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Who Here Is Certified in CPR or Basic First Aid? Ask The School!!

It’s a simple question really. How many people at your child’s school are certified in life saving CPR and basic first aid? The answer may surprise you. I am often on the other side of this question training the administrators and teachers in cpr and first aid, and praising them for spending the time and money to go beyond the bare minimum and make sure their entire staff is trained and the children are safe, but putting my oldest child in school for the first time this year made me curious to know the answer to this question.

As a concerned parent I placed a call to Miami Dade public schools and was alarmed to find out that at a public school here in Dade county only two people are required to be certified in CPR and basic first aid. This is a dangerously low number considering that some of the schools here in Dade County have over 5000 students. Not to mention what would happen if one or both of these people calls in sick or goes on vacation? Then you run into the possible situation of having nobody on campus that day required to be trained. Not good. With the normal everyday injuries at schools, the knowledge of basic first aid is a must and add to that the growing number of sudden cardiac events in schools around the country and you will see that having a basic knowledge of first aid and cpr together is also a must and therefore the bare minimum of safety by some schools just will not do.

What would cause a school to keep only the bare minimum of people trained in something so important? Is it that the administrators and staff don’t care about the children’s safety and only do the bare minimum because they have to? Of course not. The answer as usual is money. Now obviously what needs to happen is the schools need to increase the number of people trained in cpr and basic first aid, but like anything else training costs money and with school budgets shrinking by the day and teachers coming out of their own pockets more than ever to make up for the lack of funds, asking a school to budget in training for an entire staff just does not seem possible. So what can you as a concerned parent do? Well if you are certified to train the staff in cpr and first aid then you can do as I have done and donate the training to the school and staff for free, or you can do as some parents here in Dade county have done and that is to raise the funds for the training themselves by having a bake sale or a car wash or some other fundraising event and hire a company to come out to the school and train the entire staff. I cannot think of a better use for that money than the safety of our children.

The bottom line is no matter where you live the people looking after your children, whether it is a school, a daycare or even grandparents need to be trained and know how to react when your child needs help. So go ahead and do as I did and ask the question as to who is certified here and what can I do to help? And if you are in the south Florida area, shoot me an email, I’d be glad to help.

Be Safe.


Editor’s Note: In the aftermath of some of the recent tragedies experienced at U.S. schools it is even more important to know that the folks looking after our kids know CPR and basic first aid. This post first ran in September 2011. We thought it was time to run it again…

How to Teach Kids to Be Active Bystanders to Reduce Bullying

Studies show that active bystanders can do far more than just watch. In fact, student bystanders may be our last, best hope in reducing bullying. Active student bystanders can:

  • Reduce the audience that a bully craves
  • Mobilize the compassion of witnesses to step in and stop the bullying
  • Support the victim and reduce the trauma
  • Be a positive influence in curbing a bullying episode
  • Encourage other students to support a school climate of caring
  • Report a bullying incident since 85 percent of time bullying occurs an adult is not present. Students are usually the witnesses

When bystanders intervene correctly, studies find they can stop the bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds. [Pepler and Craig]

There are parameters to activate student bystanders, so get educated! Here are a few facts to ensure success:

  • To ensure success you must first mobilize students to be active bystanders.
  • You must give students permission to step in.
  • You must also teach specific strategies so they can step in.
  • Each strategy must be rehearsed or role-played, until kids can use it alone. (I’ve had schools have students role-play these in assemblies, make them into chart-reminders that are posted around the school, and even have students create mini-videos of each strategy to share with peers).
  • Not every strategy will work for every student, so you must provide a range of strategies.
  • Ideally you must enlist your peer leaders – those students on the highest popularity tier who other students look up to – to mobilize other peers.
  • Adults must be onboard with the approach and understand what bullying is and how to respond. Adults must listen to student reports on bullying and back students up. The biggest reason kids say they don’t report: “The adult didn’t listen or do anything to help.” Step up adults!

The best news is that child advocates and parents can teach kids these same bystander skills. Doing so empowers children with tools to stop cruelty, help victims feel safer and reduce bullying. Here are the three steps:

STEP ONE: Teach Students Tattling vs. Reporting

Kids must realize that safety is always the primary goal, so stress to students:

  • “If someone could get hurt, REPORT!
  • “It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

Teach students the crucial difference between “Tattling” and “Reporting” so they will know when they should step in because a child is bullied or when to step back and let two kids handle things for themselves because it’s just friendly teasing. Also identify specific trusted adults children can go to and report bullying incidents if they do identify bullying. Here is the crucial difference:

  • Tattling is when you trying to get kids IN trouble when they aren’t hurting themselves or other.
  • Reporting is when you’re trying to help keep kids OUT of trouble because they may get hurt (or they are). Report bullying to an adult you trust. If the adult doesn’t listen, keep reporting until you find an adult who does listen.

