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Teach children about handling emergency situations at home

Monday, August 19, 2013

Although Oklahoma still feels like summer, children all across the state will soon be returning to school. Many of these children may spend several hours at home alone after school each day before their parents get off work.

During the time children are home alone, it is important for parents to make sure these youngsters know how to handle a variety of emergency situations.

Laura Hubbs-Tait, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension parenting specialist, said emergency situations can include severe weather, home fires and even how to administer first aid for minor injuries or bug bites.

“Before parents leave their child at home alone they need to ask themselves whether the child is mature enough for all the responsibilities of being left alone,” Hubbs-Tait said. “The general age recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics ( is 11 years to 12 years of age”. 

Parents should use the following checklist ( as a guide to determine whether they have provided the right information and whether their child is prepared to be left at home alone:

·        Knows how to properly answer the telephone. Kids should never disclose to an unfamiliar voice that they are alone. An appropriate response would be: “My mom’s not able to come to the phone right now; can I take your number and have her get back to you?”

·        Knows what to do and who to call in the event of a fire, a medical crisis, a suspicious stranger at the door or other emergency. Coach teens on how to respond to each of these situations. Conspicuously post emergency telephone numbers on the refrigerator and next to house phones, program them into cell phones, and make sure teens and tweens know at least two escape routes from the home.

·        Knows where to find the first-aid supplies and how to handle basic first aid (or whom to call) for cuts, scrapes, nosebleeds, minor burns and so on.

·        Knows how to switch on a shutoff electrical circuit breaker or replace fuse safely.

·        Knows where to find the shutoff valves on all toilets and sinks, as well as the main water valve, in the event of a leak or overflowing toilet.

·        Knows how to put out a cooking fire. Keep baking soda, flour or a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Teens should know never to throw water on a grease fire.

·        Knows how to contact you in an emergency.

·        Knows the names of her pediatrician, the preferred hospital and the family medical-insurance plan and type of coverage.

“Fire prevention and self-preservation techniques are important for children of all ages whether or not they are old enough to be left at home alone,” Hubbs-Tait said. “Take the time to show your children where the smoke detectors are in your home. Push the ‘test’ button so they will know what the alarm sounds like. Also, your entire family should practice fire drills and know the different escape routes in the house. The U.S. Fire Administration has a number of free resources to help parents and children with fire safety, including instructional materials for elementary school children ( and for parents of children of all ages:”.

 Although Oklahoma is nearing the end of tornado season, it is always a good idea to be prepared for all types of weather emergencies, said Gina Peek, OSU Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

 “Everyone should have a weather emergency kit ready go to at all times,” Peek said. “The kit should include items such as a portable radio with extra batteries, flashlight, three days’ supply of nonperishable foods, drinking water, a small first aid kit and instructions of where to go in the event of a tornado warning.”

Hubbs-Tait encourages parents to teach their children basic first aid. Assemble a kit with your child and explain what each item is and how it should be used.

“You also need to help them recognize what is a true emergency and what situations can be handled at home,” Hubbs-Tait said. “Small cuts and scrapes aren’t uncommon for most children and can be treated by simply washing with soap and water and applying a bandage. The treatment for minor burns is to run cold water on the burn or hold a cold pack on the area until it no longer hurts. ”

Nosebleeds can be somewhat frightening for children simply because there is blood. Treatment includes sitting upright, pinching the nose between your finger and thumb and applying pressure for about five minutes. If bleeding continues, apply a cold cloth.

“If that doesn’t work the child needs to call a parent for help,” Hubbs-Tait said.

When it comes to poisons, Peek said the best treatment is prevention.

“Keep cleaning supplies, medications and other hazardous materials out of reach of children, or better yet, in a locked cabinet,” Peek said. “Mark all poisonous substances clearly and explain the different symbols used on labels to your children. In addition, keep the number of the poison control center near your phone and on your list of emergency contacts. In the event of an emergency, call 1-800-222-1222.”

Being home alone after school is a learning experience for children and parents must do everything possible to keep them safe.

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