Group working to make outdoor fun safe

TOPEKA -- Campfires, camping gear, and hiking trails present special safety considerations for families with children, so Safe Kids Kansas is offering tips to make family outdoor adventures safe and rewarding. The preparations for a family camping trip should include a review of safety guidelines for outdoor recreation, water, and falls. Parents should also pay attention to potential hazards specific to camping and hiking.

"Camping is the only situation where a family is purposely starting a fire outdoors a long way from pressurized water or the nearest fire engine," says Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids Kansas coordinator. "A campfire is a serious responsibility."

In addition to the danger of starting an uncontrolled brush fire, campfires -- like portable stoves, heaters, and fuel-burning lanterns -- produce carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that can poison a child very quickly. "Nationwide, about 30 campers die each year of carbon monoxide poisoning," says Stegelman. "If someone near a campfire or portable stove seems drowsy, disoriented, or sick, move that person away from the fire immediately to fresh air. And never use fire, portable stoves, or charcoal grills in an enclosed area."

In addition, Safe Kids Kansas recommends these precautions around campfires and portable heating devices:

  • always actively supervise children near a campfire or portable stove. Follow posted rules about campfires, and do not light fires in windy or excessively dry conditions;
  • keep a bucket of water and a shovel near the fire at all times and extinguish the fire completely before going to sleep or leaving the site;
  • keep matches and lighters out of children's reach; and
  • never use matches, lighters, or any device powered by kerosene, propane, or other heating fuel inside a tent or camper.

Other precautions should be kept in mind around the campsite and on the trail:

  • keep first aid supplies and emergency phone numbers handy, and know where the nearest phone is located. Cell phones might not work in remote areas. Let friends and relatives know where you're going and when you're coming home;
  • a child's body temperature changes faster than an adult's, so dress children in layers of clothing to help prevent heat-related illness and hypothermia;
  • never let children hike alone;
  • don't push kids to go on longer or more strenuous hikes than they can handle. Exhausted children are more likely to fall, wander off, or otherwise get injured. Bring plenty of drinking water or sports drinks and high-energy snacks; and
  • kids should wear hiking boots and clothing that offer protection from scrapes, bites, and poisonous plants.

For more information about outdoor recreation safety or Safe Kids Kansas, visit www.safekids.orgon the internet or phone Jan Stegelman at 785-296-1223 or Cherie Sage at 785-296-0351.