Crime Watch

Crime Watch: Tips for keeping kids safe when home alone

 

Special to The Miami Herald

Summer vacation has started. This is a time when many working parents are concerned because their children will be home alone. So once again, I want to discuss some things that parents can do that are vital for children’s safety. These tips also will help you as parents to have some peace of mind while you are at work.

First and foremost, please make sure that your children, and possibly a neighbor, know how to reach you in case of emergency. Make sure important telephone numbers such as your number at work, your doctor, a neighbor or family member, and police are written down and placed on the refrigerator door where they can be seen.

Many children stay with their older siblings, but please remember: Teenagers are children too. They may be mature enough to watch over the little ones, but they are still kids at heart. So give them strict rules to follow, and write them down if you have to. Sit with your older children and discuss exactly what their responsibility entails, including that they are not to have any friends over, unless it’s with your permission.

I know that sometimes it’s hard for a parent to break away from work to use the phone, but ask your boss to let you call at least two times a day. Work out a signal with your children so that they know it’s you calling them. Other than you, unless you have caller ID, tell them not to answer the phone.

Also, warn them that if anyone knocks, they should answer with a strong voice, “Who is it?” and, unless they know who it is, they must not open the door. Recently, some thieves were caught knocking on doors to find out if anyone was home. When someone answered, then they would make some excuse, such as, “Oh, sorry, wrong house,” and go away. The lesson here is: Don’t keep quiet if someone knocks. If you have a grandparent or baby sitter, remind them also of this. It will prevent the possibility of someone trying to break in. Advise your child or caretaker to call the police if the visitor refuses to leave or something doesn’t look right or suspicious.

Show the children where to exit in case of fire, including how to unlock the window, if you have special locks or iron bars, because they may not know how. Show them how to use the burglar alarm if you have one, especially if it’s programmed for emergencies. If you have a pool, and if you have little ones, make sure that the gates are up and locked. The same goes if you live near a canal. Every year, children drown because they sneak off before anyone notices. Some of the above issues might seem like common sense, but these are things that we really need to talk to our children about, no matter how old they are.

In closing, Friday is Fourth of July, and once again we will have idiots who will be using guns to celebrate. If you hear the first shot you need to call the police immediately because the second shot may end up in your yard or house.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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