STEP TWO: Teach What Bullying Looks and Sounds Like

The next step is to teach students what bullying behaviors look like so they will know when they should step in and not when the behavior is mere teasing.

1. Explain 3 parts of bullying:

  1. Bullying is a cruel or aggressive act that is done on purpose. The bully has more power (strength, status, or size) than the targeted child who cannot hold his own.
  2. The hurtful bullying behavior is not an accident, but done on purpose.
  3. The bully usually seems to enjoy seeing the victim in distress and rarely accepts responsibility and often says the target “deserved” the hurtful treatment.”

2. Teach: “Five Bullying Types”: Depending on the child’s age, bullying can take on difference forms including and children need to know what those forms. Bullying can be:

  1. Physical: Punching, hitting, slamming, socking, spitting, slapping;
  2. Verbal: Saying put downs, nasty statements, name calling, taunting, racial slurs, or hurtful comments, threatening;
  3. Emotional: Shunning, excluding, spreading rumors or mean gossip, ruining your reputation;
  4. Electronic or cyber-bullying: Using the Internet, cell phone, camera, text messaging, photos to say mean or embarrassing things;
  5. Sexual: Saying or doingthings that are lewd or disrespectful in a sexual way

3. Mobilize Student Compassion Students could make posters, power-point presentations, skits, or projects about bullying. The key is for students to understand the real definition of bullying. And they must know that the staff is serious about supporting them and will back them up and respond.

4. Use Literature or Videos: You might also use literature or video clips to help students understand the definition of bullying. Here are a few literature favorites: Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig; Say Something by Peggy Moss Gardiner; Teammates by Peter Golenbock; The Bully Blockers Club, by Teresa Bateman.

STEP THREE: Teach “Bully BUSTER Bystander” Skills

I teach the acronym BUSTER as a mnemonic to help kids remember the skills more easily. Each letter in the word represents one of the six bystander skills.

Borba’s Six “Be a Bully B.U.S.T.E.R.” Skills

Not all strategies work for all kids. The trick is to match the techniques with what works best with the child’s temperament and comfort level and the particular situation.

Don’t forget to ask students for their input and additional ideas. Their creativity never ceases to amaze me!

1. B -Befriend the Victim

Bystanders often don’t intervene because they don’t want to make things worse or assume the victim doesn’t want help. But research shows that if witnesses know a victim feels upset or wants help they are more likely to step in. Also, if a bystander befriends a victim, the act is more likely to get others to join the cause and stand up to the bully. A few ways bystanders can befriend victims:

  • Show comfort: Stand closer to the victim.
  • Wave other peers over: “Come help!”
  • Ask if the victim wants support: “Do you need help?”
  • Empathize: “I bet he feels sad.”
  • Clarify feelings: “She looks upset.”

You can also encourage students to befriend a bullied after the episode. “That must have felt so bad.” “I’m with you. Sorry I didn’t speak out.” “That happened to me, too.” “Do you want me to help you find a teacher to talk to?” Though after the episode won’t reduce the bullying at the moment, it will help reduce the pain of both the targeted child and the witness. It may also help other children recognize there are safe ways to defend and support a targeted child.

2. U -Use a Distraction

The right diversion can draw peers from the scene, make them focus elsewhere, give the target a chance to get away, and may get the bully to move on. Remember, a bully wants an audience, so bystanders can reduce it with a distraction.

One of the best distractions I’ve ever seen was a teen who saw bullying but did not feel safe stepping in to help (and most children as well as adults do not). So he got crafty. He unzipped his backpack and then walked nearby the scene and threw the backpack to the ground. Of course, he made it appear as though it was an accident, but it was a deliberate and brilliant act. “Oh no,” he said. “All my stuff is on the ground and the bell is going to ring. My grade will get dinged. Can anyone help?” And the teen drew the audience from the bully to help him pick up his papers. The target also had a chance to sneak to safety.

Ploys include:

  • Ask a question: “What are you all doing here?”
  • Use diversion: “There’s a great volleyball game going on! Come on!”
  • Make up false excuse to disperse a crowd: “A teacher is coming!”
  • Feigning interruption: “I can’t find my bus.”

