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Safety Center > Safety Tips > Summer Safety


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Summer is here! Between swimming, outdoor activities - and just enjoying the warm weather - there's always plenty to do. Take care to make this season as safe as it is fun. Your American Red Cross encourages you to learn how to keep yourself and your family prepared to prevent any accidents or injuries that may occur this time of year. Contact us for important information on ways you can become trained to make a lifesaving difference in an emergency, as well as for more ideas to help you to stay safe as you enjoy your summer.

Did you know blood supplies drop in the summer but the vital need for these products continues? Consider yourself asked! Please donate blood this summer. Call 1-800-GIVELIFE for more information or to see if you are eligible.


You can help stop injuries before they start by using the right equipment and teaching youngsters to following basic safety rules. Here are some tips to help children stay safe this summer:
  • Always wear a correctly-fitting helmet when riding. Even children using tricycles or bikes with training wheels need to wear helmets. Adults should also wear helmets at all times, including when riding with children. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has more information on how to fit a helmet.

  • The helmet you buy should meet standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Snell Memorial Foundation or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Look for a label or a sticker on the box or inside the helmet indicating that it meets the above standards.

  • Kids take to wheels of all kinds. Be sure the helmet is designed for safety needs around the specific outdoor equipment a child uses - such as skateboards, scooters and roller blades. Skaters and boarders need other types of safety equipment, too, such as knee pads and wrist braces.

  • Wear closed shoes when riding a bike, scooter or skateboard.

  • Ensure that the bicycle your child rides is the correct fit for his/her size.

  • Check all equipment to make sure it is working. Test your child's bike for good brakes, working gears, a front light and effective reflecting material. Examine skateboards, scooters and roller blades to make sure the wheels are in good shape and securely fastened.

  • Teach younger children street smarts. They are still learning about the speed and sound of oncoming cars. Teach your children to stop at the curb and to never cross the street without a grown-up. Be aware of each child's level of ability and self reliance.

  • Reinforce safe riding practices with older children. Go over bicycle, blade and board etiquette and safety procedures with your kids.

  • Ride only in safe areas and at safe times.
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People in urban areas need to take special precautions against prolonged heat. Stagnant atmospheric conditions often trap pollutants, mixing unhealthy air with excessively hot temperatures. Asphalt and concrete may store heat longer, as well, gradually releasing it at night. These higher temperatures create a potent blend of heat and chemicals call the urban heat island effect. Health risks are increased, especially for those with respiratory difficulties. Heat can kill by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. Elderly people, young children, and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to become victims of extreme summertime heat. Get training and be alert to heat related illness symptoms. Take an American Red Cross First Aid course to learn how to treat heat and other emergencies.
Take care this summer to beat the heat:
  • NEVER leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach over 140 degrees F within minutes. Exposure to such high temperatures can kill in minutes.

  • Air conditioning provides the safest escape from extreme heat - there are ways to maximize how it can work for you: Install window air conditioners snugly. Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation. Vacuum air conditioner filters weekly during periods of high use to provide more cool air. Make sure your home is properly insulated, too. This will help conserve electricity and reduce your home's power demands for air conditioning.

  • If your home does not have air conditioning, go elsewhere to get relief during the warmest part of the day. Stay indoors as much as possible, on the lowest floor out of the sunshine. Keep heat outside and cool air inside, closing any doors or windows that may allow heat in. Consider keeping storm windows installed throughout the year to keep the heat out of a house. Plan to check on family, friends, and neighbors - especially the elderly - who do not have air conditioning or who spend much of their time alone.

  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing that will cover as much skin as possible. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps maintain normal body temperature. Cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn and over-warming effects of sunlight on your body. Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, which will keep direct sunlight off your head and face. Sunlight can burn and warm the inner core of your body.

  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Injury and death can occur from dehydration, which can happen quickly and unnoticed. Symptoms of dehydration are often confused with other causes. Your body needs water to keep cool. Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies.

  • Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. They can make you feel good briefly, but make the heat's effects on your body worse. This is especially true about beer, which actually dehydrates the body. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; who are on fluid-restrictive diets; or who have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.

  • Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities. Get plenty of rest to allow your natural "cooling system" to work. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

  • Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat. Partners can keep an eye on each other and can assist each other when needed. Sometimes exposure to heat can cloud judgment. Chances are if you work alone, you may not notice this.

