Spring 2002 Sentinel
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The Sentinel – Making Utah a Safer Place for Kids

Select an article below, or download the entire issue:

§         Use Your Head – Don’t Get Dead!

§         A Survivor’s Story

§         Safe at Home

§         Want Your Child to Survive the Summer?

§         You Need This Number

§         Shop – Don’t Drop

§         “Please Don’t Turn Me



Use Your Head – Don’t Get Dead!

SAFE KIDS Week 2002 Focuses on Preventing Brain Injuries


Heads Up! 2002 is the theme of this year’s SAFE KIDS Week May 4-11.  the Utah SAFE KIDS Coalition and National SAFE KIDS Campaign are teaming up to make parents aware of the need to protect their children’s developing brains from injury.


When the brain is hurt, it doesn’t heal like a cut or a broken bone, so damage from a crash or a fall can often be permanent.  And because kids can’t recognize risk, it’s up to parents and caregivers to keep them safe.


Motor vehicle crashes are the major cause of brain injury and death in children ages 5-14.  According to the Brain Injury Association of Utah, more than 50,000 Americans will die this year as a result of traumatic brain injury.


The real tragedy is that most injuries can be avoided.  “Often all it takes is a helmet, a seat belt or a car seat to reduce your child’s risk of a head injury,” said Utah SAFE KIDS Coalition co-chair Janet Brooks .


During SAFE KIDS Week, the coalition will hit the road, going border to border in two caravans teaching children and parents about proper car seat and helmet use.  The events will feature plenty of activities for kids, including puppet shows, a 9-1-1 emergency call simulator, bike rodeos, car seat check points, helmet-fitting stations and much more.  “The most important thing we can do is personally take our safety message to Utah parents,” said Brooks.  “We also need to get safety equipment like car seats and bike helmets into the hands of the people who need them.”


So SAFE KIDS encourages all families to drop by the caravan location near you and learn to be safe … because the life you save may be your own child’s.


For more information on safety inside and outside your home, visit www.safekids.org.


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A Survivor’s Story

Utah Family “Saved By the Belt”


Utah ’s infamous “black ice” could have killed a southeastern Utah mother and daughter late last year.  But Deborah Snow O’Rafferty was prepared.  As always, she strapped her six-year-old daughter Sahara into her booster seat, then buckled herself in before setting off from Emery County for Price.


When she came upon the black ice, Deborah couldn’t control her 1991 Chevy Blazer, but her safety precautions did help control how she and her daughter survived the resulting rollover.  Sahara and I had nothing more than a few bruises,” said Deborah.  “And the highway patrol trooper who happened to be right behind us and saw the crash said we’d have been killed if we hadn’t been buckled up.”


Deborah had picked up her booster seat at the Southeastern Utah District Health Department.  There, health educator Georgina Nowak trained Deborah in how to secure the seat properly in the car, and Sahara properly in the seat.  “I saw Deborah after the rollover and helped her install a new booster,” said Georgina .  “I’ve never seen anyone before or since snug up a seat or a child so perfectly,” she said with a laugh.


But Deborah is among the only 5 to 10 percent of parents who do everything right.  First, she wore her own seat belt.  More importantly, she had her six-year-old properly restrained in a booster seat.


“Six-year-olds simply do not fit in adult seatbelts,” said SAFE KIDS Coalition co-chair Cal Cazier.  “Parents need to know that once children outgrow a car seat, at about age four, they need to be in a booster seat until they are big enough for vehicle lap and shoulder belts.”


In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children stay in belt-positioning booster seats until they are eight years old or at least 4’9” tall.  The seats give kids a lift so that lap and shoulder belts fit them properly.


It’s likely your 4- to 8-year old won’t be too keen on staying in a booster.  Just tell him or her that you’re not too keen on your child being killed in a crash!


For more information on how to safely seat children in a vehicle, contact your local health department, call Primary Children’s Me dical Center at (801) 588-CARS, or visit www.statefarm.com/kidsafety.htm on the web.


