Safety Tips

INTRODUCTION

BCCPA Safety Tips are designed to serve as one-page handouts on topics related to various crime prevention and safety issues. If you have a topic that you would like a Safety Tip document developed for, email info@bccpa.org with your ideas.

Below you will find the latest Safety Tips, become a BCCPA member to gain access to archived and printable Safety Tips tip sheets.

Safety Tip Sheets

Telemarketing is a method of adverting a company may use in which salespeople solicit prospective customers to buy products or services. This may be over the phone or through recorded sales pitches. The practice of telemarketing is a legitimate business practice that is governed by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunication Commission National Do Not Call List.

It is always important to be on guard with your personal and financial information. Legitimate telemarketers have nothing to hide. Criminals will say anything to part you from your hard-earned money.

  • Be cautious. You have the right to check out any caller by requesting written information, a call back number, references and time to think over the offer.
  • Legitimate business people will be happy to provide you with the information. Never provide confidential personal or financial information to an unsolicited caller. If you have doubts about a caller, your best defence is to hang up.

If you are in doubt, seek the advice of a close family member or friend, or even a professional in the community. Rely on people you can trust. Remember, to Stop Phone Fraud – Just Hang Up!

 

It sounds too good to be true

You have won a big prize in a contest that you do not recall entering. They offer a once-in-a-lifetime investment that promises a huge return. You are told that you can buy into a lottery ticket pool that cannot lose.

 

You must provide private financial information

“You’re a winner!” but must agree to send money to the caller in order to pay for delivery, processing, taxes, duties or some other fee in order to receive the prize. Sometimes the caller will send a courier to pick up.

 

The manager is calling

Often criminal telemarketers ask for cash or a money order, rather than a cheque or credit card. Cash is untraceable and can not be cancelled. Crooks also have difficulty establishing themselves as merchants with legitimate credit card companies.

 

The stranger wants to become your best friend

Criminals love finding out if an individual is lonely and willing to talk. Once they identify a person, they will try to convince them they are a good friend – most individuals do not suspect their friends of being criminals.

 

You must pay or you can not play

The caller asks for confidential banking and/or credit card information. Honest businesses do not require these details unless they are using that specific method of payment.

 

Will that be cash… or cash?

The caller asks for confidential banking and/or credit card information. Honest businesses do not require these details unless that specific method of payment is being used.

 

The caller is more excited than you are

The person calling claims to be a government official, tax officer, banking official, lawyer or some other person in authority. The person identifies you by your first name and asks a lot of personal or lifestyle questions (like how often do your grown children visit).

 

It is a limited time opportunity

If pressured to make a big purchase decision immediately, it is probably not a legitimate deal. Real businesses or charities will provide a chance to check out or think about it.

 

Reporting an Incident

It is not always easy to spot a scam, and new ones are invented every day. If you suspect that you may be a target of fraud, or have already sent funds, do not be embarrassed – you are not alone. If you want to report a fraud, or if you need more information, contact the local police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. Another option is to visit www.antifraudcentre.ca for alternate ways to report.

It is not rude to hang up on suspicious calls. Criminal telemarketers are relentless. Victims report receiving 5 or more calls a day, wearing down their resistance. Often, once an individual has succumbed to this ruthless fraud, their name and number get entered onto a “sucker list”, which is sold from one criminal to another.

 

Additional information about the National Do Not Call List can be found at www.lnnte-dncl.gc.ca.

 

The Canada Revenue Agency maintains a Charities Listings. Find out if a charity is registered, revoked or suspended, including contact information and general activities visit www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/lstngs/menu-eng.html.

 

The Better Business Bureau has developed an online Scam Tracker, allowing users to search for scams in their community visit www.bbb.org/scamtracker/mbc.

 

*Excerpted from resources found at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre www.antifraudcentre.ca

 

BCCPA Members can access a printable PDF Tip Sheet by logging into the Members page.

