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Summer Safety - Helmets Save Lives!

by The Social Diary Safety Educator Columnist Monica Zech
Column #15, July 5th, 2006

It's summer vacation time, a good time to remind everyone, especially parents and children the importance of safety - especially helmet safety. A good friend of mine recently called to tell me about her nephew who had been outside roller blading - without a helmet! He was taught to always wear one but for some reason chose otherwise that day. Sure enough he fell and was knocked unconscious. Neighbors found him and 9-1-1 was called. He was lucky, he survived the fall and learned a valuable lesson the hard way. Working with paramedic-firefighters, and as a board member of the Safe Kids Coalition at Children's Hospital, this sounds like a good time for the following reminders about the importance of safety helmets.

pictured here - Margo Schwab surfing in the helmet that saved her life.

First, the law - California law requires that anyone under 18 years of age wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet while operating or as a passenger on a non-motorized scooter, skateboard, or bicycle, and while wearing in-line or roller skates - even surfing! (As the safety educator - everyone, no matter what age - should always wear a helmet.) The law also requires that any person who rides in a seat that is attached to a bicycle or towed by a bicycle must wear a helmet. Anyone riding motorized scooter should be wearing a helmet.

Why we have a law - "helmets save lives!" While a helmet may not prevent a crash, it can prevent or significantly reduce the severity of a head injury - by as much as 70 percent. Remember - you are protecting your brain! Use your brain to protect your body.

SUPERVISION - Remember that a helmet is not a substitute for adult supervision. Children under 8 years should not use scooters, skates or skateboards without close adult supervision. Supervision is key in preventing most of the injuries we see in injuries involving children.

Helmets should have a label that says the helmet meets the standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
" Have a strong strap that will keep it on the child's head after the first impact (car) and for the second impact (street).
" Be replaced if they become damaged, especially after a fall or impact.
" Be easy to adjust or be self-adjusting.
" Fit well: level on the head, touching the head all around, and comfortably snug but not tight.
" Be comfortable to wear: cool and light.
" All riders should be easy for drivers to see at night and during the day. At night wear bright clothing or reflective tape on your clothing. Bikes should be equipped with lights and reflectors.
" Child and toddler helmets should have a buckle that holds firm in a crash but releases after 5 seconds of steady pull to avoid strangling. Kids should always remove their helmets before using playground equipment or climbing trees!

Helmets Should NOT: -
" Move more than an inch in any direction or pull off no matter how hard you try.
" Have an "aero" tail that can shove the helmet sideways in a crash and leave your head unprotected.

Note: For additional information contact the San Diego Safe Kids Coalition: (858) 576-1700 ext. 5704 or visit our websites at www.elcajonfire.com or www.monicazech.com for more valuable safety information. Have a safe and happy summer! - Monica Zech, Safety Educator

* Monica Zech is the Public Information Officer and Safety Educator for the City of El Cajon and for El Cajon Police and Fire Departments. For safety tips please visit El Cajon Fire.com In community work, Zech is the President on the board for the Trauma Research Education Foundation-TREF and a board member with Communities Against Substance Abuse-CASA. In March, Monica received the County's 2005 Individual Health Champion Award for her safety lectures in the community and throughout the county. Email mzech@ci.el-cajon.ca.us and visit Zech's Web Site ,or Monica Zech at (619) 441-1737.

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