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Safe at Home


With spring now officially on the calendar your kids are probably anxious to be outdoors.  Before they go, be sure to check out your backyard playground equipment.  It’s a tragic fact that each year more than 200,000 children are taken to emergency rooms with injuries suffered on or around swing sets, jungle gyms and slides.  To ensure your children are safe at home, take these important steps:


§         Supervise your children.

§         Make sure equipment is age appropriate.

§         Routinely check equipment for problems like open ‘S’ hooks or exposed moving parts.

§         Do not tie ropes onto equipment for rope swings.  This could result in strangulation.

§         Use proper shock absorbing material underneath equipment (see tips below).

§         Remove drawstrings in clothing to prevent strangulation.

§         Teach children not to roughhouse or push others while on equipment.

§         Teach children to walk out and around moving swings.

§         Place guardrails around any equipment that is higher than 30 inches.


Some 60 percent of playground injuries result from falls.  By using shock-absorbing materials like rubber, pea gravel, sand or wood chips, you can reduce the number and seriousness of injuries.  Hard surfaces that shouldn’t be used under playground equipment include asphalt, grass, and dirt.


In addition to kid-proofing playground equipment, parents should take a long, hard look at another potential backyard danger – trampolines.  Each year 85,000 kids are seen in emergency rooms with serious trampoline injuries.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is so concerned about the danger, officials ask all parents to discard trampolines if they have them, and to never buy them for backyard use.  After all, the fun they provide will never outweigh the risk of injury, paralysis and death that they pose to young people.


With a few precautions and some adult supervision, warm weather won’t have to mean a trip to the E.R.


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Want Your Child to Survive the Summer?


Bicycling, skating and skateboarding are all fantastic forms of exercise and transportation.  But before you and your children set foot on any of this equipment, put on your safety equipment first.


Head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle-related crashes, and helmets are the single most effective safety device available to reduce injury and death.  Still, with all the information and repeated warnings, only 15% of elementary school age students, 5% of secondary school age students, and 37% of adults wear helmets in Utah .


More of us are getting smart about buckling our bodies into the car – why aren’t we getting just as smart about buckling up our heads?


Tips to wear your helmet correctly:


1.      SIZE:  The helmet should fit snugly.  Use the adjusting pads for better fit.

2.      SETTING:  The helmet should be level and rest low on your forehead just above the eyebrows.

3.      STRAP:  Always fasten the strap.  The buckle strap should be snug beneath the chin, but not to the point that it causes discomfort.  You should feel the strap against your chin but be able to slide a finger under it.

4.      STANDARDS:  The helmet should be safety approved by the CPSC.


If your child has a bike, skateboard or skates, he should have a helmet.  They’re available at reduced prices to those who qualify from your local health department or SAFE KIDS coalition or chapter.


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You Need This Number


Dialing 1 (800) 222-1222 will connect you to the Poison Control Center nearest you, wherever you are in the U.S.   The new number can be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Specially trained nurses, pharmacists and doctors who are prepared to handle every kind of poison emergency will answer the hotline.  Did you know that 80 percent of the poison emergencies in Utah can be handled by these specialists over the phone?  If necessary, the hotline staff will even call your local hospital to let emergency personnel know you’ll be arriving for treatment.


According to Heather Foulger, outreach education provider, the Poison Control center received more than 47,000 calls last year, with nearly two-thirds involving children under the age of six.  “We encourage parents and caregivers to call whenever they’re nervous about something a child has swallowed.  We have information and rescue techniques for everything you can imagine, and some things you can’t.”


The key is to call first and treat later.  It can actually be dangerous in some cases to give a child milk or another liquid, or to administer ipecac syrup.  For instance, if a child has swallowed an object, ipecac could bring the object back up into the windpipe and cause choking.


Please post this important number near every phone in your home, and program it into any cell phones.  If you need stickers, brochures, or magnets with the new number, please call Poison Control Center administration at 581-7504.


