The Madison County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with AAA, Consumer Products Commission, and Family Education is offering the following safety tips.
According to the AAA Motor Club, motorists will still be hitting the road for summer trips despite high gas prices. Most summer trips will be by auto, truck or RV at 75% while 22% will be by airplane and 2% by bus or other form of transportation. Many of these trips will be to amusement parks. The following are some safety tips to keep in mind to ensure a safe and fun filled time for the entire family.
- Dress small children in brightly colored, distinctive outfits that are easy to describe should you become separated.
- Take current photos of your children with you on vacations. Call the Sheriff’s Office’s Community Services Department at 315-366-2482 to schedule an appointment for an Operation Safe Child ID Card. This card will contain all the necessary information, as well as your child’s photograph.
- Have a plan. As soon as you enter the park, choose a convenient, and easy to recognize location to meet your family if you are separated. A large landmark or attraction that is easily visible from around the park is a good choice. Or, consider meeting at a location that will be clearly marked on signs throughout the park, such as first aid, the exit, or the park’s most popular attraction. Wherever you choose to meet, remind each other throughout the day of your plan, and point out this landmark to children several times.
- With older children pick a time and place to gather if they are exploring the park on their own.
- Check height restrictions before you line up for a ride to ensure that the ride is safe for children (these restrictions are recommended for safety sake). The Park map may also show height restrictions. Don’t coax children onto a ride they are unsure of or are too small for the seat/seat belt.
- Instruct your child to yell loudly "NO" or "HELP" if approached by a stranger in any circumstance and to approach security staff. Do this often and before any family outing to reinforce your family’s safety procedures.
- Ask for and use family washrooms where possible. Accompany children when using public washrooms. Parents should not feel uncomfortable about taking a child into a washroom facility if a family washroom is not available.
- Avoid facilities that are down dark or long hallways - look for well-lit washrooms.
- Sending two or three children together to the washroom or having older siblings or friends accompany a younger child is an option. Encourage them to enter and leave the washroom together.
- If you are comfortable letting your child use the public washroom - stand outside the door and call in as your child enters the washroom "I’m right outside the door if you need me just call," "Is everything alright?" and then call again in a minute "Are you okay?." Insist that your child answer these questions. You can even create a code word for the answer. If you don’t get an answer or are unsure enter the washroom immediately to ensure your child is safe. Informing them that you are going to do this will encourage them to answer you as well.
- Insist that all family members wash their hands after using public facilities.
Keep in mind is that a stranger who is able to call a child by name appears to be less of a stranger. Think twice before allowing your child to wear a shirt, team jersey, or jacket with his or her name on it. If someone were to call your child’s name, it would catch the child’s attention, be a distraction, and make a stranger’s story even more convincing.
Following a few simple safety guidelines will make your summer trip more enjoyable for your family. Make the most of this memorable time spent together, and plan ahead for a day that is not only fun-filled, but safe as well.