ST. PAUL — Whether it’s just walking across the street to the school bus or young adults experimenting with alcohol for the first time at college, parents need to talk with their children about the dangers that lie ahead during the school year.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has compiled a list of issues and advice that will help guide parents to develop some common-sense principles for their children.
“As parents we can’t be at every corner telling our children to watch out for cars or always be sitting next to our teen driver, reminding them not to text while driving,” said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. “But we can set the table for good habits before they walk out the door for school by providing our children some guidance and understanding of real world dangers. It’s not only important to give them the advice, but as parents we must model those behaviors and set good examples. Together we can keep our children safe.”
Stay safe online — Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
Children of all ages are using the Internet to complete classroom projects or research subjects for homework. But going online can make children vulnerable to predators who would use deception to ultimately do them harm.
- Too much info – predators will use identifying information including schools, team names, teacher names and more to build a relationship with your child.
- Chat before they SnapChat – talk with your children about the risks involved in sending or sharing provocative images.
- Report it – report instances of inappropriate online contact to www.missingkids.com/cybertipline
Begin talking about safety online before your child uses their first electronic device and continue the conversation through college. Get some conversation starters at: http://www.netsmartz.org/Parents
Emergencies in a digital world — Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Cell phones, tablets, laptops and other wireless devices. Most families get their information while on the go these days. That’s why it’s important for parents and children alike to stay informed about emergencies by putting our technology to work. Take these steps to be “in the know” at all times.
- Program health information (illnesses, allergies, blood type, donor information and medications) into your child’s cell phone. Include emergency contact phone numbers. Follow local law enforcement and other agencies on social media.
- Sign up for Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs). Authorized agencies send the cell phone messages to let families know about dangerous weather conditions, emergencies and other hazards. Know how to read the alerts, follow direction and take action.
- During emergencies and disasters, text, don’t talk, unless it’s an immediate need. It may be easier to text family members in a chaotic environment. Making calls will tie up phone lines and overwhelm signals for emergency workers in the moments after an incident. Make sure children know how to call 911.
Emergency preparation homework before school starts— Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Even before your child goes back to the classroom, make sure the entire family is prepared to act in an emergency. Having a family plan
is key to keeping your children calm and safe. Take these steps to be prepared throughout the school year:
- Prepare a document with the phone numbers of parents, grandparents and a close neighbor and place it in your child’s backpack. Select a relative or friend that lives out of town. If phone lines are down and cell phone service is overloaded all family members can use a landline to call the contact and report their status and location.
- Make a kit that will help the family get by. You may need to survive on your own after an emergency or natural disaster. This means having enough food, water and other supplies to cover each family member for three days. Do not forget your pets! Know what items to bring in case of an evacuation from home.
- Choose a safe meeting space during an emergency. Examples include a local church, store, library or other public location where the family would meet if they could not gain access to home.
Safe at school — Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Minnesota’s School Safety Center provides resources to schools, educators and law enforcement across the state for emergency planning, training and preparedness. Parents should also take a few key steps when it comes to school safety:
- Be familiar with the school’s emergency response plan for a threat or hazard. This includes procedures that will determine whether staff and students stay or go, along with evacuation/relocation and reunification/student release information. Details are usually located in the school handbook.
- Talk to your child about lockdown, shelter-in-place and severe weather drills that will occur. Make sure they know how to act during these drills and how to put those drills to practice during a real emergency.
- Review any special needs. For example, if your child has asthma, how would he or she get their inhaler in an emergency at school?
See something strange? Speak up! — Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Students may notice something out of place at their school or on the way to school. It may even make them feel uneasy or afraid. They may be unsure about how to take action. HSEM, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, encourages anyone, including children, to “See Something, Say Something.”
- Report suspicious behavior. Do you see a stranger taking pictures of buildings or entering or exiting a restricted area? They may not have your best interests in mind. Tell a trusted adult or call 911.
- Do not touch suspicious objects. Unattended packages may contain dangerous items. Do not let curiosity get the best of you. Move a safe distance away and report it immediately.
- Do not wait for someone else to say something. An immediate call to law enforcement could be the one that makes the difference.
New Law for Colleges regarding campus policies on sexual violence – Office of Justice Programs
A new state law requires colleges and universities to have mandatory training for students and specific staff members on sexual violence policies. It also mandates sexual assault advocacy services, an anonymous online reporting system, and new statistical reporting requirements.
The new law also expands the existing requirement that colleges and universities must adopt a policy to inform victims of their rights under the crime victims’ bill of rights,
including the right to assistance from the Crime Victims Reparations Board. A copy of the policy
must be provided to students during registration, and posted at appropriate locations.
Keep children safe with the right car seats — Office of Traffic Safety
Parents know how hectic it can get driving children to school and to various after-school activities. Don’t let the busyness detract from making sure your children are properly buckled up.
- Ensure car seats are installed correctly and children are in the correct restraints for their age and size. Minnesota law requires that all children must be in a child restraint until they are 4’9” tall, or at least age 8, whichever comes first.
- Booster seats are for children who have outgrown a forward-facing, harnessed restraint (typically after age 4). It is safest for children to ride in boosters until they are 4’9” tall.
- Children are ready for seat belts when they can sit with their back against the seat and have their knees bent comfortably over the edge with their feet touching the floor.
- Learn more about car-seat safety, find local car-seat checks and view car-seat installation videos at buckleupkids.mn.gov.
