While it’s important to bring a bathing suit when you and the family hit the road this summer, it’s even more critical to make sure your children are safe. I recently sat down with Alison Rhodes-Jacobson, a.k.a. Safety Mom, to glean some tips for safer family vacations. Here are the highlights of our chat.
Q. How can parents ‘train’ their kids to be safer when the family is away from home?
A. Have an emergency evacuation plan in case of a fire, black-out, or other disaster. Decide upon a meeting place away from the home or resort where your family will gather in the event of an emergency. Also, identify at least two exits and count how many ‘hands’ it takes to reach the nearest one (as you could be crawling along the floor if the room fills with smoke). For older kids, it’s a smart idea to bring walkie-talkies if you’re going to be at a resort; this way, you can stay in contact with them wherever they are.
Q. What’s the best way for parents to make sure kids are carrying identification?
A. ID Bands are a good idea but you can also just get a sticker with your cell phone number and place it on the inside of their shoe. Instruct the kids if they get lost to ‘show their shoe’ to a grown-up. For parents, it’s important to take a new cell-phone picture of your kids each morning. That way, if the child goes missing, you can tell police not only what he or she looks like, but what he or she was wearing.
Q. What are the most common safety oversights parents make while traveling?
A. Never send your kids to the rest room alone! Also, miscommunication is a huge problem—as in, one partner thinks the other partner is watching the kids, and something terrible happens (75 percent of drowning occur under adult supervision, you know). I always recommend wearing some sort of bracelet or some visual reminder of who is the one in charge of the kids at a particular moment. The person wearing the bracelet then has to be as vigilant as he or she would be at home.
Q. Generally speaking, how can families take safer road trips?
A. For parents with children that are still in car seats, get a bright neon sticker and write on it all of your child’s vital information: known allergies, medication that they take, illnesses and the phone number of an emergency contact. Then affix the sticker to the side of the car seat. If you are rendered unconscious in an accident, first responders will immediately know all of the information about your child. (The reason for neon is if the car is filled with smoke, it’s easier to see.) Additionally, make sure you keep a first aid kit in your car, as well as emergency essentials such as a jug of water, a flashlight, a blanket, extra set of clothing and flares. It’s also a good idea to keep a charged cell phone; as long as it has a charge, you can use it to call 911. Finally, apply sunscreen to your kids while they are in the car; they can get a sunburn through the window.
Q. And what are simple steps to provide for safer airplane trips?
A. For most parents, airline regulations regarding the use of car seats and other child restraints are confusing. Adding to the confusion is the fact that most flight attendants either are not aware of the FAA regulations or would prefer to ignore them. It’s important to do your homework prior to travelling (this is a great resource), and be prepared for potential disagreements with flight attendants. As a very basic overview, most infant and convertible seats are approved for use on aircrafts however backless booster seats, booster seats without an internal belt system, seat belt extensions (also known as “belly belts”), harnesses and vests are not. The only FAA approved harness device is the AmSafe Aviation CARES harness, which can be used for children over the age of 1 between 22 and 44 pounds.
Q. Any other basic safety tips?
A. Physical safety is important and often overlooked. Always keep your hotel room door double locked to prevent your child from walking out and having the door close behind them. Also, it’s a good idea to purchase a portable alarm that can be placed under a door and on a slider. These devices look like a doorjam that you put under the door; it’s just as much to prevent anybody from walking in the door as it is to prevent your kids walking out. You can get them at Home Depot. Or here.
Q. Finally, what’s your take on child leashes?
A. There’s always a debate in the parent community if you should use a ‘leash’ on your child. This is one of those situations where you know your child best. If you have multiple children and one tends to bolt or wander, if this is the only way of assuring he/she stays safe than it’s the right thing to do.
Do you have any safety tips to add to this list? If so, please submit your suggestions and/or advice in the comment field below.