Babysitting Clinic Gets Youngsters Prepared for Emergencies

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Whether you're an old pro or just starting out, babysitting is a fun way to make some extra money. But being a babysitter is a big responsibility.

As long as you're on the job, you're in charge. Not only do you have to make sure the kids are happy, you have to make sure they're safe. That's where babysitting clinics come in.

Babysitting is serious business. 25 youngsters, mostly eleven and twelve year olds, are learning how to keep your children out of harms way.

In addition to the Heimlich maneuver, they are also being drilled on poisons, first aid, fire safety and CPR.

From diaper duty to planning play activities, these babysitters are making it their business to be prepared. The Medical Center's Health and Wellness Center offers the babysitting clinic a few times a year here in Bowling Green and in surrounding communities. To find out when the next one is scheduled, call 745-0942.

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Maybe you've been babysitting forever and have lots of neighborhood families on your list. Maybe you just landed your very first job babysitting for your cousin. Whether you're an old pro or just starting out, babysitting is a fun way to spend some time with kids while making some extra money.

Being a babysitter is all about responsibility. As long as you're on the job, you're in charge. Not only do you have to make sure the kids are happy, you have to make sure they're safe and that their needs are taken care of.

If you're new to babysitting, check out this guide to learn how to be the best babysitter around. Been babysitting forever and think you have it down? Read on for a quick refresher course in babysitting basics, just to be sure.

Rule #1: Be Prepared
We borrowed this motto from the Boy Scouts, but we knew they wouldn't mind: It's the rule for anyone who wants to know what to do in an emergency. Most babysitting jobs are a breeze and nothing goes wrong - except maybe for an occasional fight over the last orange popsicle. But for the rare times when an emergency does happen, you want to be ready to handle it. Be sure you know the following:

Emergency numbers. These include:

The local emergency number (911 in a lot of areas, but check to be sure)
The number for the fire department that covers the area in which you're babysitting (if different from the local emergency number)
The number for the police covering the area in which you're babysitting (if different from The local emergency number)
The number for the local poison control center
A lot of parents have these numbers posted by the phone or on the fridge; if not, ask.

Other important numbers. Ask parents to also leave these numbers:

Parent’s cell phone or beeper number (if they have one); if not, the number for the place they'll be
Phone numbers for a few trusted neighbors
Phone numbers of any relatives who live in the area
Phone number for the children's doctor
Ask the parent which number he or she wants you to call first. If there's a serious medical emergency, the best practice is to call 911 first, but if it's a less serious situation, such as cuts or scrapes, a parent may want you to call him or her before calling the doctor. Find out what the parent's preferences are.

Medical information. Is a child taking medicine? Do any kids have asthma? What about allergies? Parents should give you information about a child's medical conditions so you know what to do in an emergency. For example, if the child is allergic to bee stings, you will want to know where the parents keep the kid's epinephrine shot (a pen-like device that gives a shot of fast-acting medication that can save the life of someone with severe allergies). The parent should also train you in how to use the shot on the child - it's easy if you know how to do it.

Where you are. Sounds basic, but it's so basic that many people forget to make sure they know the correct address of the house they're in. You may know it's the green house four houses down from yours, but that won't help the fire department in an emergency. It's also easy to forget small details like a street name or number when you're caught up in an emergency - some people even forget their own address. Many parents post their address and phone number with the emergency numbers, but if you don't see it, ask. You won't sound stupid, and they'll appreciate how on the ball you are.

Fire safety procedures. Every family should have a fire escape plan with more than one exit from the home, as well as a designated meeting place outside the house or apartment building. Be sure that both you and the children know them.

Practicing fire escape plans can be a good activity for the children and, like school fire drills, it never hurts to run through a family's escape plan regularly. Make sure the kids know not to hide; to stay low to the ground; to feel doors and doorknobs for heat before opening them; to stop, drop, and roll if their clothes or hair catch fire; and to not go back into the house for any reason. Even preschoolers can learn and understand fire safety procedures. Check out the National Fire Protection Association's Sparky the Fire Dog site (click on the Resources tab at the right) for some family fun activities.

Another activity to do with kids is testing smoke alarms. You can never test them too often, and that way you know they're working for your own peace of mind - and you can tell the family if they're not. Finally, ask the child's parents to show you where they keep fire extinguishers.

Lifesaving techniques. It's a good idea to learn basic first aid (which includes the Heimlich maneuver for choking) and infant and child CPR before embarking on your babysitting career. Discuss this with your parents, because you'll have to attend courses and make a real commitment to learn these lifesaving procedures. But it's worth the trouble to feel confident that you're trained to help in an emergency. Plus, having these skills could give you an edge over other babysitters who don't: Parents really like these qualifications. Check with your local hospital, YMCA, or Red Cross; they often offer babysitting courses that include training in these areas. Some high schools do, too.