In the current online era, gone are the days of flocking to one’s favourite retail outlet in search for the ‘too good to be true’ bargain. According to Stats Canada, Canadians spent $22.3 billion dollars on online shopping in 2012 and 51% of Canada’s Internet users made online purchases in 2010. Canadians spent an average of $1,362.00 on online purchases in 2010.

Many choose to shop online for the convenience, choice, ease of comparing prices and researching product details. They enjoy freedom from the crowds and better deals for the goods they seek. Be cautious, these online deals may cost you more than you bargained for.

Any time you provide your personal email address, shipping address, phone number and credit card information, you assume the risk of your information being seen by cyber predators.

 

Online Shopping and Auction Risks

  • Becoming a victim of fake e-commerce sites created with the purpose of obtaining personal information that leads to identity theft or hacking. These sites may offer incredible deals that appear hard to pass up, and then disappear weeks later.
  • Becoming a victim of a scam or fraud by unscrupulous sellers who never send the item(s) you purchased.
  • Doing business on sites that are not encrypted, risks unauthorized access to your personal information.
  • Scams by international sites that are not secure or do not have reputable sellers.
  • Paying more than you expected due to hidden charges, duties or shipping.
  • The item you buy may not meet Canadian safety or quality standards.
  • You might find yourself dealing with fraudulent escrow sites that take your money.
  • Legitimate escrow sites make payments on your behalf to safeguard large-ticket purchases. Criminals behind escrow scams create fake sites intended to look identical to the real thing.
  • Getting stuck by browser traps that do not allow you to click the back button, or the same window continues to pop up after closing.

 

Be aware of online shopping sites that:

  • Look poorly designed, unprofessional and contain broken links, or have no contact information for the business.
  • Contain sales, return and privacy policies that are hard to find or unclear.
  • Ask for credit card information anytime other than when you are making a purchase.

 

Online Shopping Safety Tips

  • Double check the website is secure. Look for
  • a lock icon or unbroken key in the bottom right corner of the screen or a website address that begins with https://.
  • Pay by credit card if you can. Do not send cash or money orders.
  • Be on the lookout for prices that are too good to be true. They are likely counterfeits and may not meet Canadian safety or quality standards.
  • Do not use public Wi-Fi to shop online.
  • Read the privacy policy and find out how your information will be used.
  • Do not respond to an email or pop-up message
  • that asks for financial information.
  • Make sure your firewall is “on”.
  • Do not allow auto fill for your passwords or personal information, and never allow a site to store your credit card information.

 

Online Auctions:

  • Check out the seller’s feedback rating. If it’s more than 2% negative, take your business elsewhere.
  • Stay on the site to place your bid and complete the transaction. If the seller wants to negotiate by email, steer clear.
  • If you are the seller, make sure a payment clears before you send the item.
  • Keep a paper trail of receipts, emails and any other correspondence.
  • Ask about using an escrow service if the item is expensive. Escrow agents will hold your payment until they have been notified that the goods or services have been received. They will then send payment on your behalf to the seller. You never have direct contact and your information is protected.

 

*Adapted from resources found at www.getcybersafe.gc.ca – A national awareness campaign to educate Canadians about Internet security

 

BCCPA Members can access a printable PDF Tip Sheet by logging into the Members page.

Although March is Fraud Prevention Month, being aware of scams that are circulating is not a one-month activity. Fraudsters gain access to personal information and funds from unsuspecting individuals every day of the year.

Awareness is the key to preventing yourself from becoming victim to unscrupulous fraudsters.

Remember, if it is too good to be true, it often is. Never grant anyone access to your personal or financial information. Never respond to unsolicited emails or phone calls. If you believe you have become a victim of fraud contact your local police.

Here are just a few of the many frauds individuals fall victim to everyday. For more examples of other scams please visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

 

Vacation Scams: Individuals receive a call advising they have won a vacation. Real company names such as Expedia, Air Miles, Air Canada and WestJet are used. The caller advises the potential victim that they are a preferred customer and have been awarded a credit or discount on a trip if booked immediately. High pressure sales tactics are used and the caller will request a credit card number in order to pay for fees such as taxes.

