By Heather Short
It is hard to believe summer break is coming to a close, and the kids are heading back to school. Parents are suddenly buying school supplies and filling up their houses with the aroma of fresh crayons and pencils. In the hustle and bustle of getting kids back into a school routine, it is important to make a safety plan for children who may be home alone after school.
While some students attend after-school programs, others head home to an empty house. Though it’s not uncommon for children to be home alone, it’s important to have safety measures in place before school is back in session.
The first thing to consider is their age. According to the Fort Campbell Red Cross, no one under age 12 should be home alone. If your child is 12 years old and coming home alone this year, it is recommended to enroll them in classes about babysitting and first aid. Both are offered through the Red Cross.
A babysitting class will teach children teens how to care for younger siblings who may be coming home too. A basic first aid class will teach them how to treat minor cuts and scrapes if they occur.
“The most common problem with having children stay home alone is a small accident that eventually becomes a big accident,” said Brenda Hindman, Fort Campbell Red Cross Station Manager. “If it is not taken care of properly to begin with, it can become a bigger problem.”
Other classes cover subjects such as fire safety. It is important children understand they must get out of the house quickly if a fire breaks out. Having an escape plan in place is ideal.
The escape plan should include how to contact other family members and where to meet in case of a fire. Parents should check to make sure all smoke detectors are working and up to date in the home as well.
Another safety plan to have in place is what to do in the event of a tornado. Children who are home alone should know where to take cover and how to protect themselves from possible flying debris.
Beyond fire and inclement weather plans, parents should consider basic safety within the home. Children need access to a phone as well as a list of emergency numbers, including 911.
Parents should be diligent about keeping potentially poisonous items out of reach or locked up, including medication. Tell children to never open the door for strangers and to refrain from posting on social media that they are home alone.
Today, there are many types of safety technology available to ease some of the worry of having a child home alone. Some security cameras and security systems can be checked from smartphones.
Ultimately, it is up to parents to use their discretion when deciding whether their child should be home alone.
For more information about Red Cross safety classes, call 270-798-2171.