Safely Speaking

Oklahoma Safety Council Announces New Executive Director

by Betsey Kulakowski, CSHO, COSS, OSC Executive Director

For many parents like me, back to school is a big deal; not so much for our kids. This year, however, is different at the Kulakowski house. This year, we’re sending our oldest off to college. That means more safety concerns for me. Today, we’ll move Jr. into his dorm and the first thing I’ll be doing is a safety check. I want to make sure my son and his roommate are safe. We’ve already had the talk – the one about heat stress prevention and recognizing the symptoms. He is a music major and will be spending some quality time outdoors on the football field in a wool uniform, so it’s an important conversation to have, especially since he’s had a heat-related illness in the past.

We’ve also talked about his financial well-being and smart money management; girls; parties, drinking/drugs and driving safety.  None of this is new to either of my kids. Why? Because in our family, safety never takes a vacation. We do everything with safety in mind.  These little talks we’ve had lately have just been a refresher class.

I hope that as your family sends your kids back to school that you’ll take a moment to talk with them about their responsibilities for being safe (at school and on the bus, or walking home) and talk to their school about their emergency plans, and what’s being done to keep your kids safe. It’s important for your peace of mind to know where your children shelter, what the evacuation plans are, and what the school’s reunification plans are, so you know how to get to your children if you need to. You should also ask about their transportation policy if severe weather is looming (it always seems to happen right about the time the busses are loading up to head home). Will they hold the kids at school until the threat is passed and then transport them? Or will they hold the kids until you come pick them up?

Don’t forget to ask about emergency procedures for after-school activities. I’ve been at the High School for band practice when the band directors were the only one in the building and we had to take shelter and hold the kids until tornado and flooding threats passed. Our amazing band director did a fantastic job communicating to parents and staff, as well as the kids. (Yours truly got to run the emergency ops center from the band room – fun times!)

If you really want to be a big safety nerd, go to the office and ask to see the school’s Asbestos Management Plan. (Yes, I have done it. No, they didn’t laugh at me. Yes, they did know where it was. Score one for my kiddo’s school!!)

Remember the importance of discussing safety and emergency preparedness with your family on a regular basis is an important part of reinforcing the safe attitudes and behaviors they’ll carry with them into college and as they grow and move into the workforce.