Safety at Home and On the Go!

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

As we mentioned last week, June is National Safety Month, which focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in our homes and communities.  Today I am writing about a few important topics: car seats, handling emergencies, and welcoming Hurricane Season!

Car Seat Safety Updates

Did you know that the Car Seat Safety laws in South Carolina were updated in May of this year

According to the bill:

  • motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of accidental death for children ages one to nineteen,
  • South Carolina's motor vehicle death rate per 100,000 is 20 as compared to a national average of 10.9,
  • each week approximately one South Carolina child seventeen years of age or younger dies from a preventable transportation-related incident,
  • child safety seats, when used correctly, can reduce fatalities by seventy-one percent for infants and fifty-four percent for toddlers, and
  • the proper use of age- and size-appropriate child restraint systems is the most effective way to minimize injuries and fatalities to children.

Under this new bill,

  • An infant or child under two years of age must be properly secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system in a rear passenger seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer of the child passenger restraint system being used.
  • Children 2-4 years of age (or a child under two years of age who has outgrown his rear-facing child passenger restraint system) must be secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system with a harness in a rear passenger seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the highest height or weight requirements of the forward-facing child passenger restraint system.
  • Children 4-8 years of age who has outgrown his forward-facing child passenger restraint system must be secured by a belt-positioning booster seat in a rear seat of the vehicle until he can meet the height and fit requirements for an adult safety seat belt as described in item (4). 
  • A child at least eight years of age or at least fifty-seven inches tall may be restrained by an adult safety seat belt IF the child can be secured properly by an adult safety seat belt, which means:
    • the lap belt fits across the child's thighs and hips and not across the abdomen;
    • the shoulder belt crosses the center of the child's chest and not the neck; and
    • the child is able to sit with his back straight against the vehicle seat back cushion with his knees bent over the vehicle's seat edge without slouching.
  • For medical reasons that are substantiated with written documentation from the child's physician, advanced nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, a child who is unable to be transported in a standard child passenger safety restraint system may be transported in a standard child passenger safety restraint system designed for his medical needs.

Handling Emergencies

As much as we hate to imagine all of the worst-case scenarios that could play out, doing so can help you prepare for emergencies, which can result in less stress and better outcomes in the moment.  There are many services, products, and programs available that can help you and your family be more prepared in case of an emergency, many of which have features that can specifically help families of children with special needs.

One such resource is a program called Smart 911.  By creating a free profile that is linked to your phone number and/or address, the emergency dispatchers at Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office can access important information instantly when you call.  For example, you can list medical conditions and precautions, such as autism, behavioral difficulties, communication deficits, allergies, and/or physical impairments.  This information can help dispatchers, paramedics, fire fighters, and police officers help you and your family more effectively if an emergency arises. 

If your child has autism, you may qualify for a Big Red Safety Box, a free-of-charge safety toolkit for families in need of wandering-prevention tools.  These kits include:

  • Educational materials and tools, including NAA’s Be REDy Booklet
  • Two (2) GE Door/Window Alarms including batteries
  • One (1) RoadID Personalized, Engraved Shoe ID Tag
  • Five (5) Adhesive Stop Sign Visual Prompts for doors and windows
  • Two (2) Safety Alert Window Clings for car or home windows
  • One (1) Red Safety Alert Wristband
  • One (1) Child ID Kit from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

 Autism Speaks has a great list of numerous other resources available for families of children, and adults, with special needs, including social stories to promote safety, and equipment to increase safety in the home and the community and prevent wandering

AWAARE has additional resources and items available for families to download and purchase, as well as free  Social Stories  you can personalize to educate your child on how to handle emergency situations.

The Red Cross has a booklet on preparing for disasters for people with special needs, which gives practical tips and guidelines for emergency and natural disaster preparedness.

Many companies, such as Road ID, offer ID bracelets and other wearables for adults and children, for quicker identification in case of an emergency, which can be especially helpful for those that are nonverbal, have difficulty communicating, or for emergencies that may make you unable to effectively communicate.

It is important to think about the unique characteristics and needs of your family and child, in order to plan accordingly and be as prepared as possible for an emergency.  Having a kit and supplies ready and having practiced escape routes and evacuation plans provides a little extra peace of mind that, when an emergency happens, you’re prepared.  

Hurricane Preparedness

The 2017 South Carolina Hurricane Guide can be downloaded on the South Carolina Emergency Management Division website, where you can also sign up to receive alerts and access numerous resources for family disaster planning.  Some organizations, including the Red Cross, FEMA,, and Autism Speaks, offer resources to specifically address disaster preparedness considering those with special needs.  

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