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Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer - Safely

Summer brings sunshine, barbeques, fireworks, road trips, high temperatures and family gatherings. The kids are home from school, and even mom and dad have some vacation time, a welcome change from routine. Oddly enough, all the ingredients that concoct a perfect summer day can also be the recipe for disaster - the stuff of your worst nightmares, rather than happy summer memories to come.

If you read the news, you couldn't escape the stories of damage, injuries and deaths caused by fireworks around the 4th of July holiday. A young boy at his first-ever Cubs game at Wrigley Field had the misfortune of being struck by a powerful foul ball, ending up hospitalized. Closer to home, the Des Plaines community was deeply saddened by the loss of a local child, Lexi Porreca, in a tragic car accident last week. I was reading last night about soon-to-be-published research concerning "backover" accidents, when children can't be seen in the rearview mirror by a driver backing out of a garage or down a driveway. The frequency of these incidents got pushed into the spotlight over the Memorial Day weekend, when the 5 year old daughter of popular Christian musical artist Steven Curtis Chapman was killed when her teenage brother struck her with the car he was driving. Purely, horribly accidental, and a chilling reminder that these tragedies can happen to anyone.

So, what's my point? Be mindful, alert and thoughtful when it comes to your own safety and that of others, not just this summer, but year 'round. I was one of those young drivers who never wore a seat belt. Then Princess Diana was killed, a passenger in the back seat of a luxury automobile who very likely would have survived had she been belted in. I wear my seat belt any time I am in a car now, whether I'm driver or passenger, and was told by paramedics 8 years ago that it played a significant role in protecting me during my own car accident. So seat belts are a must, for you and everyone you know.

Here are a few other suggestions, and also links to books and other library materials that can inform you and your family on staying safe and healthy.
  • Check and check again to be sure no person or even a pet is behind you while backing out of the driveway. This goes double for drivers of trucks and SUVs, who may be too high in the air to see small children in the rearview mirror.

  • Here's a simple one: slow down! Speeding wastes gas and risks lives. Please, while visiting the Library, drive carefully in our parking garage, which is always full of pedestrians, bikers, parents with strollers, etc. A city like Des Plaines is just made for walking, to restaurants, shops, the train station, and parks. Don't make walkers feel like they're running for their lives.

  • It's hard to read the sign in the picture above, taken at the fire station on Dempster in Des Plaines, but it's good advice: The hotter it is outside, the more water you need inside. The forecast calls for high temperatures later this week, so do whatever you can to stay cool and well-hydrated. Oh yes - and sunscreen if you must be out in the sun!

  • While it's frustrating for kids when they attend a public event and can't see the field or stage, don't allow them to stand on seats or bleachers. The father of the boy who was hit by the ball at Wrigley Field acknowledged that he'd encouraged his sons to stand on their seats - bad idea, not only at baseball games but other venues, where kids can easily fall and injure themselves.

  • Fireworks -- if it explodes, shoots up in the air, or shoots a flame, it's illegal in the state of Illinois, for a good reason. Even legal fireworks, like smoke bombs and sparklers, are only safe if handled with extreme caution. Tens of thousands, mostly kids, are injured every year by fireworks. Check out this news story - it's just a car, not a life, but it demonstrates the speed and thoroughness with which fireworks can destroy.

Want to read what professionals say about safety? Use these "one-click searches" to find books and other items in our Library.

Teaching your children about safety

Preventing home accidents

Driving safely

Have a summer safety test you'd like to share? Click on comments and type it here. For those interested in helping the Porreca family of Des Plaines, Central Elementary School, 1526 Thacker St., is accepting donations to help the family in lieu of flowers, Principal Jan Rashid said. Checks can be sent to the school or dropped off.

Have a SAFE, HAPPY summer!

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