 

Timeshare Re-sale Scams: Timeshare owners are solicited over the phone and made an offer to sell their timeshare. In some cases the owner has advertised their timeshare for sale on the Internet. The suspect promises a quick sale with a high profit margin. Various fees are requested up front prior to the final sale; this includes maintenance fees, escrow fees and fees to cover taxes. Documentation and correspondence with the victim is conducted on a professional level to provide a level of authenticity. Victims are often solicited by companies in the United States but are required to transfer funds to bank accounts in Mexico through a bank to bank wire transfer.

 

Mystery Shopper Job Scam: Suspects use free online classified websites to recruit potential victims. The victim answers an enticing ad to become a mystery shopper. The ‘employer’ sends a letter, with mystery shopping tasks to be completed, and a cheque to help the victim fulfill their mystery shopping tasks. The victim will likely cash the cheque they were given first. One of the tasks will be to use a money transfer company and wire a large portion of the money to a name provided, in order to test the company’s procedure and customer service skills. The victim will find out later that the cheque is counterfeit, thus making the victim accountable to pay for the funds that were wired.

 

Ransomware: A pop up message shows up on the computer stating “This IP address was used to visit websites containing pornography, child pornography, zoophile and child abuse. Your computer also contains video files with Pornographic content, elements of violence and child pornography! Spam messages with terrorist motives were also sent from your computer.” The messages are socially engineered to appear as if coming from either the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) or the RCMP and tell the consumer they need to pay $100-$250 via Bitcoin, Ukash or PaySafe Card to unlock their computer.

 

The Emergency Scam: Fraudsters use social media, the Internet and newspapers to target potential senior victims, a call is received claiming to be a family member or a close friend advising about an urgent situation that requires immediate funds. Common themes have been that the family member was arrested or got into an accident while traveling abroad. Fees are required for hospital expenses, lawyer fees or bail. Usually the potential victim is instructed to send money via a money service business like Western Union or MoneyGram.

 

Romance Scam: Fraudsters are targeting individuals who have turned to the Internet to seek a romantic mate. The suspect will gain the trust of the victim through displays of affection and will communicate through the phone and email for months if needed to build that trust. The suspect may claim to be located in a foreign country but will want to meet up with the victim in person. It is at this time that the suspect will advise that they can’t afford to travel and will ask for money to cover travel costs. Other variations include the suspect claiming that there is an emergency with a sick relative and will ask for money to cover medical expenses.

 

Microsoft/Windows technician Scam: Suspects pretend to represent a well- known computer based company like Microsoft and claim that the victim’s computer is sending out viruses or has been hacked and must be cleaned. The suspect will remotely gain access to the computer and may run some programs or change some settings. The suspect will then advise that a fee is required for the service of cleaning and request a credit card number to cover the payment. In some cases the suspect will send a transfer from the victim’s computer through a money service business like Western Union or MoneyGram. The end result is that the victim pays for a service that was not needed as the computer was never infected.

 

Business Executive Scam: a phishing type wire fraud currently targeting businesses. The potential victim receives an email that appears to come from their employer’s human resources or technical support department. Suspects create email addresses that mimic that of the real departments. An email message will be sent to the accounting department advising that the ‘executive’ is working off-site and has identified an outstanding payment that needs to be made as soon as possible. The ‘executive’ instructs the payment to be made and provides a name and a bank account where the funds, generally a large dollar amount, are to be sent. Losses are typically in the excess of $100,000.00. Financial Industry wire frauds occur when Canadian financial institutions and investment brokers receive fraudulent email requests from what they believe to be an existing client. Unbeknownst to them, the email account of their client has been compromised. A request is sent by the suspect to the financial institution/investment broker to have money transferred from “their” bank account usually to a foreign bank account.

 

BCCPA Members can access a printable PDF Tip Sheet by logging into the Members page.

Everyone plays a role in the fight against fraud. Learn to recognize, reject and report it.

 

Over the phone: Legitimate telemarketers have nothing to hide. Criminals will say anything to get your personal information or money. They might pretend to be a family member in an emergency. They might tell you that you have won a vacation, or have a hot new investment to sell. They pressure you to make a quick decision.

