I’ve been wanting to write about summer safety and being prepared for the things none of us even want to think about, let alone talk about, for a while now. But I guess Summer’s a bit like the ultimate party and nobody wants to knock the needle off the record, right?
Believe me, I’m totally a “blue skies and butterflies” kinda gal and I love nothing more than positivity on this blog, but this is the post you need to read. The one that COULD make the difference for your family this Summer.
Of course, there are no guarantees in life and there’s no sure-fire way to keep your family safe on your travels but these are the tips I’ve picked up along the way – so grab a coffee, stick Le Tumble on / bust out the loom bands / bribe with screen time (delete as appropriate) – whatever it is that will keep your kids quiet for 5 minutes so you can absorb:
It totally goes without saying that you can’t leave a child in the pool. Yeah, “No sh*@ Sherlock” I hear you cry, but it’s scary how many people don’t pay attention to their kids on holiday. When we lived in LA, people were obviously way more savvy about pool safety than we are here. I guess since we only go on holiday for a few weeks a year and spend the rest of our time bundled up against floods and freezing weather (shivers) we’re not around water as much. But then, nor are our kids. So even more reason to WATCH THEM.
In the States this summer they have an EYES ON THE KIDS campaign to encourage parents to keep watching their children in the pool at all times.
If your child has a buoyancy aid? You need to watch them.
If your child can swim? You need to watch them.
If your child can swim well? You need to watch them.
And think you know what DROWNING looks like? Think again. Just before we went on holiday, I saw a random post on Facebook and, since it wasn’t asking me what food or city I’d be if I was one (seriously, enough with those already!) I clicked. And thank goodness I did.
It was about what drowning looks like. It’s not all splashing and shouting like it is in the movies. It’s SILENT. And terrifying. And TOTALLY what I needed to watch ahead of our holiday where I was watching the kids extra vigilantly and witnessed Akira bob underwater and not bob up again. Fully clothed, I was hauling him out in seconds, but we were both shocked and it took him a while to venture back in.
**UPDATE** SINCE POSTING THIS BLOG, THE TOPIC HAS THANKFULLY BEEN DISCUSSED ON GOOD MORNING BRITAIN, ALONG WITH A NEW UK CAMPAIGN. PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO WATCH THE VIDEO ON THIS LINK – AND SHARE
My favourite times on Blue Peter were spent in the air. Flying planes, jumping out of them – you name it, I did it! And yes, I’m grateful every day for the opportunities that came my way. Training and flying with The Red Arrows for a week in Cyprus was possibly the best experience EVER! But to every yin there’s a yang!
I remember having ‘Yeovilton Dunker” pencilled in my Filofax at the time (don’t judge!) and I didn’t truly know what it was until the day dawned. A training facility where they train pilots incase they have to ditch into the sea? How bad can it be? Err… VERY!
The fact that the RAF and Navy Helicopter Pilots have to refresh every year and famously do everything to try and get out of it tells you everything you need to know. When I walked onto the poolside and saw a huge metal “helicopter” with seats in, suspended over the centre of the pool, I knew they weren’t going to be serving up a nice picnic anytime soon.
I was strapped into a seat in the metal “cage” along with 5 men and it was plunged to the bottom of the swimming pool. I literally thought I was going to die. I had to find my way to a “window” – kick it out, then, having been told I was “Man 6” to get out, I had to get the others out before exiting myself. Oh – and the bit I forgot to mention – all with no mask or air.
As someone who gets claustrophobic and hates being underwater, it was my ultimate nightmare. I would have happily handed back that coveted blue and white badge in a heartbeat if it meant I could stop the madness. But I couldn’t.
Then we had to do it and the cage rotated 180 degrees to dis-orientate us as we were upside down and didn’t know which way was up, then we did it again in the pitch black. I’ve never experienced anything so horrific before or since. I even had to sleep with the light on for months afterwards.
BUT the plus to come out of it was that it’s totally changed how I fly and it’s made me think about my escape route. Now when I get on a plane:
– I LISTEN to the safety briefing. And believe me it’s tough since I’m needing to sort the kids / do final checks on my phone / get involved with my bag of random dry pretzels that have just come my way (!) BUT it’s so worth tuning in to what’s being said and not just hearing “bla bla bla”. Do you REALLY know where the life vests are for you and your kids and how to put them on?
– I KNOW where my nearest exit is and COUNT how many lines of chairs we’d have to get over to get to the exit and whether we’d go forwards or backwards – something I learnt at The Dunker. If “sh*@ goes down”, chances are you’d be in the dark, so don’t rely on being able to see where you’re going. You might need to feel your way. Hence, knowing the seat count is key.
– I make sure my kids know the info too. Obviously I say it all in a lighthearted way, but it’s important they know too.
Being able to get out fast in the event of an emergency could make all the difference. Speaking of which….
ALARMS & EXITS
Whenever we’re in a hotel or villa, I know where my exits are incase of fire. When I first get into the room I do actually look at that little map on the back of the door! I have friends who take carbon monoxide and smoke detectors with them too, whether going to a hotel, villa or camping. I guess it makes sense, rather than relying on hotels to change their batteries and check every detector on a regular basis? Makes total sense to me. I just need to remember to do it.
EMERGENCY MEETING POINT
Whenever we’re in a big city and splitting up as a family, we always have a plan as to where we’d meet if something happened. Like when Trey ran the London Marathon earlier in the year, he was running, and I was spectating with our two kids, but we were prepared for things to go wrong. If anything big happened, you wouldn’t be able to rely on your mobile to keep you connected, so having a meeting point is vital.
Also, after the marathon, Trey went to Leyte in The Philippines, working on a documentary about Typhoon Haiyan. Chatting to the mayor he picked up some insightful advice. When a huge natural or political disaster happens, no matter how good the government and emergency services are, for the first 24 hours you’re pretty much on your own. If you’re out of your own country think about having a “grab bag” with passports and cash and the address of your embassy for that country.
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Ok – and BREATHE!
I realise that’s a bit like at the end of Crimewatch when they say “Don’t have nightmares” but knowledge is key on this one and I wanted to share the little I’ve picked up. I was so grateful that I watched that “What Drowning Looks Like” video just before needing to get Akira out, that I wanted to share. And then I just kept typing!
Right, back to the Blue Skies and Butterflies! Where were we?!