Crossing train tracks and looking both ways may come second nature to adults, but children still need someone to teach them what to do in dangerous situations.
“We have a program we teach called Safety Street. We teach this to the elementary schools in Missouri and Illinois. It’s an injury-prevention program,” said Kelly Eyermann, program specialist with St. Louis Children’s Hospital, who also works for the Department of Child Health Advocacy and Outreach. “We are trying to teach children about safety so we don’t see them in our emergency rooms.”
The program is coordinated locally by Highland’s Very Important Principles (VIP) Program. Safety Street focuses on teaching Highland Primary, Highland Elementary, Alhambra Primary and Grantfork Elementary school students the different parts of everyday safety.
Wendy Phillips of the VIP program said the partnership started to keep children safe.
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“This is about keeping kids safe and injury prevention,” she said. “We want to make sure out kids know how to make good choices.”
This is the second year for the program has come to Highland.
“We bring the program to 22 different schools and we set up in gym. We teach them about dog safety, strangers, car safety, home safety, pool and water safety, playground safety, trains, and bike safety,” Eyermann said. “We are trying to keep them safe in their communities.”
The program is an elaborate set up with mock streets with real, functioning street lights, an electric-powered train with tracks, motion-sensitive cutouts of a stranger and police officer, and large, plastic cars the teachers can get in and “drive” down the street.
Eyermann said this program is the only one like it in the country.
“We just want to help,” she said. “It’s fantastic.”
“The most important part to protect is the neck,” Eyermann said. “We have a carotid artery in neck and dogs go for the neck and face. We teach the kids to get down in a tornado drill position, covering their neck, face, and head.”
If a child is coaxed into going somewhere with a stranger or the stranger attempts to abduct the child, Eyermann said to teach children to yell.
“Tell them to yell, ‘I don’t know this person. Call the police’ instead of yelling ‘help’ or ‘stranger danger,’” she said. “We see kids on playgrounds yelling ‘stranger danger’ when playing with each other. We want them to yell something to catch someone’s attention. If a stranger grabs them, we teach them to fight too.”
A simple, but effective way to stay safe is to teach children to look left, right, then left again before crossing the street. Eyermann stresses to the children to only cross on red lights and the safety place to cross is the crosswalk.
“Some of these smaller towns do have quite a few trains so we teach them that everyone needs to stop at a crossing,” Eyermann said. “If the arm is down, don’t go around. Wait. Stop. Look and listen.”
She also teaches the younger children to refrain from answering the door. For the older ones, she said supervision with appliances is a must.
“Make sure handles are to the center of the stove too,” she said. “And remind children that any space heater can be dangerous. Be sure to turn it off if you leave the room.”
Car safety is one of the major points of safety the program addresses. The set comes equipped with a remote-controlled car that backs up with flashing white lights.
“Anytime kids see white lights, we teach them a car is going to back up. The driver may have blind spot so they need to get out of the way,” Eyermann said. She also reminds them that they need to be in a booster seat unless they are at least 8-years-old, more than 80 pounds, and 57 inches long
“They can’t ride in the front until they are 13 or older and remind them not to play in a car or on the steering wheel. Cars can move without keys inside,” she said.
Another major talking point is trunk safety. The program teaches children what to do if they are trapped inside.
“We talk about how to get out. Most cars made after 2001 have safety releases and little spaces they can stick their fingers out of,” Eyermann said. “We teach them how to pull wires out of brake lights. When they do that, hopefully the police will pull over.”
During the winter, Eyermann said they teach children not to walk on frozen ponds or lakes because the water might not be frozen all the way through.