Study Up on the Minnesota Driver’s Manual — Driver and Vehicle Services
Kids will soon be back in school and studying. Some will be preparing for their first school test; others will be studying to get their instruction permit or driver’s license. For parents, how long has it been since you took the written or road test to get your Minnesota driver’s license? Do you think you could still pass those tests today?
It’s a good idea for parents to study the Minnesota Driver’s Manual
, especially if they have a teen hoping to get their instruction permit this school year. Parents who don’t have a teen driver scan still brush up on the rules of the road.
Practice with your teen driver — Office of Traffic Safety
If your teen has their instruction permit and is looking forward to getting their license this school year, make sure to provide them with many hours of supervised practice on different road types (city, highway, rural) and in various conditions (night, snow, rain). Teen drivers are over-represented in crashes due to factors like inexperience, distractions, speeding and taking risks.
- Sign up for a parent awareness class through your driver education provider to learn about teen driver safety issues and how to help them become safe, responsible drivers.
- To take the road test, the law requires that the teen submit a supervised driving log documenting a minimum of 50 hours of practice time. If the parent or guardian completes a 90 minute parent awareness class, the number of hours that must be documented is reduced to 40.
- Traffic safety experts recommend many more hours of supervised driving experience than the minimum required to help your teen develop safe driving skills.
Prevent fires on and off campus — State Fire Marshal
Fire damages property and puts students at risk every year both on and off Minnesota college campuses. Between 2006 and 2015 there were 373 dormitory, sorority or fraternity housing fires in Minnesota that caused more than $19,000 in damage. A majority of those fires — 293 — were cooking fires.
There are many causes of campus fires, but most are due to a lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Alcohol also plays a role. Awareness and an action plan will improve chances of survival. Here are some basic campus fire safety tips:
- Make sure there is a smoke alarm in every bedroom and on every level of the house if you live off campus.
- Clean up immediately after parties and take trash outside.
- Is your dorm equipped with an automatic fire-sprinkler system? Find out.
- Know two escape routes out of your dorm or off-campus residence. Practice using that route when you are awake and not impaired.
- If an alarm sounds, get out. Don’t worry about grabbing your personal belongings.
- More fire safety tips and a SFMD video on campus fire safety are available at sfm.dps.mn.gov.
Know what to do during a fire drill — State Fire Marshal
Kids may know how to escape their burning home, but what about their school? Would your child take a fire drill seriously? Fire drills play a big part in classroom safety by preparing students for the unexpected and teaching them to get outside quickly. Teachers and parents should talk to their students and children about fire drills. Here’s what they should know:
- Take fire alarms seriously.
- When the alarm sounds, get out and stay out.
- Younger children should understand they should not hide from fire.
- Know at least two escape routes beforehand.
- Identify the outside classroom meeting spot.
More information about school fire drills is available from the National Fire Protection Association.
School bus safety is for motorists and children — State Patrol
- In Minnesota, motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights or a stop arm when approaching from the rear and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.
- Motorists should slow down, pay attention and anticipate school children and buses, especially in neighborhoods and school zones.
- The best way to be aware of your surroundings at all times is to put the distractions away.
- When getting off a bus, look to be sure no cars are passing on the shoulder.
- Wait for the bus driver to signal that it’s safe to cross.
- When crossing the street to get on the bus or to go home, make eye contact with motorists before proceeding.
Distracted driving, a traffic safety message at high school sporting events — State Patrol
Distracted driving contributes to 20 percent of fatalities involving teen drivers. On average, five people die and another 29 are seriously injured in distracted driving-related crashes involving teen drivers.
To educate teens about the dangers of teen drivers, the Minnesota State Patrol will be launching t-shirts into the crowd at high school football and basketball games this season. When the game is on, students are encouraged to capture every moment and snap it to a friend, but if they do so behind the wheel, the game will be over for everyone, causing a lifetime of pain and heartache for friends and family of those who are gone too soon. Events will be accompanied by stadium public-address announcements, as well as morning messages in school that reinforce the importance of driving distracted free.
Do Your Part
- Cell phones — Put the phone down, turn it off or place it out of reach.
- Music and other controls — Pre-program radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and ventilation before traveling.
- Navigation — Map out the destination and enter the GPS route in advance.
- Eating and drinking — Avoid messy foods and secure drinks.
- Children — Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle and model proper driving behavior.
- Passengers — Speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior and offer to help with anything that takes the driver’s attention off the road.
Know your alcohol by volume (ABVs) — Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement
As the school year begins at colleges across Minnesota, inexperienced drinkers who have recently turned 21 will be experimenting with alcohol. Those college students who pay attention to the volume and alcohol content of the drinks are more likely to drink responsibly and take action to be safe. With so many new alcoholic beverages hitting the market recently, even the most experienced drinkers can underestimate how much alcohol they are consuming.
Before drinking, it’s extremely important college students plan for the evening ahead.
- Know your ABVs: Use the NIAA “Cocktail Content Calculator.”
- Line up a sober ride before heading out for the night.
- Use the buddy system. When walking home, walk in pairs and make sure each member of your party gets inside their destination safely.
- Establishments should monitor their customers and stop serving when they see signs of intoxication.
- Speak up.
- If you see a friend drinking too much, encourage them to stop for the night.
- If you see an impaired person getting behind the wheel, find them a sober ride home.
- Don’t let an impaired person leave your home or an establishment alone.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.