By Dedra Cordle
Sixth grade student Mikey Hoffman says that this school year has proven to be one of the most challenging yet and he cannot wait until the bell rings for the final time on June 1.
“I am so ready for the break,” he said. “I need it to be here now.”
He said he does not have much planned for the months away from school – biking adventures, perhaps, playing video games, taking a dip in the local pool – but he maintains that he will try to find ways to keep his brain engaged – for the most part, that is.
That announcement has caused a bit of concern from his sister, 16-year-old Shawna Hoffman.
Shawna said that while she loves her brother, she knows that when the boredom starts to creep in strange things can happen.
“He’s a good kid but when he has nothing to do…” she said with a laugh.
For instance, she recalled the time last summer when she tried to make them a healthy lunch and allowed him to provide assistance. When she was not looking, he decided that the food looked like it was sticking to the pan and added oil to the mix. Shortly thereafter, flames started to leap into the air.
Their mother, Mary, has always stressed that her children be prepared for any situation so fortunately Shawna knew to put a lid over the flame and take the pan off the heat before the fire could spread across the kitchen. She said from that day on, they have all made it a point to be up-to-date on the latest advice from safety professionals.
Their continued quest to prepare for the unexpected is what brought the northside residents to the westside earlier this month for what was billed as a fun and educational event for all ages on summer safety preparation.
Held at Westgate Alternative Elementary School, the ‘Ready for Summer Rally’ was equal parts a celebratory gathering for students ready for vacation and an educational smorgasbord for individuals who wanted to learn from public health officials on what actions they should take if emergencies arise this summer – or throughout the year.
Columbus resident Emily Martin said she was not expecting to learn so much from the vendors who set up booths at this location.
“It is a little bit overwhelming by how many resources are here,” she said, “but I picked up a lot of great tips and I feel more confident that I can keep my kids and the children in the neighborhood safer this summer.”
Event organizers said they could not have been more grateful for the turnout by the local organizations who signed up to participate in Ready for Summer Rally and for the community who came out in droves to attend.
“We are so proud of our growing partnership with the American Red Cross,” said Lee Cole, executive director of family engagement and partnership with Columbus City Schools, referring to the event which is a collaboration between the district and the organizations Resilient Community Project. “Together, we have brought vital resources directly to the community, fulfilling our collective visions to empower and educate the residents.”
More than 40 vendors ranging from social services, wellness and academics, and city safety departments were on hand at the rally. Included among the dozens in attendance was the city of Columbus’ Division of Fire who brought their Life Safety House.
Firefighters Felecia Jackson said the Life Safety House is one of the best tools the department uses to teach children about the dangers of fire, smoke inhalation, and of the proper use of machinery in the kitchen.
She said that it is not uncommon for the department to respond to more calls related to microwave and stove-top fires in the summer months.
“Kids are at home more (in the summer) and when they get hungry they usually pop something in the microwave,” said Jackson. “Sometimes things can go wrong if you do not understand the temperature setting and we want them to know what to do in the event a fire catches in the microwave.”
Through the Life Safety House demonstration, they learn that the best way to smother a microwave fire is to keep the door closed and unplug the unit. The same goes for the stove-top fire that happened at the Hoffman house last year, except you remove the pan from the heat source.
Incidentally, Shawna encouraged her brother to experience the smoke-house portion of the Life Safety House.
Children were not the only individuals who received advice from the firefighters; Jackson reminded the adults who love to grill that they have to keep a “watchful eye” on the equipment.
“I know it can be hard to maintain that focus because there is so much going on and you’re moving in and out of the house to get stuff for those burgers and steaks but you have to pay attention,” she said. “Grilling sparks more than 10,000 home fires each year and it can happen in an instant.”
She recommended that grillers keep their equipment outdoors and away from decks, houses, trees and anything else that could catch fire.
Jackson also said the department can come out to homes in the Columbus area and install fire alarms or carbon monoxide detectors free of charge. For inquiries, call 614-645-7377.
The Hilltop YMCA was also in attendance to offer safety advice for those eager to get in the water. Gabriele Hover, the aquatics experience director, said she has been told by many children that they are counting down the days until they can use the pool during the hot summer months.
“Our kids are always telling me how excited they are for vacations, pool parties and afternoons in the sun with their families,” said Hover.
She is quick to point out, however, of the importance of remaining vigilant around any body of water and to keep practicing the lessons they learn on how to be smart and safe, especially in a backyard pool.
“About 88 percent of drownings occur under adult supervision and 60 percent happen within 10 feet of the wall.”
Hover said the Hilltop YMCA will be one of three branches to host free safety swim lessons in June through a partnership with Columbus Public Health. Registration began on May 15 and the location can train up to 100 children aged 3 to 17 how to swim using the Safety Around Water curriculum.
For the adults who have a backyard pool, Hover recommended that they have Coast Guard approved flotation devices on hand and they always keep an eye on the aquatics activity.
“Many drownings take place when adults are right there because they were distracted by a conversation, or were on their phone, or assumed that flotation devices were enough,” she said. “Always keeping an active eye on your kids, or better yet already being in the water actively playing with them, goes a long way.”
To inquire about swimming or cardiopulmonary resuscitation lessons, contact the Hilltop YMCA at 614-389-4565.
The American Red Cross also offered these summer safety preparedness tips:
•For camping trips, pack a first aid kit to handle insect stings, sprains, cuts, and bruises and other injuries that could happen; always share your travel plans and locations with a family member or friend; use insect repellent with DEET; and bring extra water and snacks for your furry friends.
•For heat exhaustion, know the exhibiting signs (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness and exhaustion) and move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and spray the person with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Call 911 if their condition changes for the worse.
•Pets can also suffer from heat exhaustion and stroke. Their exhibiting signs are heavy panting, being unable to calm down, brick red gum color, fast pulse rate and being unable to stand up. If their temperature (administered rectally) is about 105 degrees, use a cool water hose on their body until it reaches 103. Never be afraid to call a veterinarian as heat stroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage.
•The ARC also recommends that children and pets not be left alone in hot cars, even if the windows are rolled down or cracked. The temperature inside of a car can reach 120 degrees rapidly on a hot day.
For more ARC recommendations, visit their website at redcross.org/summersafety where they have a number of safety apps available to download.