk with headphones in your ears.
• Drivers can be distracted too. Never use a phone while driving. Help keep children safe by eliminating all distractions.

• Cross the street at the corner, obeying traffic signals and staying in the crosswalk.
• Never run out into the street or cross between parked cars.
• Use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards.
• Parents, walk with young children and those taking new routes or attending new schools, for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

• Everyone should always wear a seat belt.
• Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
• If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts.

• Students should get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Young children should be supervised.
• Board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant instructs them to get on. They should only board their bus, never an alternate one.
• All students should stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.

RIDING A BIKE There may be more young people on bikes as the school bells ring. They should:
• Wear a properly fitted helmet and bright clothing.
• Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, in a single file.
• Come to a complete stop before crossing the street; walk bikes across the street.
• Stay alert and avoid distracted riding.

I also wanted to reiterate some tips we review with our Safety Town students each spring. I know keeping all students safe is the primary concern for everyone, but there are special steps for parents of younger kids and those going to school for the first time:
• Make sure the child knows their phone number, address, how to get in touch with their parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to call 911.
• Teach children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know.

Finally, download the free Red Cross First Aid app for instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies. You can find it by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps. Learn and practice First Aid and CPR/AED skills by taking a course (redcross.org/takeaclass) so you can help save a life.

Enjoy the final weeks of summer safely and enjoy the new school year.

Stephanie Dunn Ashley is the CEO of the Metro New York North Chapter of the American Red Cross. The MNYN Chapter encompasses Greenwich, Conn., the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, plus Westchester and Rockland Counties.

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