By Brad Goudie, Highland Village Fire Chief
Doug Reim, Highland Village Police Chief
Family vacation, outdoor picnics and water fun are the trademarks of summertime. While the family is having fun, there are some things to remember to make the summer fun and safe. After all, Highland Village is once again one of the safest communities in Texas and we want to keep it that way!
If summer is in, then school is out. If school is out, kids are too! Drive safely and vigilantly. Kids won’t be looking for you, so you need to be on the lookout for them. Obey the speed limits and be on guard in neighborhoods, residents often tell us they have little tolerance for cars speeding around their children. The police department will continue to deploy our Speed Trailer to remind people to SLOW DOWN! Be constantly aware that many of our active citizens (kids, joggers and bike riders) are traveling on, or routinely crossing, our trails and roadways. Keep your speed under control and be prepared to give them the right-of-way. In general, be careful and watch your speed; HVPD officers will be particularly vigilant during the summer months in observing and enforcing the city’s speed limits in order to ensure the safety of not only our children but everyone in our city.
Texting and Driving is and should always be a concern. Too many crashes and lives have been taken from this over-abused distraction while driving. We beg that you install Phone Apps or other constant reminders to stop texting while driving. One simple reminder has been launched by The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) and is called the “Red Thumb Movement” www.drivingnorthtexas.com/red-thumb-movement—a safety campaign aimed at ending distracted driving. HVPD will be giving red thumb “bracelets” to people we stop in the immediate future to help encourage and remind people of the dangers of texting/distractions while driving. The red bands say, “W82TXT” (wait to text), and are meant to be worn on the thumb on the hand you pick up your phone with and which should immediately remind you to WAIT to text. The site also suggests painting one fingernail red as another way to remember. Please visit the site listed above for more information and remember, “STAY ALIVE—JUST DRIVE”.
If you HAVE to talk on your cell phone, use hands-free. Actually, why be in a hurry, it is summertime and time for relaxation. Go slower than the speed limit and enjoy the drive. Summer is a great time to take your favorite furry friend for a ride, roll the windows down and turn the radio up and enjoy the fresh air. So leave that cell phone in the console.
Speaking of your favorite furry friend, your pets are always wearing a nice fur coat, year round. Pets have fewer ways to cool the core body temperature and require their human friends to be mindful of their condition, so do not leave them in a vehicle with windows rolled up, outside on a chain without shade and water, or running loose without a leash.
Here are a few things kids need to do to have a great, safe summer. Wear a helmet whenever riding a bicycle, skateboard or roller blades. Also, put on other pads to protect the wrists, the elbows and knees. Kids need wide open places to run and play. Those places are not in the street though. Go to parks and big back yards. Play where cars don’t interrupt that important game of football, baseball or soccer. Lastly, kids need to let adults know where they are and where they are going. Being able to track the routes of the children is important in finding them if they happen to wander outside of their normal areas.
As the summer days get hotter, the kids will go inside to seek cooler temperatures. While indoors, children are discouraged from using the stoves without adult supervision. Also, microwaves are great ways to warm food, but the food is still hot and can spill or slosh on the children while removing the food from the microwave oven. Cooler snacks are better on hotter days anyway, so why not have cut up vegetables, cubed cheese and finger sandwiches already waiting? It is better for the kids and safer too!
In the summer, many adults are still working and supervision for the children may not be optimum. Adult supervision is important for the safer activities of children. Never allow children to swim without adult supervision. Also, it is important to test a child’s swimming ability before cutting them loose to swim in the neighborhood pool or the lake. Have them swim the length of the pool three times using a different stroke each time and float for about three minutes. This will give the adults a good idea of the child’s ability to swim properly and safely. It is also a great time to get children enrolled in a swim program to improve their swimming and give them plenty of pool time as well.
And for the older kids, underage use/excessive use of alcohol by anyone is always an area of concern. Don’t’ do it! It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, consume (except in the presence of their parent or guardian), become intoxicated by or drive under the influence of alcoholic beverages. If you’re under age and consume alcohol, the penalties are not worth it, let alone the possibilities of injuring or killing yourself or others. Penalties can include: citations, arrest, your driver’s license being suspended, your educational opportunities being damaged, jail, or prison! As always, we rely heavily upon parents to assist us with managing this growing problem. Parents, please speak to your children about the use and consequences of underage drinking. Also remember that under the guidelines of the HVPD “Police Involving Parents (PIP)” program, parents will be called to the scene of an underage drinking situation (day or night) and allowed to participate in a resolution that will assure that the problem doesn’t occur a second time.
