Following are some safe summer tips from our friends at the North Austin Coalition.
A Safe Summer starts with three things:
Home, Family, Emergency
Criminals in Austin are not very imaginative. There are two main ways they will come into your neighborhood and commit crime:
A ring of criminals will go through your neighborhood, casing streets and houses, and looking for easy targets. They will most likely pretend to be solicitors, although we are seeing a few criminals posing as couriers. One of their favorite scams is to pretend to be from a security alarm company, hoping you will give them info about how to best burglarize you and your neighbors.
What can you do?
- Do your ‘Five’! The house on either side of you, and the three houses across the street are your ‘five’. Be sure during the summer months to keep an eye on these houses and make it look like people are home. It can be things as simple as taking a flyer off a door, or parking your extra car in their driveway.
- Talk to your neighbors, and make sure they know your street should be a place where solicitors do not feel comfortable. The Coalition has a new sheet on how to be safe when you deal with solicitors:
Once a criminal decides a house is an easy target, they will call their buddies on a cell phone and will clean out your house in minutes.
- We know this sounds awful, but many times these rings will get kids involved because people are less wary of children. If you see a kid that you do not recognize, and he is carrying a cell phone and a backpack, please take the time to ask questions, ensure the kid is OK, and is in your neighborhood for the right reasons. Sadly, APD has shut down these rings and arrested kids as young as 8 years old.
- Over 40% of houses last year were broken into through the front door. If you have a deadbolt/strikeplate that is not correctly installed, it only takes 2 kicks and 20 seconds for a criminal to get through your front door. The quickest, cheapest fix is to simply replace the screws holding your strikeplate to the frame with 3 inch screws – and it costs less than $2! You might also want to check out this website, which shows you how to make your front door even more secure:
A criminal will go to a parking lot or apartment complex, and steal a non-descript car (like a Honda Civic or a Ford or Chevy truck). They will then cruise your neighborhood, looking for 4-6 cars or trucks to burglarize. Once this criminal has a stash of easily fencable items, like power tools, cell phones, and laptops, he will ditch the stolen vehicle and swap the stolen merchandise for cash.
How do you stop this?
- Take, Lock, and Hide so your car is safe! Always lock your car, even when you will be gone a moment. Don’t leave any window open or even cracked open, including vent/wing windows and sunroofs. Set any alarm or anti-theft device. If you have one, use it!
- Unload your valuables immediately, including your phone and garage remote. Do not store valuables in your car any longer than necessary, and certainly never overnight.
- Take anything that might tempt a thief: loose coins, docking station, loose cables, CD. If you have an after-market stereo/CD-player with a removable faceplate, remove it. Without the faceplate, the unit is less attractive/useful to many thieves, and harder to “fence.” If the unit can be pulled, pull it!
- Stop and double-check before you step away from your car. Did you miss anything that might tell a thief to take a second look? Remember, without a clear prize in sight, a locked and possibly alarmed car will likely be bypassed for an easier “target of opportunity.”
There are two other things you can do to help get crime out of your neighborhood:
- Check out our holiday safety sheet:
- Learn How to Check Crime Stats for Your Street. You can sign up for Spotcrime alerts which will send you an email every day of crime that just happened around your street. You can also go to krimelabb.com and check the details of that crime (it runs about two days behind because they get the data as APD releases it).
The National Safe Kids Campaign estimates that every year, one in four kids ages 14 and younger will sustain an injury that requires medical attention. Forty percent of all injury-related emergency room visits and 42 percent of all injury deaths happen between May and August.
10: Bites & Stings
- Planning to spend time outside means planning to spray yourself and your kids with insect repellent – repellents don’t kill insects, but they can help reduce bites from mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and other bothersome bugs.
- Remove anything around your house that might attract insects, snakes, or rodents and keep grass cut during the summer months.
- Clothing: It’s smart to wear light-colored clothing and shoes during the summertime because they help you spot any ticks that may be crawling on you. When hiking, tucking your pant legs into your socks can help minimize ticks crawling up your legs or into your shoes.
- Repellent: Insect repellents that contain DEET or permethrin can reduce your chances of tick bites.
- Know Your Enemy: Ticks like to hang out in grassy or wooded areas, and they are especially fond of places that are moist or humid.
- Be Vigilant with Tick Checks: Do a tick check on everyone in the family every night.
8: Lawn mowers and barbeque grills
- Use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is let go, and wear sturdy shoes; no flip flops or sandals.
- Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins.