  • Get training and be alert to heat-related illness symptoms. Take an American Red Cross First Aid course to learn how to treat heat and other emergencies. Everyone should know how to respond, because the effects of heat can happen very quickly. Watch for these health signals:

  • Heat cramps: Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are often the first signal that the body is having trouble with the heat. Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish fluids. Give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can cause further dehydration and make conditions worse.

  • Heat exhaustion: Cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness and exhaustion. One's body temperature may be normal or is likely to be rising. Get the person out of the heat and into a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths such as towels or sheets. If the person is conscious, give cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Let the victim rest in a comfortable position, and watch carefully for changes in his or her condition.

  • Heat stroke: Hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be very high--sometimes as high as 105 degrees F. If the person was sweating from heavy work or exercise, skin may be wet; otherwise, it will feel dry. Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation. Help is needed fast. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.
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Keep it smart to keep it safe when hiking and camping this summer. Since unexpected things can happen in the woods, planning and commonsense precautions can help keep you safe while enjoying the great outdoors. Here's how you can Camp Smart this summer:
  • Take an American Red Cross course in First Aid and CPR before you go.

  • Review your equipment and supplies. Consider what emergencies might arise, such as getting lost, becoming ill or injured, bad weather or being confronted by a wild animal and the ways you could handle those situations. Add all the supplies you would need to your hiking checklist.

  • It's a good idea to assemble a separate "survival pack" for each hiker to have at all times. In a small waterproof container, place a pocket knife, compass, whistle, space blanket, nylon filament, water purification tablets, matches and candle. With these items, the chances of being able to survive in the wild are greatly improved.

  • Assess your outdoor skills. Are you prepared for an outdoor adventure? You may need to read a compass, put up a temporary shelter or give first aid. Practice your skills in advance.

  • If you have any medical conditions, discuss your plans with your healthcare provider and get approval before you go. If you are planning a strenuous trip, be sure to get into good physical condition before setting out. Remember to be prepared to acclimate to high altitudes if you are planning to climb or travel up mountains.

  • It's safest to hike or camp with at least one other person. If you are entering a remote area, your group should have a minimum of four people; this way, if one is hurt, another can stay with the victim while the other two go for help. If you'll be going to an unfamiliar area, take along someone who knows the ropes or at least speak with those who do before you set out. Always allow for bad weather and for the possibility that you may be forced to spend a night outdoors unexpectedly.

  • Some areas require reservation or permits. If an area is closed, don't go there. Find out in advance about regulations--there may be specific rules about campfires or guidelines about wildlife.

  • Pack emergency signaling devices, and know ahead of time the location of the nearest landline telephone or ranger station in case of emergency.

  • Leave a copy of your itinerary with a responsible person. Include details of your car, the equipment you are bringing, the weather you anticipate and when you plan to return.
What to Bring: A Hiking Checklist
What you take will depend on where you are going and how long you plan to be away, but any backpack should include the following:
  • Candle and matches

  • Cell phone (and extra charged battery if possible)

  • Clothing (always bring something warm, extra socks and rain gear)

  • Compass

  • First aid kit

  • Food (bring extra)

  • Flashlight

  • Foil (to use as a cup or signaling device)

  • Hat

  • Insect repellent

  • Map

  • Nylon filament

  • Pocket knife

  • Pocket mirror (to use as a signaling device)

  • Prescription glasses (an extra pair)

  • Prescription medications for ongoing medical conditions

  • Radio with batteries

  • Space blanket or a piece of plastic (to use for warmth or shelter)

  • Sunglasses

  • Sunscreen

  • Trash bag (makes an adequate poncho)

  • Water

  • Waterproof matches or matches in a waterproof tin

  • Water purification tablets

  • Whistle (to scare off animals or to use as a signaling device)
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With a baby or young child in your family, nothing is more important than safety. Parents and caregivers can take special care of babies and children this time of year to protect them from accidents or injuries. Toddlers are naturally inquisitive and often spend a lot of time climbing. Open windows and open spaces during the summer can dramatically increase their risk of falling or drowning. Warm weather precautions, including constant supervision, are vitally important in preventing accidents. To keep babies and small children safe:
  • Use window guards and only open windows from the top.

  • Always supervise children in or near water.

  • Being prepared for emergencies. Take an American Red Cross course in First Aid and Infant/Child CPR. Make sure that others caring for your children are certified as well.

  • Keep emergency numbers on your cell phone speed dial. Call the poison control center if you think a child has been poisoned.