Unfortunately criminal mischief offenses normally increase during the summer months and range from simply toilet papering a residence and graffiti to the destruction of property. The consequences can be as small as a citation or as significant as jail time. Every year HVPD officers answer countless Criminal Mischief calls; most of these are reported in the early morning hours. Day shift officers may spend the entire first part of their shift cleaning up the mess created by one or two individuals. The bottom line is, if you intentionally or knowingly damage or destroy another’s property, cause financial loss or substantial inconvenience or make marks, slogans, and initials on another person’s property, you have committed Criminal Mischief. Parents, please speak to your children regarding the ramifications of becoming involved in Criminal Mischief offenses. Once again, you will be called to the scene to assist officers with addressing the problem (day or night) if your child is involved in minor “Class C” Criminal Mischief activities.
And remember Highland Village has curfew restrictions which apply to anyone within the city limits 16 years of age or younger. Curfew begins at 12 a.m. on any Saturday (Friday night) or Sunday (Saturday night) and ends at 6:00 a.m. and Sunday through Thursday 11 p.m. through 6 a.m. Exceptions allow a minor to be en route, or using the most direct route, to or from a place of the minor’s employment; a restaurant, library, movie theater, store or other place of public accommodation; a play, dance, sporting event or other event of public entertainment; a church, meeting hall, school, courthouse or other place of public assembly or worship; or an emergency errand.
Fun in the sun is the idea of summer. That fun can be hampered by too much sun, however. Be sure to use sunscreen of SPF 30, at a minimum and reapply every two hours. Sunburns can be painful and dangerous. The sun can zap the body of its critical nutrients and electrolytes, causing the person to become weak and sick. Be sure to hydrate frequently, even if not thirsty. If a person waits to drink until they are thirsty, they have already lost 10% of their body’s water!!! That is very dangerous. That can lead to life threatening conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. It is also important to note that children and the elderly need more hydration; because their bodies are more susceptible to fluid loss and they have less to lose. It is helpful to schedule outdoor activities carefully, shoot for morning and evening hours to stay out of the hottest part of the day. When you and the kids do venture out, dress in loose, lightweight and light colored clothing. When hydrating, drink water, or other commercial electrolyte replacement or sports drinks, but avoid those with high concentrations of sugar. Also, do not use alcohol or caffeinated drinks to hydrate, because these actually cause fluid depletion. Seek medical attention if you, family or friends show symptoms of heat-related illness, such as heavy sweating, pale skin, muscle cramps, feeling tired and weak, confusion or disorientation, headache, becoming semi-conscious or passing out, and nausea or vomiting.
Summer time is an inviting time to be outdoors for many activities and for families to spend time together in those activities. Besides the heat and the sun, there are some other risks that exist as well. The environment in this area is a host to a vast ecosystem of different animals, insects and plants. Unfortunately, some of these can be dangerous for humans. Before reaching into darkened areas, blind corners and other areas with obstructed views or shaded from the sun, look closely and move slowly. Poisonous snakes, spiders and stinging insects like to go to these areas to escape the sun, just like people. When these animals or insects feel threatened or intruded upon, they will defensively attack. These bites and stings can be very dangerous. If a person is ever bitten by a snake or exhibits signs of swelling, difficulty breathing or swallowing, call 911 immediately. There are plants that grow in the summer that can create pain and displeasure for people if they contact them. Poison, ivy, poison oak, poison sumac and nettle can all turn a fun family outing into a painful reminder of why it is important to be familiar with your environment. Lastly, whenever the family goes out, whether at dusk, dawn or in-between, be sure to use an insect repellent that contains DEET. Mosquitoes are always abundant and with the increased water this year, there will be a bumper crop of them. Protect yourself and your family from those painful bites and potentially from acquiring a mosquito-borne illness.
And of course we are right on Lake Lewisville and boating is a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends. Make boating safety a priority by wearing a properly-fitted life jacket every time you and your loved ones are on the water, avoid alcoholic beverages and be sure to watch out for each other and the weather. Summer thunderstorms can pop up quickly, so be sure to stay weather aware by purchasing a battery operated weather radio for your boat and downloading weather apps to your smartphone.
Summertime is the time for families to have fun. The summer does create a few challenges that are typically not as prevalent in the other seasons, but these challenges are easy to overcome with a little awareness and preparation. We need everybody’s help to make this the safest summer our community has ever enjoyed.