Safety Town is probably where many of us got some of lessons in how to cross the street safely, on fire safety and stranger danger.
But in 2012, Safety Town teaches those lessons and so much more — including health and hygiene, when and how to call 911, bus, gun and school bus safety — to Avon’s incoming kindergarteners.
“The city has always taught some kind of safety information, but about 10 to 12 years ago we built the village, said Mayor Jim Smith.
The village has street names like Highway 911, Eagle Avenue, and School Street with landmarks such as Target, CiCi’s Pizza which are easily recognized by the children. It also has Snoopy snoozing on his house, a real U.S. Postal Service mailbox, and train crossing with all the bells and whistles.
“Safety Town is nice way to reaffirm what mom and dad teach the kids. Hearing it from a police officer or firefighter makes the kids pay more attention,” said Smith.
Patrolman Eric Bergen has been in charge of the program since he was a rookie and, along with the Parks and Recreation department, offers this learning experience.
“I look forward to doing it every June,” said Bergen.
He and other officers teach the children lessons on bike, traffic, gun and railroad safety.
Firefighters cover fire safety which includes what to do in a fire, and how to exit the home safely.
The ins and outs of 911 is taught by Sandy Wilson, public education coordinator with Lorain County 911.
Children are instructed to stay calm, tell the dispatcher why they need help, speak loudly and clearly, and to follow instructions given by the dispatcher.
This is reinforced when the children use a simulator that walks the children through an actual call by providing them with prompts so they will know what to expect if they need to call 911.
Cell phones do not provide street addresses. Wilson stressed the importance teaching children their address as well as their parents full names in case of an emergency.
“It’s very important children entering kindergarten learn this, because you never know when an emergency can occur. They may be the only one around and they need to know how to get help,” she said.
Part of Safety Town instruction is about riding the bus, which can be frightening the first time.
Before children ever get on the bus they learn about the safety zone, which is 10 feet around the bus; to use your quiet voice, no hitting; to recognize hand signals used by drivers and what they mean; and how to sit on the bus.
During their first ride, a second bus driver walks around the bus to make sure children are facing forward and sitting all the way back in the seat to avoid injury in case of a sudden stop.
“Make sure children are on the corner five minutes before scheduled pick up,” said Glen Rouse, an Avon school bus driver. “This allows everyone to stay on schedule and get to school on time.”
In addition, a segment on how to dress for school, healthy eating, avoiding poisons, not taking others’ prescription medication, and importance of hand washing is taught by Julie Kiefer, a nurse at St. John’s Medical Center.
Parents enroll their children for many reasons.
“It seems an educational way to spend one week of the summer,” said Rebecca Caine. “I also like its in the kindergarten building to relieve some of the anxiety.”
“I heard it was a good program for kids to do before they enter kindergarten from friends whose children did it,” said Kelly Linden.
Trudy Tiff, community outreach coordinator at St. John’s Medical Center said it best, “We want to help our community and youngsters to make them healthy and safe.”
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