 

In a Text Message: Many businesses are turning to text messaging as a way of communicating with their customers and clients. Criminals are also sending texts about fake job offers, tax refunds, or promoting offers via links to click on. They may sound official, but legitimate organizations will not request for personal or financial information via text. If unsure, always call the organization back at a listed business phone number to confirm the legitimacy of the text.

 

At your Door: The aim is to convince you into purchasing a product or services you do not need. Some common door to door scams include: services for home repairs or maintenance, utility company scams, impersonating a charity, surveys, fake investment opportunities, and free home inspections.

 

In the Mail: Letters advising of a large inheritance, a lottery prize winning or fake cheques. Legitimate lottery companies will never request money up front in order to receive a prize. Never deposit a cheque and send a portion of the money on to a third party. Businesses can be targeted by phony past-due invoices demanding payment for a service they never requested.

 

In an Email: Also called phishing, these email messages contain links to fake websites that look like the real sites. Criminals hope you will click on the link and provide personal information and financial information. Sometimes these emails contain attachments that when opened can infect your computer with malicious viruses or spyware. Often the email looks like it came from a friend or someone in your contact list. If you are not sure, do not reply to the email, click on any links, or open any attachments. Contact the company or your friend first to verify the nature of the email.

 

Online scams: Ads for free trials or free gifts after completing a survey may look like a good offer. But you may be signing up for something and not know it, leading to an unexpected bill in the mail. Exercise caution if you are required to provide credit card information to pay for the free trial shipping and handling. Read the fine print before signing up for a free sample.

 

Criminal may post phony online classified ads or impersonate a real online store. They might sell knock-offs, or ask you to wire money somewhere to pay for an item. Before placing an order, review the website’s “About Me” page, search for it on the web or on social media. Its credibility should be ascertained before placing an order.

 

It is important to be protective of your personal and financial information. Ask yourself:

  • Can the offer or company/organization be verified with a credible source? The Better Business Bureau or industry registration or licensing bodies can provide consumer based information about a business. Charities can be verified through the Canada Revenue Agency Charities Listings at cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/lstngs/menu-eng.html
  • Have you had enough time to make a decision? Legitimate businesses will allow you time to review a contract and provide opportunities to ask for additional information.
  • Is the risk you are taking reasonable for the expected return? In general, low-risk investments are in the range of current GIC rates offered by banks. If the expected return is higher than these rates, you are taking a greater risk with your money. Make sure you understand and can afford the amount of risk you’re taking on. Understand the investment fully before signing any contract.
  • Is the method of payment secure? Look for the “https” in the URL when using online payment platforms. Exercise caution when e-transferring funds to e-mail addresses not associated with a business domain.
  • What happens with my personal information? When providing personal information, what will the organization do with the information and do they require it for the relationship you maintain with them?

 

BCCPA Members can access a printable PDF Tip Sheet by logging into the Members page.

Identity theft is an intrusive crime resulting in the violation of one’s privacy. For many victims, identity theft can lead to devastating emotional, social and financial consequences.

Identity theft occurs when an individual steals another person’s identity and impersonates that individual. By using the victim’s basic personal information like name, address and social insurance number, identity thieves can open credit card accounts, lease or buy cars, rent apartments or even engage in criminal activity using the stolen name.

Identity theft can start with the loss or theft of one’s wallet or identification, stolen mail, a data breach, a computer virus, or a phishing scam.

Warning signs of Identity Theft

  • You have been notified of an application for credit or the opening of an account in your name with your Social Insurance Number.
  • You receive calls or letters stating that you have been approved or denied by a creditor to which you never applied.
  • You receive credit card, utility or telephone statements in your name to your address which you never applied.
  • You are no longer receiving credit card statements, or you notice that not all of your mail is being delivered.
  • Your credit card statement includes purchases you do not recognize.
  • A collection agency contacts you advising they are collecting for a defaulted account established with your identity.