3. S -Speak Out and Stand Up!

Speaking out can get others to lend a hand and join you. You must stay cool, and never boo, clap, laugh, or insult, which could egg the bully on even more. Students also must learn how to assert themselves and say that speaking up to a bully is the hardest of the six Bully Buster Strategies. The students in the photo are learning my “CALM Approach” when speaking up to a bully. Best yet, older students are teaching the skill to younger students. Stress that directly confronting a bully is intimidating and it’s a rare kid who can, but there are ways to still stand up to cruelty. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Show disapproval: Give a cold, silent stare.
  • Name it: “That’s bullying!”
  • Label it: “That’s mean!”
  • State disapproval: “This isn’t cool!” “Don’t do that!” “Cut it out!”
  • Ask for support: “Are you with me?”

4. T -Tell or Text For Help

Bystanders often don’t report bullying for fear of retaliation, so make sure they know which adults will support them, and ensure confidentiality. You must give students the option of anonymous reporting. An active bystander could:

  • Find an adult you trust to tell. Keep going until you find someone who believes you
  • Call for help from your cell.
  • Send a text to someone who can get help. Many schools now have a text service.
  • Call 911 if someone could be injured.

5. E -Exit Alone or With Others

Stress that bullies love audiences. Bystanders can drain a bully’s power by reducing the group size a few ways. Students bystanders could:

  • Encourage: “You coming?”
  • Ask: “What are you all doing here?”
  • Direct: “Let’s go!”
  • Suggest: “Let’s leave.”
  • Exit: If you can’t get others to leave with you, then walk away. If you stay, you’re part of the cruelty. Leaving means you refuse to be part. Just quietly leave the scene.

6. R -Give a Reason or Offer a Remedy

Research finds that bystanders are more likely to help when told why the action is wrong or what to do. Students could:

  • Review why it’s wrong: “This isn’t right!” “This is mean!” “You’ll get suspended.” “You’ll hurt him.”
  • Offer a remedy: “Go get help!” “Let’s work this out with Coach.”

Final Thoughts

The right comments and behaviors can make peers stop, think, consider the consequences, and even move on. Those seconds are crucial and enough to stop the bullying or mobilize other students to step in and help.

Bystanders can make a difference. They can be mobilized to step in and reduce bullying-that is if they are taught how.

But it’s up to adults to show students safe ways to do so, help them practice those strategies so they are comfortable using them in the real world, and then support and believe them and acknowledge their courageous efforts.

Hundreds of students today skipped school because of peer intimidation and bullying. It’s time to rethink our strategies and teach bystanders how to step in safely and speak out against peer cruelty.


Bullying-prevention and character expert Michele Borba, Ed.D. has spent the past three decades studying youth violence and bullying and worked with more than a million students, parents, educators, and law enforcement officials worldwide. The result is End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy: The Proven 6Rs of Bullying Prevention That Create Inclusive, Safe and Caring Schools. Based on the 6Rs: Rules, Recognize, Report, Respond, Refuse, and Replace, the book utilizes the strongest pieces of best practices and current research for ways to reduce cruelty and increase positive behavior support. Also included are guidelines for implementing strategies, nurturing empathy and caring relationships, collecting data, training staff, mobilizing students and parents, building social-emotional skills, and sustaining progress. The result is a proven framework that will reduce bullying, create safer more inclusive schools and produce more kind-hearted, empathetic children. End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy was released February 19th and is now available at

Considering Children With Special Needs in a School Emergency

In the aftermath of the terrible Florida school shooting many people are examining the plans to keep individuals with special needs safe in the event of a lockdown or evacuation. Most schools are conducting drills and training to make the procedures more familiar to students and staff. While this is a very good practice, students with special needs may have additional issues with such drills and emergencies. Many rigid kids get very upset about having their routine disrupted. The alarms and announcements may be upsetting to children who are sensitive to loud sounds.

Here are some “special needs considerations” you may want to discuss with your child’s school that may make the process of conducting drills and trainings go more smoothly. It may also, in fact, save lives, should a situation arise when these drills turn into a real-life emergency.

Preventive measures – If possible, students with sensory issues or their teachers may be given an early warning so that such children can be equipped with headphones or moved away from speakers or bells. Of course, in a real emergency no such precautions will be available.