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Shop – Don’t Drop

Shopping Carts Can Kill


Any parent knows how tough it is to keep a squirming child strapped into a grocery cart.  It’s so much easier to just let them go free. But the last thing you want is to see that child toppling head first onto the concrete floor of the supermarket.


Last year, emergency staff at Primary Children’s Me dical Center in Salt Lake City saw 24 children for head injuries received in shopping cart mishaps.  One of those children was 6-month-old Trinity Weese of Layton.


“I had Trinity in her car seat and placed her in the basket portion of the cart,” said Trinity’s mom Debbie.  “Since the cart was small, I made sure to snap the seat down firmly.  But a few minutes later, I watched as the entire seat popped straight up and over, throwing Trinity head-first onto the floor.”


According to safety experts, this is an all-too-common occurrence, especially with small, plastic carts.  If a car seat is not locked onto the top edges of the cart but is pushed down into the basket, the flexible sides of the basket will slowly push inward until they force the seat up and out like a rocket.


Debbie took Trinity to the local hospital for an x-ray.  A technician read the film incorrectly and ordered Trinity rushed by ambulance to Primary Children’s.  “More than two dozen doctors and nurses were waiting for us, thinking Trinity had a serious head injury,” said Debbie.  Until they took a CT scan and realized the s-ray had been misread, I was sure I’d really hurt my baby.”  It was a horrible time for the family, and Debbie advises all parents to visually check to make sure the seat is locked onto the cart.  “Don’t just listen for the sound.  Look at the seat before you head down the aisle,” she warns.


Even more shopping cart injuries occur to older children who don’t want to be confined.  “Sure, it’s frustrating to have your child screaming to get out,” says pediatrician Tom Me tcalf, M.D.  “But the screams you’ll hear on the way to the emergency room will be much worse.  So keep your children securely strapped in whenever they’re in a cart.”


Since 1985, at least three children have been killed in the U.S. in shopping carts.  Each year, more than 21,000 kids sustain cuts, fractures, concussions and internal injuries when they jump or fall from carts.  Many are hurt when carts tip over.  So, if you don’t have to take your child shopping with you, don’t.  If you must, make the trip as safe as possible by strapping your children in, and teaching them that grocery time isn’t play time, and that shopping carts aren’t toys.


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"Please Don't Turn Me"

By Trooper Terry C. Smith, UHP Public Information and Education Officer


I have been checking car seats for a long time and for the last seven years I have seen a problem that just keeps rearing its ugly head:  the premature turning of infants to a forward-facing position.  Infants must stay rear-facing in a vehicle until they are one year old and weigh at least 20 pounds.  Not any sooner.


Mothers and fathers seem to get in a big hurry to turn their infants forward-facing so they can see them.  This is a really, really big mistake.  Infants need to stay rear-facing.  The seats are designed to take the forces of a crash and spread them over the entire body of the infant.  This helps them survive a crash because the forces are not pinpointed on any part of the body.  In other countries, they make children ride rear-facing until they are four years old.  I think they are smarter than we are.


Infants are built a little different from adults.  Their heads are the largest and heaviest part of their body.  So if your infant is forward-facing in a crash, some very terrible things happen.


First, their neck muscles are not developed enough to withstand the forces of a crash.  In a frontal collision, the head and body go toward the impact.  If your infant is 15 pounds and you are traveling 30 miles per hour, he will generate 450 pounds of force.  The head (being the heaviest part of his body) goes forward and hyper-extends the neck, causing a separation of the spine at just about the shoulders.  If the child survives the crash, he will be a quadriplegic and never be able to walk or crawl.


Not a pleasant thought, so it’s important you leave your child rear-facing until he is at least one year old and weights 20 pounds.


As a Utah Highway Patrol Trooper and an instructor on child restraints, I tell parents to leave their infants rear-facing as long as they can.  If you have an infant seat or convertible seat that has a higher weight limit, then leave them rear-facing as long as the seat allows.  Don’t be in a rush to turn them around.  You will have plenty of time to see their smiling faces.


Trust me.  I know.


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