Back to School Safety and Planning for Emergencies

Now is a good time to review a few back-to-school safety tips with your children and their schools.

As school doors open, traffic gets a little heavier. People are back from holidays, school buses and public transit are on regular routes, and more people are walking, cycling or driving to school.

Here are six safety reminders to help with the transition back to this busy time of year:

  1. Review your family emergency plan and check emergency kit supplies

    Sit down with your children to talk about different kinds of emergencies and review your family emergency plan. Talk about what to do and where you will meet if you are not together when an emergency takes place. Involve your children in preparing an emergency kit or checking your emergency supplies to make sure you have key items on hand and check expiry dates on batteries and food. Use this list as your guide. Fall and Spring are also good times to check and replace batteries from your fire alarms.

  2. Be aware of school emergency procedures

    Ask the school about their plan for emergencies and read any information they provide about emergency procedures and alternate locations should an emergency take place. Ensure the school has current emergency contact information for your children, including work, cellular and home telephone numbers.

  3. Watch for children walking, cycling and coming off school buses

    Children are small and easily distracted, and for drivers, this can create dangerous situations on the roads. Be vigilant and alert behind the wheel. You never know when a small child might step out from between parked cars or off a sidewalk. Your fast reflexes might be needed to prevent an accident.

  4. Review school bus safety

    Make sure children don't arrive too early at the bus stop where they can wander or get distracted. Make sure children wait well away from the road and stay back until the school bus makes a full stop and the doors open. Explain that children must walk at least three metres (10 feet) away when crossing in front of the bus so the driver can see them. When driving your car near a school bus please note that extra caution is needed. On an undivided road, it is illegal to pass a school bus when the signal lights are flashing. Children are often crossing the road at that time. Drivers must proceed with caution once the signal lights have stopped flashing.

    Children should follow the bus driver's instructions, and here are some general rules for when on the bus:
    • Take your seat as quickly as possible and sit properly, facing forward at all times.
    • Hold bags and parcels in your lap and do not put your feet into the aisle, as someone might trip.
    • Keep your head, arms and everything inside the bus. Don't throw anything out the windows or around in the bus.
    • Talk quietly. The driver must concentrate to drive the bus safely.
    • Save snacks for snack time at school or for when you get home. They may spill or you may choke if the bus goes over a big bump.
    • No fighting, shouting or playing in or around the bus.

  5. Obey crossing guards
    A crossing guard is there to keep children safe. If you come up to a set of lights while driving, and the light turns green, but the crossing guard still says stop, follow his/her direction and not the traffic light. There might be a child still crossing the street that you can't see.

  6. Observe school zones
    Although you should always obey posted speed limits, it is especially important during the school year. Children crossing the road on their way to and from school can step into harm's way. Slowing down is crucial to keeping children safe. They are often out throughout the school day at recess, lunch, and for certain classes or field trips, so it's important to drive slowly throughout the day.

This safety tip was prepared by Public Safety Canada in collaboration with the Canada Safety Council.

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