Lockdown – If a lockdown occurs the usual protocol is that everyone should hide in the nearest classroom or structure. While your child’s backpack, cubby or homeroom may be fully stocked with every medical, emotional and sensory item the student might need during the day what happens if the class ends up locked down in another part of the school? What if the lockdown drags on for hours?

Accessibility needs in the case of evacuation – If a child uses a walker or wheelchair, are all their classes on the ground floor? If not, will the elevators be operational? Are the elevators key operated, and if they are who has the key? What if the power goes out? Are there ramps? Many older buildings are not very accessible so check out if the school has been brought up to the current ADA code.

Medical needs – In the case of a lockdown or evacuation, does the child have any medical needs? Will any epi pens, medicines, feeding or toileting supplies be available? Discuss this with your child’s teacher or school and see if kits can be kept in several places on campus.

Emotional needs – In a lockdown situation students are asked to remain quiet so as not to draw attention to the room. Will the student need something to keep them occupied, like an ipad with headphones or a weighted west? How can these items be made available during an emergency?

Depending on the staff to student ratio, you may be able to formulate a specific plan for your child in such events that takes into account their sensitivities and needs, or a more general plan if there is a larger special-needs population.

Take the time now to discuss these issues with your school and formulate a plan – and hopefully they’ll never need to use it.

Back to School Safety Tips…for Parents of Gen Z

Group of elementary school kids running in a school corridorSummer is winding down and a new school year is right around the corner. A new school year can bring changes in routine and even the schools themselves.

The following is a list of safety tips we have compiled and distributed for back to school time and may serve as a nice guide or refresher to help us all get back into our school year routine.

School Zone Driving Safety Tips

  • Be on the lookout for school zone signals and ALWAYS obey the speed limits.
  • When entering a school zone, be sure to slow down and obey all traffic laws.
  • Always stop for school busses that are loading or unloading children.
  • Watch out for school crossing guards and obey their signals.
  • Be aware of and watch out for children near schools, bus stops, sidewalks, in the streets, in school parking lots, etc.
  • Never pass other vehicles while driving in a school zone.
  • Never change lanes while driving in a school zone.
  • Never make U-Turns while driving in a school zone.
  • Never text while driving in a school zone.
  • Avoid using a cell phone, unless it is completely hands-free, while driving in a school zone.
  • Unless licensed to do so, never use handicap or emergency vehicle lanes or spaces to drop off or pick up children at school.
  • Please look out for kids with their head down, looking at the phone and not at the street they are crossing.

Riding Your Bike to School

  • Safely walking to schoolCheck with the school to make sure your child is allowed to ride their bicycle to school. Some schools do not allow students to ride bicycles to school until they reach a specific grade.
  • Make sure your child always wears a bicycle helmet! Failure to wear one could result in a traffic citation. Furthermore, in the event of an accident, helmets reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent.
  • Obey the rules of the road; the rules are the same for all vehicles, including bicycles.
  • Always stay on the right-hand side of the road and ride in the same direction as traffic.
  • Be sure your child know and uses all of the appropriate hand signals.
  • Choose the safest route between home and school and practice it with children until they can demonstrate traffic safety awareness.
  • If possible, try to ride with someone else. There is safety in numbers.

Playground Safety

  • MA supervisor must always be present when children are at the school’s playground. Make sure your school has someone who monitors the playgrounds at all times.
  • Playground equipment should be surrounded by shock-absorbing material that is at least nine inches thick.
  • Protective surfaces should extend six feet in all directions around the playground equipment. For swings, it should extend twice the height of the set.
  • Due to strangulation hazards, do not attach ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines, pet leashes or cords of any kind to playground equipment.
  • Be watchful of sharp edges or points on equipment.
  • Alert the school if you notice anything strange about the playground equipment at your child’s school.
  • Spaces that can trap children, such as openings between ladder rungs, should measure less than three and a half inches or more than nine inches.
  • All elevated surfaces, such as ramps, should have guardrails to prevent falls.

Walking to School

  • kids_walking_to_school 2Leave early enough to arrive at school at least 10 minutes prior to the start of school.
  • Use the same route every day and never use shortcuts.
  • Go straight home after school. Do not go anywhere else without permission.
  • Always use public sidewalks and streets when walking to school.
  • Demonstrate traffic safety awareness and pick the safest route between your home and the school and practice walking it with your children.
  • Try and walk to school with other students. There is strength in numbers.
  • Teach your children to recognize and obey traffic signals, signs, and pavement markings.
  • Only cross streets at designated crosswalks, street corners and traffic controlled intersections.
  • Always look both ways before crossing the street and never enter streets from between obstacles like parked cars, shrubbery, signs, etc.
  • Always walk and never run across intersections.
  • Avoid talking to strangers. Teach your children to get distance between themselves and anyone who tries to approach or make contact with them.
  • If a stranger does approach your child, make sure they know to immediately report the incident to you or a teacher.
  • Teach your children to never get into a vehicle with anyone, even if they know them, without your permission.