What to do if you Become a Victim

  • If you are a victim of identity theft, the following steps should be taken immediately:
  • Contact your bank and/or credit card providers if you had your debit/credit card or cheques stolen. If replacement accounts or credit cards require passwords or PINs to access, do not use the same passwords or PINs as on original accounts.
  • Keep copies of all documentation and correspondence exchanged with each creditor.
  • Report the incident to your local police. A creditor or collection agency may want to see a copy of a police report or file number before correcting your credit account or credit report.
  • Report your identity theft case to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC). The CAFC works on compiling information on identity theft to identity theft trends and patterns. They, use the information to assist law enforcement agencies in possible investigations.
  • Contact both of the credit reporting bureaus to have a “fraud alert” placed on your file. A fraud alert will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name.
    • Equifax: 1-800- 465-7166 equifax.ca
    • TransUnion: 1-800-663-9980 www.transunion.ca

Minimizing your risk

  • Sign all credit cards when you receive them and never lend them to anyone. Cancel and destroy credit cards you no longer use. Keep a list of the ones you use regularly.
  • Immediately report lost or stolen credit or bank cards.
  • Carry only the identification and credit cards that you actually need. Do not carry your social insurance card, leave it in a secure place. This applies also to your passport unless you need it for travel.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles and follow up with your creditors and utility companies if bills do not arrive on time.
  • Review your monthly credit card statements, immediately report any discrepancies to the issuing credit card company.
  • Shred or destroy paperwork no longer needed such as bank machine receipts, receipts from electronic and credit card purchases, utility bills, and any document that contains personal and/or financial information.
  • Shred or destroy pre-approved credit card applications you do not want before putting them in the trash.
  • Do not give personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you are the one who initiated the contact.
  • Know the person or organization with whom you are dealing. Before you share information, ensure that the organization is legitimate by checking its website to see if it has posted any fraud or scam alert when its name has been used improperly, or by calling its customer service number listed on your account statement or in the phone book. Review the company’s privacy policy to verify how personal information will be protected.
  • Password-protect credit cards, bank, and phone accounts. Keep passwords and PINs in a secure location.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report from the major credit reporting agencies at least once every year. Make sure your credit report is accurate and includes only those activities authorized.

Additional Information

  • Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre: www.antifraudcentre.ca/index.shtm
  • Competition Bureau – Fraud Prevention: www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/h_00122.html
  • Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre: www.idtheftsupportcentre.org

Every day, Canadians go online to research about products and make purchases from online merchants located in all parts of the world. The Internet allows consumers to comparison shop for the best deals and locate products that might otherwise be difficult to find in their neighbourhood.

The level of convenience provided by online shopping, also provides cyber criminals with opportunities to steal your money and personal information. Although there are legitimate concerns when it comes to shopping online, there are also steps to be taken to protect yourself.

Before Purchasing

  • Comparison shop – Use comparison sites or a search engine to look for the best deals. Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true. If an online merchant’s prices seem unusually low compared to others, look for signs this could be on a fraudulent site. Are there any typos on the site? Does the company ask for unnecessary information such as your Social Insurance Number or date of birth?
  • Do background checks on the e-merchant – Make sure the online merchant has a physical address and phone number listed. If suspicious about the site, call the company’s phone number to see if a representative is available. Look for information like as how long the company has been in business, customer service policies, and whether they offer warranties, repairs, or returns.
  • Read customer reviews – If there are multiple complaints about the company, proceed with caution.
  • Understand shipping policies – Look into shipping and handling fees, including duty and brokerage fees, to ensure they seem reasonable. Understand the various shipping options and how they will affect the total cost of your purchase. Be aware of the time it will take for delivery and the merchant’s shipping policy. If you are buying from a foreign merchant, ensure they ship internationally.
  • Understand return and exchange policies – Shopping online does not allow the consumer to physically see, touch or try on the merchandise. It is important to check out the merchant’s return and exchange policies. Is there a time limit or other restrictions on returns? Are there restocking charges for items returned. Will the merchant provide a full refund the charges or a store credit? If the merchant only offers store credits, are there any time restrictions on using the credit?
  • Review the company’s privacy policy – Review how the merchant uses personal information gathered. Check to make sure that it will not be shared with third parties. Many online check-out pages will indicate fields that are required to complete the transaction – consumers should only disclose information necessary to complete the purchase. Information such as Social Insurance Number or date of birth should not be disclosed.

