By Ellen Percival, Calgary’s Child Magazine
Ahh, the spookiest night of the year is almost upon us. It can be a worrisome time for parents, but there’s lots you can do to help make sure your little ghosts and goblins are safe. One of the most effective tools Calgary parents have is our very own Partners for Safety Program. Launched in 1995, the program takes a proactive approach to Halloween safety and has two objectives: to provide Halloween safety information to parents and children, and to patrol communities on Halloween night.
The Partners for Safety members include: Calgary’s Child Magazine, Calgary Police Service, Emergency Medical Service, Calgary Fire Department, Calgary Transit, Shaw Cable, Pattison Outdoor Group and Calgary Bylaw Services. In addition to providing Halloween safety information to parents and children, the partners will have over 800 vehicles patrolling Calgary communities from 6 to 8 pm on October 31 to trick-or-treaters should the need arise. Anyone needing assistance can look for any of the Partners for Safety.
Between calls, Calgary Police Service and Emergency Medical Services will have units patrolling residential neighborhoods. Calgary Fire Department will also have vehicles on patrol and fire stations will be open as a safe place for our youngsters.
Calgary Transit’s buses and C-Trains are in the community providing transit service from early morning until late at night. If young trick-or-treaters need assistance, they can approach any transit vehicle they spot.
And finally, volunteers from Shaw Cable will be out in Shaw vans to patrol neighbourhoods.
To help keep all the trick-or-treaters safe on Halloween night here are some great tips from the Canadian Paediatric Society:
• Masks are not recommended. Try a hypoallergenic, non-toxic make-up kit instead.
• Try to buy or make costumes in a light-colored material. Otherwise, place strips of reflective tape on the back and front of the costume so that motorists will spot your children.
• Make sure their costume fits properly. Avoid anything they can trip over, such as oversized shoes, heels, long dresses, or capes.
• Always escort younger children. After age 10, most children can be allowed to go without a parent.
If your child is going out on their own:
• Make sure they go out in a group of three or more people.
• Draw a map outlining what route they should follow. Ask them to call you if they plan to go on a street that isn’t on the route.
• Give them a flashlight.
• Advise your child not to eat anything until they get home. Examine their treats carefully. Get rid of anything without wrappers or looks like it may have been tampered with.
• Always travel in groups, preferably of three or more people.
• Stay away from houses that are not well-lit. Never go inside a stranger’s house.
• Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible. If there’s no sidewalk, walk on the side of the road facing traffic. Don’t criss-cross back and forth across the street. Work your way up one side of the street, and then start on the other. Don’t eat any of your treats before you get home. Once home, ask your parents look through your treats with you to make sure everything is okay.
• Carry a white bag or pillowcase for your candy, or add some reflective tape.
• Let your parents know where you’re going to be at all times.
• Bring along a few quarters, or a cell phone, in case you need to make an emergency phone call.
• If you have any allergies, tell the person who is giving out the treats.
• Be sure to remove anything from your yard or porch that a child might trip over. Turn on outdoor lights, and replace burnt-out bulbs. Sweep wet leaves from your steps and sidewalk.
• If you use candles in your jack-o-lantern, keep it safely away from trick-or-treaters.
Because some children have food allergies, you may want to consider giving treats other than candy, such as stickers, erasers or yo-yos.
Alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating: If you’d prefer that your children not go door-to-door, you may want to consider a few of these suggestions.
• Contact a local community centre to see if they offer any Halloween night activities for kids. Plan a Halloween night at home with your kids with themed games and movies. Prepare treats especially for the occasion and encourage your kids to invite their friends.
• Some local shopping centres have trick-or-treat nights for young children. This is a great alternative to traditional trick-or-treating since your child still has the experience of going door-to-door in a controlled environment.
• Explore whether other parents in your area would be interested in organizing an annual Halloween party. This is common in rural areas where going door-to-door is not an option. It may be too late for this year, but you can still plan ahead for next year!
Ellen is the publisher of Calgary’s Child Magazine, Calgary’s favorite parenting magazine. Pick up Calgary’s Child Magazine free at more than 600 locations in and around Calgary, read it on-line at calgaryschild.com and because parenting is 24/7, you’ll find us at www.facebook.com/calgaryschild