Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween! Safety Tips for Trick-or-Treaters and Parents

Happy Halloween! Safety Tips for Trick-or-Treaters and Parents

Halloween is an all-time favorite holiday of kids, young and old. The following are tried and true suggestions for making sure this fun-filled night stays happy and safe.

Naturally, supervision is the primary way to make sure things stay safe and enjoyable. A responsible adult or teenager should always accompany groups of young, eager trick-or-treaters. Just like on playgrounds, adult supervision is key.
While much of this Halloween safety advice falls handily into the “common sense” category, the following set of safety tips courtesy of the American Association of Pediatrics will at least confirm for mindful parents effective ways to ensure a safe and memorable holiday for all:
Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.

Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.

When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.

If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child's costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.

Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.

Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.

Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.

Votive candles are safest for candle-lit pumpkins.

Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.

Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.

Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.

Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.

Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or-Treaters:
· Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
· Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
· Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
· If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
· Never cut across yards or use alleys. Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.

Don't assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn't mean others will!

Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will
discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.

Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your
home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.

Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though
tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all
treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.

Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

There are many websites dedicated to Halloween safety. Here are several useful links: The Halloween Safety Guide, The Los Angeles Fire Department, The Halloween Safety Game, Halloween safety news search results.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Playground Surfaces: Beware Bonded Loose-Fill

Don't Waste Your Money on Trowelled-Down Bonded Loose-Fill Rubber

So it seems newly created “bonded loose-fill” -- loose-fill rubber mulch adhered by polyurethane -- is gaining ground when it comes to surfacing playgrounds. While it’s ostensibly an inexpensive alternative to the standard poured-in-place, tile or mat systems, it doesn’t carry the same durability of these other, more time-tested surfaces.

For playgrounds, bonded loose-fill may be an interesting, relatively inexpensive alternative to traditional loose-fill materials such as wood chips, sand or gravel. But there’s no way it can withstand regular, heavy foot traffic over time.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission broadly holds that surfaces around playground equipment should have at least 12 inches of “wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or are mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.” This is to account for the amount of impact absorption necessary to reduce the risk of serious injury resulting when children fall from swings or other playground equipment.

In its April 2008 “Playground Safety Handbook,” the Commission extensively outlines how a safe playground surface should be laid down. It draws the major distinction between “unitary” and loose-fill surfaces: “Unitary materials are generally rubber mats and tiles or a combination of energy-absorbing materials held in place by a binder that may be poured in place at the playground site and then cured to form a unitary shock absorbing surface.”

Regarding loose-fill, page 10 of the handbook indicates that “CPSC staff strongly recommends against installing playgrounds over hard surfaces, such as asphalt, concrete, or hard packed earth, unless the installation adds the following
layers of protection.

“Immediately over the hard surface there should be a 3- to 6-inch base layer of loose-fill (e.g., gravel for drainage),” the handbook continues. “The next layer should be a Geotextile cloth. On top of that should be a loose-fill layer meeting [CPSC] specifications…Embedded in the loose-fill layer should be impact attenuating mats under high traffic areas, such as under swings, at slide exits, and other places where displacement is likely.”

Mind you, none of this is enforceable, these are mere guidelines established by the federal government largely to provide some kind of legal guidance when playground injuries occur, and corresponding lawsuits subsequently filed. It does, however, give a clear example of how quality playground surfaces should be constructed.

The CPSC handbook lists “shredded/recycled rubber” as an acceptable loose-fill playground surface material but makes no mention of bonded loose-fill, an important distinction to note.

Simply put, avoid the polyurethane-bonded rubber mulch. It’s better to spend extra funds for a long-term-friendly rubber surface such as poured-in-place, or to simply but properly lay down inexpensive loose-fill and monitor its rate of compaction.

Bonded rubber mulch may appear to be a less expensive happy medium between poured-in-place, tiles and loose-fill, to the tune of about $6 per square foot less than the other surfaces. But short-term savings can be deceptive -- a lack of durability over time will prove this to be the case.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Indoor Mall Playground Safety - Are Your Kids Safe?

Indoor Playgrounds - Are They Safe?
Well, it's that time of year again with school starting, summer is over, the weather is changing, and many of your children's activities are beginning to move indoors again. It's time for concerned parents to decide where your kids are going to be able to play safely. As it does every year, the number of children playing at the local indoor playground increases dramatically.

With this increase in activity, comes an increase in our awareness of the safety of these indoor playgrounds; are they really the safest place for our children to be playing? There is no traffic to worry about, score one for the indoor playground. But are there other areas of concern that we may be overlooking? Here are a few areas of indoor playground safety you want to look at before you allow your child to participate.

Indoor Playgrounds - Breeding Grounds for Bacteria?
One huge issue of indoor mall playground safety is the enclosed environment itself. Within any enclosed environment, there is always the problem of the accumulation of germs. Outdoor playgrounds are free from this problem due to the open environment. We assume because it is an indoor playground it is clean and safe, but the truth is, some enclosures can act as incubators for germs and they become a breeding ground for bacteria.

This does not present a problem when the indoor playground equipment is properly maintained. Make sure the indoor playground where your children play is properly maintained and thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. Indoor mall playground safety should be held to the highest standards possible. Don't settle for anything less where your child’s safety is involved.

Indoor Playground Surfacing - Is It Safe?
Another issue you should address with indoor playgrounds is the playground surfacing, is it merely carpet over concrete, or is it properly surfaced with Poured-In-Place rubber surfacing? You may think "the climbing unit is only three foot high," but when your child stands on it, that puts the child’s head 5 feet about the floor.

You want the surface under that indoor playground equipment rubberized, not carpeted. You must insist on rubber tiles or rubber matting at the very minimum for safe indoor playground surfacing. We must also make sure the climbing units meet with current Consumer Product Safety Commission Guidelines, for indoor mall playground safety. The proper playground surfacing is a critical area of safety that cannot be overemphasized.

Supervision - Take An Active Role
Child Supervision at the indoor mall playground can be another area of concern for a parent. Parents who take an active role in supervising your children during play, will have an accident free visit to your local indoor playground. It's the perfect opportunity for spending quality time with your children.

Form friendships with the other parents at the playground and assist each other in supervising the children. By sharing the supervision duties with parents that you know and trust your playground experience will always be enjoyable. Finding the safest indoor playground for your children is easy when you follow these simple tips.