- Make sure that children are indoors or at a safe distance well away from the area that you plan to mow.
- Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or shed. Mowers should be refueled with the motor turned off and cool.
- Do not allow children under 16 to ride on or use mowers.
- The number one cause of gas grill fires is an obstruction in the path of the fuel. This means you need to regularly inspect your gas grill for problems. Bugs and other critters can climb into little places clogging gas flow.
- The number one problem with a charcoal grill is lighting the charcoal. Follow the instructions exactly and don’t ever let lighting charcoal become a game.
- Grease builds up after only a few cookouts. A clean grill is a safer grill.
- Assume everything is third-degree burning hot.
7: Playground Safety
- Check: Examine playground equipment before letting kids play on it. For example, surfaces that are too hot can cause burns, and loose ropes—ropes that aren’t secured on both ends—can cause accidental strangulation. The ground should be covered in a protective surface such as rubber mats, wood or rubber mulch or wood chips, never grass, asphalt or concrete.
- Clothing: Be sure that your child’s clothing is playground-friendly. Remove any strings, such as those on hoodies, only let them wear closed-toed shoes at play and avoid clothing that is loose enough to catch on equipment.
6: Bike Safety
- Helmet: Wearing a helmet can help reduce your child’s risk of making such a visit. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sets standards for helmets, so be sure to choose one with its safety seal on it.
- Check bikes: Have your child straddle the top bar of his or her bike with both feet flat on the ground. A 1 to 3-inch gap between the bar and your child’s body means it’s still the correct size.
5: Poison Ivy: The only way to avoid developing the rash is to avoid contact with these poisonous plants, but wearing clothing that covers a good amount of skin will help reduce your risk. Remember: leaves of three, let it be.
4: Food Poisoning: One of the best ways to avoid food poisoning during the summertime is to be sure food items that contain mayonnaise, milk, eggs, meat, poultry and seafood aren’t kept at room temperature for more than an hour or two (one hour max if it’s 90 degrees F outside). And remember, meat and eggs aren’t the only culprits; raw fruits and vegetables can cause problems if not properly washed and stored. If you’re traveling with food, be sure to pack any raw meat separately from ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.
3: Heat-related Illness: Heatstroke is serious. Prevent it through hydration: Water and sports drinks (drinks that contain electrolytes) are the best options for hydrating kids — avoid sodas, juice and other fruit drinks. The National Alliance for Youth Sports recommends choosing beverages that contain 100 mg (or more) of sodium and 28 mg (or more) of potassium in an 8-ounce serving (if choosing sports drinks, watch out for high sugar content).
Body temp > 103°F
- Ensure that the victim has a clear airway and is breathing. Follow the ABC’s of first aid.
- Move the victim to a cooler environment immediately. Shade is better than sun, air conditioning is better than outside, etc. The cooler the better.
- Remove the victim’s clothing to encourage heat loss.
- Put ice on the armpits, groin, and neck area. Cool the victim as aggresively as possible.
2: Sunburn: Choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and apply it 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. When using sunscreen, apply as much as would fill a shot glass — and if you’re using both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply sunscreen first and then repellent.
1. Water Safety: Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children. Statistics show 88% of young drowning victims were under some form of supervision at the time of the incident and 46% were under the care of both parents.
- Never leave a child near any body of water, not even for a second. Keep all children who can’t swim within arms reach when water is nearby.
- Trust nobody and nothing. Do not rely on older siblings or a lifeguard to keep your child safe, and do not rely on flotation devices.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off your phone and maintain constant, eyes-on uninterrupted supervision.
- Make sure everybody is wearing a life jacket when boating, fishing or playing in or near deep or fast moving water.
- Do not trust portable or child pools. A child can drown in as little as one inch of water.
- All pools should have fences on all four sides, alarms on the gates, and no toys should ever be left in a empty pool.
- Teach teens that they should never dive head first into any body of water, unless there are diving signs posted.
- ICE: There should be an ‘in case of emergency’ contact on your phone, so paramedics or other emergency personnel can access medical and emergency contact information immediately.
- Fridge: Information about doctors and vets should be posted on your fridge, along with any other emergency information that a neighbor or a pet sitter should need.
- Be prepared: Make a plan, build a kit: 72hours.org
- Check your risk: www.texaswildfirerisk.com
- Make a plan and ensure your house is safe:
Could you tell a firefighter how many pets and kids live next door? Do you know which neighbors are elderly or have medical needs, and might need to be checked on if there is an emergency? Is there somebody on your street for kids to go to if something should happen?