When Making Purchases

  • Never click on links from spam emails – It can be dangerous to purchase from sites attached to a link in an email from someone you do not know. Do not click on pop-up ads, as they may redirect you to a malicious site.
  • Check the web address to make sure the site is legitimate – Little things such as misspellings, requests for excessive personal information, and low-resolution logos and photos may be warning signs the site is a fake.
  • Check that the site is secure – Look for a security features on the site, such as a lock symbol on the page or web addresses that start with https://
  • Use a payment method with buyer protections – In many cases, credit card companies limit one’s liability for online purchases in cases of fraud. Some credit card companies even offer extended warranties on purchases. Online payment systems, such as PayPal, do not share full credit card numbers with sellers in order to give consumers extra protections. Do not send cash or allow an online merchant to access your bank account.
  • Do not use a public computer to shop online – Computers save or “cache” information to speed up one’s Internet experience. If using a public computer, information such as browsing history and login information may be accessible to strangers who subsequently use the computer.
  • Only use a secure connection – Unsecured wireless networks can allow hackers to access payment and personal information as the network is not protected.

After the Purchase

  • Keep a paper trail – Keep a copy of the order number and receipt, and note which credit card was used for the purchase. Review the credit card statement, to make sure the charge placed on the card is correct and there are no extra fees or charges.
  • Inspect the purchase upon receipt – Make sure that the product received is correct and is not damaged. If a return or exchange is needed, do it quickly so not to exceed any return restrictions.

Safety on the Streets

Purse snatching is one of the few crimes where older adults represent a greater proportion of those victimized. The best way to prevent becoming a target is to NOT carry a purse. For many people this is not practical. The following are some tips to both reduce the risk of being targeted as well as to limit injury if you are attacked.

  • Attackers target those consider to be easy prey. Walk with your head up high, have a sense of purpose and confidence.
  • When carrying your purse, wearing the strap across your body makes it harder for an attacker to take the purse off you.
  • Carry keys and identification documents in your pocket. If your purse is stolen the thieves will not able to break into your house.
  • Do not carry large amounts of money.
  • Do not over burden yourself by carrying extra bags or non-essential items in your purse.
  • If you suspect you are being followed, cross the street, go to the nearest home, service station or business and call the police.

Home Security

There are a number of precautions that can be taken to reduce the chance of being a victim of break & enter or home invasion.

  • Install a wide-angle peephole viewer in your front door which allows seeing visitors before opening the door. If visitors are not expected, verify the identity of the person through the peephole before opening the door.
  • Keep a phone handy. Take a cordless phone to the door when there is knock, in the event you need to call for help.
  • Make sure your door is made of solid wood or metal. A door is only as strong as its frame, install a metal frame or have the current frame reinforced.
  • Install a security film or Plexiglas on the inside of windows. This will allow you to see out, but will make it difficult for a potential intruder to break the glass.
  • Keep valuables in a safety deposit box at your bank. If this is not possible, keep them locked in a safe hiding place in your home. Have valuable items marked for identification or have pictures taken and store the pictures in a safe place.
  • If you are going to be away for an extended period of time, it is important to take extra care in securing your home. Not only should your home be secure, but it should also appear lived in. Install timers to turn lights on and off and leave a radio on. Arrange to have your mail or newspaper held. Ask someone to check on your home to pick up any flyers or tend to the yard.