  • NEVER leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach over 140 degrees F within minutes. Exposure to such high temperatures can kill in minutes.

  • With lots of family trips this time of year, always use child safety seats in the car.

  • Never keep guns in any child care setting.

  • Use gates on areas that are often left open. Put baby gates at the top and bottom of staircases. Be sure there are no spaces in which a child's head or fingers could become trapped or pinched. The gates or slats on baby gates should be less that 4 1/4" apart.

  • Use safe playgrounds. Monitor small children while they are climbing.

  • Carry a First Aid kit with you - you'll never know when you might need it. Include sunblock, too, checking with your doctor on use for babies less than 6 months old.

  • Beware of dogs and other animals outside, and keep close watch of your children even with mild-mannered four-legged friends. Small children need to learn how to pet animals and it will be some time before they understand how to do that.
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The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in all types of water is to learn to swim. The American Red Cross has swimming courses for people of any age and swimming ability. CPR and First Aid training can save lives in an emergency. If you are not already trained, now is a great time to learn. Different types of water may require separate skills for swimmers. By understanding different water environments, from oceans to lakes to pools, you can help to keep yourself and your family safe. Take Care in all types of water to prevent swimming accidents this summer.
Ocean Swimming
  • Stay within the designated swimming area, ideally within the visibility of a lifeguard.

  • Never swim alone.

  • Check the surf conditions before you enter the water. Check to see if a warning flag is up or check with a lifeguard for water conditions, beach conditions, or any potential hazards.

  • Don't try to swim against a current if caught in one. Swim gradually out of the current by swimming across it.

  • Make sure you always have enough energy to swim back to shore.

  • Stay away from piers, pilings, and diving platforms when in the water.

  • Keep a lookout for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants and leave animals alone.
Lake and River Swimming
  • Select a supervised area. A trained lifeguard who can help in an emergency is the best safety factor. Even good swimmers can have an unexpected medical emergency in the water. Never swim alone.

  • Select an area that is clean and well-maintained. A clean bathhouse, clean restrooms, and a litter-free environment show the management's concern for your health and safety.

  • Select an area that has good water quality and safe natural conditions. Murky water, hidden underwater objects, unexpected drop-offs, and aquatic plant life are hazards. Water pollution can cause health problems for swimmers. Strong tides, big waves, and currents can turn an event that began as fun into a tragedy.

  • Make sure the water is deep enough before entering head-first. Too many swimmers are seriously injured every year by entering head-first into water that is too shallow. A feet-first entry is much safer than diving.

  • Be sure rafts and docks are in good condition. A well-run open-water facility maintains its rafts and docks in good condition, with no loose boards or exposed nails. Never swim under a raft or dock. Always look before jumping off a dock or raft to be sure no one is in the way.

  • Avoid drainage ditches. Drainage ditches for water run-off are not good places for swimming or playing in the water. After heavy rains, they can quickly change into raging rivers that can easily take a human life; even the strongest swimmers are no match for the power of the water. Fast water and debris in the current make ditches very dangerous.
Pool swimming
  • Enclose the pool completely with a self-locking, self-closing fence with vertical bars. Openings in the fence should be no more than four inches wide. The house should not be included as a part of the barrier.

  • Never leave furniture near the fence that would enable a child to climb over the fence.

  • Post CPR instructions and 9-1-1 or your local emergency number in the pool area.

  • Always keep basic lifesaving equipment by the pool and know how to use it. Pole, rope, and personal flotation devices (PFDs) are recommended. Don't rely on substitutes. The use of flotation devices and inflatable toys cannot replace parental supervision. Such devices could suddenly shift position, lose air, or slip out from underneath, leaving the child in a dangerous situation.

  • Keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children into the pool.

  • Pool covers should always be completely removed prior to pool use.
Swimming Safety for Children
  • Never leave a child unobserved around water. Adult eyes must be on the child at all times. Watch children around any water environment (pool, stream, lake, tub, toilet, bucket of water), no matter what skills your child has acquired and no matter how shallow the water.

  • Keep your cell phone with you. If you don't have one, install a phone by the pool or keep a cordless phone nearby so that you can call 9-1-1 in an emergency. At a swimming facility, locate the nearest pay phone and keep change with you.

  • Learn American Red Cross Infant/Child CPR and insist that babysitters, grandparents, and others who care for your child know CPR.