Clothing and School Supplies

  • To prevent injury, backpacks should have wide straps, padding in the back and shoulders, and should not weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of a child’s body weight.
  • When placing items in a backpack, place the heavier items in first. The closer the heavier items are to a child’s back, the less strain it will cause.
  • Children should use both backpack straps and all compartments for even distribution of weight.
  • Remove drawstrings from jackets, sweatshirts, and hooded shirts to reduce the risk of strangulation injuries.
  • Art supplies in the classroom should always be child safe and non-toxic. Be sure they have “CONFORMS TO ASTM D-4236” on their packaging.
  • Make sure your child’s school is up-to-date on the latest recalled children’s products and toys.

School Bus Safety

  • Make habit of arriving at the bus stop at least five minutes before the scheduled arrival of the bus.
  • Make sure your child stays out of the street and avoids excessive horseplay while waiting for the school bus.
  • Bbacktoschool-bus stop meete sure the bus comes to a complete stop before getting on or off.
  • When riding the bus, make sure your child understands they must remain seated and keep their head and arms inside the bus at all times.
  • Do not shout or distract the driver.
  • NEVER walk in the drivers “ blind spot “ which is from the bumper to about 10 feet away from the bumper.

I hope this helps to get us all back into our school routine and I hope everyone has a great and safe school year!

Nine Ways We Can Create Safer Schools for Our Kids

MORAL IQ TIP: Violence is learned, but so too is calmness. Ask yourself: if my child only had my example to watch, what would he catch today?

happy child returning to safer schoolOver these past few months I’ve received countless letters from parents who share a deep concern about the safety of their children’s schools. So if you’ve had a few worry pangs, believe me, you’re not alone. Be assured that children do not become homicidal maniacs overnight. They’ve usually had a gradual, steady build-up of risk factors (such as neglect, bullying, toxic parenting, failures, poor coping skills, exposure to violence, substance abuse) with limited positive experiences to counter them. Their anger starts slowly mounts, until it turns to rage then finally explodes. Do keep the perspective that 99.9% of schools are safe, but there clearly are things we can do to make our kids safer. The biggest mistake is that we continue reacting instead of preventing such atrocities and we need to start earlier. Here are a nine ways teachers and parents can make a difference in creating safer schools for our children:

1. Take threats seriously. Over seventy percent of adolescents who commit homicide or suicide, tell someone their plan before carrying it out. We must stress to kids take threats seriously and report them. Then schools should provide options for reporting such as: a 24-hour hot line, a “concern box,” designated staff members and peers, and a school Web site to email threats. Many students fear peer retaliation, so methods to report anonymously should be available.

2. Set a zero tolerance to bullying. The Secret Service study of student shootings found the only commonality was that each shooter was repeatedly bullied by peers. Schools, parents, and neighbors must set a zero tolerance to bullying. And that expectation (and infringement consequences) should be signed by all students and their parents. We must expect and demand that children treat all living beings in a moral manner and it has to start with adults.

3. Keep shooters’ photos off front pages. The media must keep the shooters off their paper’s front page and television screens. It just fuels a vulnerable kid looking for attention, and the result is too often a copy-cat shooting.

4. Teach anger management and conflict resolution. The only way kids are going to learn peacefulness is if we show them how to manage their anger. An effective strategy is called 1 + 3 + 10. Explain to your child:

“When you feel your body sending you a warning sign that says you’re losing control, do three things. First, stop and say: ‘Be calm.’ That’s 1. Now take three deep, slow breaths from your stomach. That’s 3. Finally, count slowly to ten inside your head. That’s 10. Put them all together and you have 1 + 3 + 10, and doing it helps you calm down and get back in control.”

Then help your child repeatedly practice it so he learns it.

5. Zero tolerance to weapons. Putting a fire arm into the hands of a troubled kid with a short fuse is creating a time bomb just waiting to explode. What’s especially frightening is that half of our American adolescents say they can access a gun in less than an hour. If we want safer schools, we must do everything we can to keep weapons out of our schools, and the best way is to not make them accessible to kids.

