Youth & Family Services sponsors program on home safety for kids

By Merja H. Lehtinen - ReminderNews
East Haddam - posted Mon., Nov. 18, 2013
- Contributed Photo

In order to prepare middle school students between the ages of 10 and 12 to be left alone unsupervised for the first time in their lives – for a few minutes to an hour or more at a time – East Haddam Youth & Family Services is hosting its Safe Home Alone Readiness Program (S.H.A.R.P.).

This year’s session started last week Nov. 12, and continues Nov. 19 and 26. Children in middle school are taught protocols for being home alone, said program coordinator Kaitlin Hagan. The program focuses on what the child should and should not do when they start to stay home alone while parents drive other siblings to activities or run errands, for example.

According to experts, one of the major mistakes children make is to remain quiet when home alone if someone knocks on the door or calls the house. It is better to make noise or respond through a locked door and acknowledge any person knocking or calling, as it will deter intruders; but, Hagan stressed, children or adults should never open the door to anyone unexpected. Children should not offer any specific information to anyone calling or visiting in person about where the adults are or when they will be home. It is best to say one’s mother or father “cannot come to the phone or door right now,” Hagan said.

The children in the program were surprised to learn it was better to speak up than to remain silent, said Hagan. But as the Youth & Family Services staffer explained, not having anyone respond may give intruders the wrong idea that the way is clear to enter. If a child is in the house when an intruder then enters, it is even more dangerous for the child. Most intruders are deterred by anyone, a TV or radio, or even animals that are making noise in the house or on the premises, Hagan said.

This year, Mindy Johnston, a special safety instructor, taught the program that centered around young teens. About a dozen children had registered by the first class.

The students were also given the chance to practice how to place a 911 call in the case of an emergency. Being able to describe their whereabouts and what the emergency is to responders is critical for children. The staff and the visiting expert taught children how to describe area landmarks that would help rescue teams find their houses or where they were at the time of the call.   

Children also learned to always leave the premises if there is smoke or fire, and to call 911 from safety. They were further taught never to cook at all when parents or adults are not home to supervise.

The East Haddam Youth & Family Services office is located at 387 East Haddam/Moodus Road and is open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Youth & Family Services sponsors a variety of safety programs throughout the year, including a safe alternative to trick-or-treating.

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