  • If a child is missing, check the pool first. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom, and surface, as well as the surrounding pool area.
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Hot summer days mean increased energy use for air conditioning. This can put a real strain on power supplies, potentially leading to temporary power outages. Be ready to stay safe and healthy before and during any blackouts this summer by following these American Red Cross tips:
Assemble Essential Supplies Ahead of Time:
  • Flashlight (remember, due to the extreme risk of fire, candles should not be used during a power outage).

  • Portable radio

  • Extra batteries for the flashlight and portable radio

  • At least one gallon of water per person per day

  • A small supply of food

  • Keep your car fuel tank at least half full because gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.
Prepare Your Home
  • If you have space in your refrigerator or freezer, consider filling plastic containers with water, leaving about an inch of space inside each one. (Remember, water expands as it freezes, so it is important to leave room in the container for the expanded water). Place the containers in the refrigerator and freezer. This chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold if the power goes out by displacing air that can warm up quickly with water or ice that keeps cold for several hours without additional refrigeration.

  • If you use medication that requires refrigeration, most can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem. If unsure, check with your physician or pharmacist.
Prepare your Electronic Equipment
  • If you use a computer, keep files and operating systems backed up regularly. Consider buying extra batteries and a power converter if you use a laptop computer. A power converter allows most laptops (12 volts or less) to be operated from the cigarette lighter of a vehicle. Also, turn off all computers, monitors, printers, copiers, scanners and other devices when they're not being used. That way, if the power goes out, this equipment will have already been safely shut down.

  • Get a high quality surge protector for all of your computer equipment. If you frequently use the computer for recreation or a home business, consider purchasing and installing an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Consult with your local computer equipment dealer about available equipment and costs.

  • If you have an electric garage door opener, find out where the manual release lever is located and learn how to operate it. Sometimes garage doors can be heavy, so get help to lift it. If you regularly use the garage as the primary means of entering your home upon return from work, be sure to keep a key to your house with you in case the garage door will not open.

  • If you have a telephone instrument or system at home or at work that requires electricity to work (such as a cordless phone or answering machine), plan for alternate communication, including having a standard telephone handset, cellular telephone, radio, or pager. Remember, too, that some voice mail systems and remote dial-up servers for computer networks may not operate when the power is out where these systems are located. So even if you have power, your access to remote technology may be interrupted if the power that serves those areas is disrupted. Check with remote service providers to see if they have backup power systems, and how long those systems will operate.

  • Follow energy conservation measures to keep the use of electricity as low as possible, which can help power companies avoid imposing rolling blackouts.
What Do I Do During A Blackout?
  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances, equipment (like air conditioners) or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can damage equipment such as computers and motors in appliances like the air conditioner, refrigerator, washer or furnace.

  • Leave one light turned on so you'll know when your power returns.

  • Leave the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep your food as fresh as possible. If you must eat food that was refrigerated or frozen, check it carefully for signs of spoilage.

  • Use the phone for emergencies only. Listening to a portable radio can provide the latest information. Do not call 9-1-1 for information -- only call to report a life-threatening emergency.

  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car. Traffic signals will stop working during an outage, creating traffic congestion.

  • Remember that equipment such as automated teller machines (ATMs) and elevators may not work during a power outage.

  • If it is hot outside, take steps to remain cool:

    • Move to the lowest level of your home, as cool air falls.

    • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.

    • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.

    • If the heat is intense and the power may be off for a long time, consider going to a movie theater, shopping mall, or "cooling shelter" that may be opened in your community.

    • Listen to local radio or television for more information.
Specific Information for People with Disabilities
  • If you use a battery-operated wheelchair, life-support system or other power-dependent equipment, call your power company before rolling blackouts happen. Many utility companies keep a list and map of the locations of power-dependent customers in case of an emergency. Ask them what alternatives are available in your area. Contact the customer service department of your local utility company(ies) to learn if this service is available in your community.

  • If you use a motorized wheelchair or scooter, have an extra battery. A car battery also can be used with a wheelchair but will not last as long as a wheelchair's deep-cycle battery. If available, store a lightweight manual wheelchair for backup.

  • If you are blind or have a visual disability, store a talking or Braille clock or large-print timepiece with extra batteries.

  • If you are deaf or have a hearing loss, consider getting a small portable battery-operated television set. Emergency broadcasts may give information in American Sign Language (ASL) or open captioning.
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