6. Monitor media viewing. Over 1000 studies-including reports from the Surgeon General’s office and the National Institute of Mental Health-validate that TV violence influences aggressive behavior in some children. Be aware of the ratings for violence on television (as well as music, movies, and video games) then set clear standards for your child and stick to them.

7. Nurture strong moral habits. Three virtues are especially critical in protecting kids against violence: a conscience that guides them to know right from wrong, empathy that helps them feel the victim’s pain, and self-control that halts immoral intentions. These core virtues are teachable, we just need to prioritize them in our homes and schools so our kids learn and use them.

8. Post warning signs for violence. Warning signs for children who may be at risk of violence should be posted everywhere such as doctor offices, Boys and Girls Clubs, school newsletters, media and list resources where parents can seek help. We must identify troubled children early and get them the help they urgently need. If you have even the slightest concern about your child, act on them now!

9. Prioritize our kids. It has been estimated parents today are spending 40 percent less time communicating with their kids than their own parents did with them and spending eleven fewer hours with their children each week compared with the 1960s. It clearly is affecting our kids. Our most important role is to raise our kids to become decent, loving human beings who feel loved. Doing so means our kids must be put back on the top of our priorities.

These warning signs of violence were developed by the U.S. Department of Education
• Social withdrawal
• Excessive feelings of isolation or rejection
• Being a victim of violence
• Feelings of being picked on and persecuted
• Uncontrolled anger
• Low school interest and poor academic performance
• Impulsive and chronic hitting, intimidating, bullying
• Expression of violence in writings and drawings
• History of discipline problems
• Past history of violent and aggressive behavior
• Drug use and alcohol use
• Affiliation with gangs
• Inappropriate access to, possession of, and use of firearms
• Intolerance for differences, prejudicial attitudes
• Serious threats of violence.

************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at

Fire Safety & Water Safety: Can’t Schools Teach Both?

Teach-kids-fire-and-water-safetyMy daughter came home from school yesterday full of news from the fire safety assembly. Every year there is an assembly that coincides with Fire Prevention Week, established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. What really impressed me were the messages communicated to the children. The firefighters told the children what they most wanted to know:

  • Your dog and cat will get out of the house on their own, before you, so don’t worry about them, and if you have a fish, the water will keep them safe until the firefighters rescue them;
  • Check your bedroom door for heat, if it’s hot, stuff a blanket under the door and then open the window, throw something heavy through the screen and call for help;
  • Keep all your stuffed animals and pillows in your room and throw them at the firefighters to get their attention if they don’t hear you over the sirens, and don’t worry, you have time, it takes an hour for a door to burn down.

Why were these messages so effective? Someone really listened to children and told them what to do to stay safe, but within the context of what really concerns children. I can tell you from the frantic pleas of my own children to chase down the dog and cat and get them to the basement when the tornado siren goes in my town, pets and stuffed animals/favorite toys are THE most important thing to a child during a crisis, so giving them safety information in the context of what matters most to them is extremely effective.

What also struck me, being the water safety mom, is that every school child in the U.S. is taught fire safety in school, starting in preschool, but we don’t teach water safety. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 308 children under age 15 died of unintentional fire and burns in 2010, yet 727 died from unintentional drowning. More than double the number of children drown than die from fire, but we aren’t teaching water safety in the schools. It’s worse if you add in the 15-24 age group, where drowning claims a staggering 656 lives but fire isn’t even mentioned in the ‘top 10’ list of causes of death.

Does this concern you? It concerns me but this can only change with your help.

Every year May 15 is International Water Safety Day. I need each of you to work to add a water safety assembly into your school or preschool curriculum. Now is the perfect time to start the process, you have plenty of time. Coordinate with the school principal, the PTO, and the School Board. Line up a speaker – I’m willing to bet your local YMCA, Park District, or Red Cross would be more than happy to spend 20 minutes talking to children about water safety. Or coordinate with your local Rotary International group and bring Josh the Otter, Stewie the Duck, or some of the great free materials at to your school.

The messages for children are equally simple as the fire messages:

  • Never go near water without an adult;
  • Wear a life jacket whenever you are on a boat or if you can’t swim or can’t swim in deep water;
  • Take swim lessons;
  • ‘I can swim’ means you can swim the length of a big pool without stopping or putting your feet on the bottom.

Your willingness to spend a small amount of time will have a positive impact on all the children in your community for the rest of their lives. Are you in?

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