Friday, 15 August 2014

Be vigilant all the time (Better safe than sorry)

Stay safe when you're out with your children, whether in a shopping mall, on the road, or at the park.

Imagine a five-year-old child in a shopping mall, running full speed ahead of their parents. In their innocent mind, pillars are castles they can hide behind and escalators are magic carpet rides. They have no concern of sharp edges, tall ledges, or even danger. To a child, the whole world is one giant playground.

Adults can't afford to be so carefree. We have to be vigilant when it comes to a child's safely. Accidents related to falls and injuries are the leading cause of death in children under 15, says the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. But most of these accidents can be prevented, too.

Mum-of-two and entrepreneur May Lim is more aware of child safety after she enrolled her seven-year-old, Amelia, in a Child Safe Shopping Workshop conducted by Sunway Pyramid in Selangor. The annual school holiday programme, launched in 2012, teaches kids from the ages of six to 12 essential safety tips for being in the mall. The workshop cover topics like riding the lifts and escalator, keeping safe in a car park, and what to do when kids get separated from their family.

“I wasn’t particularly strict on safety until I attended the workshop with my daughter. Since then we’ve been practising what we've learned. Each time we get on the escalator, she will remind our family to hold onto the handrail and stand within the yellow lines," says Lim, 42. “You may think it’s something very basic, but when you see other kids playing around on the escalator, you will be relieved that your daughter knows why she shouldn’t be doing that.” 

Always alert: Children need to learn how to protect themselves.
Always alert: Kids need to learn how to protect themselves.

The tragic death of seven-year-old Nurul Emielda Nadia Sallehuddin, who fell while playing with an escalator’s handrail belt at a shopping mall, has prompted major malls in the Klang Valley to place signs reminding parents to be more vigilant around escalators. It was “entrapment incidents” – when a child’s shoes are caught in a moving escalator – that prompted Sunway Pyramid to start educating families on children’s safety in shopping centres.

“From escalator safety, we moved on to car park safety. We have posters near our washrooms to teach children who are lost to identify people they can approach for help," says Sunway Pyramid senior marketing manager Loo Hoey Theen. “We believe prevention is better than cure when it comes to child safety. It isn’t enough just for parents to be aware. Children, too, need to be alert to the dangers around them.” 

Charlie Yeoh, whose five-year-old daughter Suen attended the workshop, says most public areas aren’t child-friendly and that it's up to the parents to teach their kids.

“Ever since my daughter could walk, we taught her the importance of holding hands. That’s the best way of keeping her close at all times. Whenever she gets down from the car, she will hold on to my hand or my wife’s. We also made her memorise our full names and handphone numbers in case she gets lost,” says the sales manager, 36.

Sunway Pyramid is one of the few shopping centres to offer free wristbands with a parent's contact details for kids to wear, as well as child distance beepers for loan. The beeper alerts parents if their kids wander off beyond a certain distance. The mall has been encouraging shoppers to utilise their facilities by handing out Child Safe leaflets.

But many are still not taking the issue of child safety seriously, Loo observes. “We still see parents who push baby strollers up escalators, which is extremely dangerous, instead of using the lifts. We really hope to spread the message that safety should never be sacrificed in favour of convenience,” she says.

Take time to read safety posters so that your children know what to do should they be in trouble.
Take time to read safety posters so that your kids know what to do when they're in trouble.

On-the-road safety

The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) has found that Malaysians are alarmingly lax about vehicle safety, especially when it comes to children. Out of the 236 kids aged four and below who were polled, the 2012 study revealed that 90% were not placed in safety seats while in a vehicle.

Child seats aren't compulsory in Malaysia, but in many countries it's a driver’s responsibility to ensure that kids are correctly restrained in a car at all times. Letting a child roam free in a moving vehicle is a huge no-no, but many parents let it happen. To mum-of-two Yasmeen Mateen, 39, it all boils down to our tidak apa (couldn’t care less) attitude.

“Many parents give the excuse that their child does not like being strapped into a child seat. They usually give in whenever the child starts screaming and kicking. So, to ensure that they have peace of mind during the journey, they’d rather keep their child unrestrained in the car and risk injuries,” says Yasmeen, stressing that she never leaves her daughters, three and nine, alone in the car with the engine running.

Lalitha Balakrishnan, 31, says she believes in investing in child safety seats. “My husband is a pilot and in his line of work, safety is important. So we knew we had to have a car seat from the day we brought our baby back from the hospital,” says the homemaker.

MIROS conducted a comprehensive crash test on child safety seats in 2010 and strongly recommended their use. In a car crash, even at 30kph, a three-month-old baby in the arms of an adult in the rear seat can be thrown forward during an impact, hitting the back of the driver’s seat. The passenger holding the baby may be buckled up and could stay in place during the crash, but the force and momentum of the collision can easily overwhelm the strength of the adult in holding the child tight. However, the test found no visible signs of injury to a child that was properly secured in a safety seat.

“Once, it took me 20 minutes to finally calm my daughter down and coax her into buckling up,” says Lalitha, whose daughter is three. “(But) I started my daughter young, so she knows that we won’t go anywhere without her being buckled up in the car seat first." 

Sunway Pyramid shoppers can use a child distance beeper from the mall to ensure that their children do not wander off on their own.
Use a child distance beeper to ensure that your kids don't wander off on their own.

Tags / Keywords: Family , Family Community , Family , Safety , Children


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