Parents who hear the same Halloween safety advice every year are getting a new suggestion this year: Make sure your child takes a cell phone in his or her jack-o-lantern and knows how to use it, in case he or she is separated from a group or suffers an injury while trick-or-treating.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 36 million Halloween trick-or-treaters took to the streets in 2007. Children are more than twice as likely to be hit and killed by a vehicle on Halloween as on any other night of the year, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Halloween, there is a significant increase in falls, burn-related injuries and pedestrian injuries reported to emergency responders and authorities.
Today, the experts at 411wireless.org and the COMCARE Emergency Response Alliance, a nonprofit educational and advocacy group of more than 100 organizations representing emergency responders nationwide, are urging parents to take advantage of prepaid or other cell phone technology to stay connected with their trick-or-treating child.
“No child should go out unaccompanied by a responsible adult on Halloween,” said David Aylward, director and founder, COMCARE Emergency Response Alliance. “But even when that common-sense rule is observed, it is still possible for children to become separated from a group, lost, suffer an injury or even become involved in, or see, a pedestrian accident without an adult close by. In such cases, it is vitally important for a child to be able to contact a parent or 9-1-1 emergency personnel. That is where a prepaid or other cell phone can really make a difference.”
Aylward joined 411onwireless.org in outlining the following recommendations for parents:
1. If you don’t have a cell phone that the child can use, get an inexpensive prepaid cell phone online or from a local merchant. This will come in handy on Halloween or any future outing in which your child might be involved.
2. Pre-program your child’s cell phone with all important phone numbers – including your home, your office and related cell phone numbers. Make sure that your child knows how to find these pre-programmed numbers in his or her phone and then how to place a call using a pre-programmed number. Add “ICE” (in case of emergency) to the key numbers you want responders or others to call if your child is in trouble, e.g. ICE Daddy Cell; ICE Home.
3. Teach your child to push “9-1-1” and then the cell phone's “call” or “send” button in case of an emergency. Explain that this is a very serious thing and that placing the call will bring a police officer, firefighter or EMT to the scene. Explain that “emergency” for 9-1-1 means threat to body or life – such as, “afraid you will be hurt.” Don’t assume that because you know how 9-1-1 works that your child also understands the same thing. It also is a mistake to assume that a child who knows how to dial 9-1-1 on a landline will know how to do the same thing on a cell phone, which requires the extra “call” or “send” button stage. Have your child practice this on a cell phone that is turned off.
4. Tell children to remain on the line after calling 9-1-1, and to be prepared to describe their location as well as they can. While “enhanced 9-1-1” technologies are supposed to locate wireless 9-1-1 callers automatically, sometimes they don’t work or may be off by several hundred feet.
5. For non-emergency situations on Halloween, tell children to call home if they become separated from the group or lost. Make sure your kids know where you are and how to reach you.
6. If you are not trick-or-treating with your child, get the contact information for the chaperone(s). If you are one of the chaperones, make sure you have contact information for the other adults, particularly if you break up into smaller groups in going from door to door.
7. Make sure that your child understands the need to keep the cell phone charged and turned on when he or she is away from the house.
8. Establish a periodic check-in time for older trick-or-treaters who may be subject to less supervision.
For Halloween safety tips unrelated to cell phones, see the information available for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/family/halloween.