Frauds and Scams

While many older adults fear physical attacks, the criminal group targeting older adults the most are con artists. The following are a few popular frauds and scams that target older adults:

  • Grandchild or Family Member in Trouble: The scammer will tell the victim that he/she has been arrested by a police service outside of their hometown and requires bail money. For verification, the victim is given a phone number to call, which will be answered by someone pretending to be a lawyer or police officer.
  • Funeral Chasers: After a loved one has died, families will occasionally receive goods in the mail, which the company will claim were ordered by the deceased before they died. The company will then demand payment for the delivered goods
  • Free Inspection: This scam will involve a door-to-door repairman offering free inspections in the neighbourhood. The end result of the inspection will invariably be that expensive repairs are required immediately.
  • Fake Charities: If someone calls your home, or shows up at the door claiming to represent a charity, ask them for their charity registration number, which every charity in Canada has.

If it sounds too good to be true, it often is. Do not make a decision on the spot, take some time, research and verify the offer that is being made. Often scammers use pressure tactics to force you to make a quick decision.

Never give out personal information or credit card information over the phone, the Internet or via email to unsolicited sources or companies. Banks will not send emails or text messages soliciting clients to verify or change security information. If you are unsure, contact your bank or company you have dealings with directly.

General Safety Tips

  • Ensure your home is equipped with functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each floor. Ensure they are tested every six months.
  • Have a list of emergency contact numbers listed near all phones.
  • Remove anything that could cause you to trip or slip while walking around your home, such as floor mats or rugs, electrical cords and unnecessary furniture.
  • Install night-lights in hallways, near stairwells or bathrooms in case you need to get up at night.

January is Alzheimer Awareness Month.  The following tips may provide family members and those who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, who wanders, with strategies to keep them safe.

Wandering is a common behaviour for a person with Alzheimer’s disease.  Wandering, like walking, is not in itself a dangerous activity.  But short-term memory loss and the impaired ability to reason or to make sound judgments can contribute to unsafe wandering behaviour.  It is important to develop multiple strategies for ensuring the safety of an individual with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Your Physical Environment

  • If there are doors to the outside that you do not want the individual to open, place locks where they cannot reach or see them. If they are able to get past the locks, a bell or alarm that signals when the door is opened is a good safety precaution.  Consider camouflaging exits and providing distractions at those points (e.g. baskets for rummaging).
  • A fenced backyard can ensure that the individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are able to wander safely outdoors.
  • Consider technological devices such as a sound-sensitive monitor placed in the same area as the individual that can help you keep track of their whereabouts within the house.

Establish Community Contact

  • Let others in your neighbourhood know about the potential of the individual with Alzheimer’s disease to wander.
  • Ask friends, neighbours, local businesses and if you have Block Watch in your neighbourhood, to stay alert to the possibility, and to call you if they suspect that the individual is disoriented.

Prepare an Identification Kit:

  • Ensure the individual has identification on them at all times. Options include identification bracelets or necklaces and locating devices.
  • An Identification Kit is a tool to help you organize vital information on the person you are caring for, such as a physical description and medical conditions. Check your Identification Kit often to ensure that no changes need to be made, such as changing the photograph if the individual’s appearance has changed.
  • Identification Kits can be downloaded from the Alzheimer Society of BC at www.alzheimerbc.org/wandering.aspx or by contacting your local Alzheimer Society of BC resource centre.
  • If the individual has access to credit cards or bank cards, you may want to include these card numbers in the identification kit so the credit card you can notify the credit card companies or bank that a person with Alzheimer’s disease is missing and may use the cards. Tracking the use of the credit cards may help in locating the person.
  • Be sure to keep two copies of the Identification Kit – one for yourself and one to give police in an emergency.

If Wandering has Taken Place

  • Check common areas. Try and get a sense of how long the person has been gone.  Look inside the house, including the basement, before expanding your search to the outdoors.  Check to see if any items such as luggage, car keys or credit cards are missing.
  • Contact the police. Do not delay! – When someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia goes missing, it is an emergency.  Immediately inform police that the person has Alzheimer’s disease (or dementia).  Once the police arrive, share with them the information you have assembled in the “Identification Kit”
  • If you will be involved in the search for the person, ensure someone stays at home in case the individual returns. At the same time, alert friends and neighbours that the person is missing.

For additional information and resources please visit the Alzheimer Society of BC at www.alzheimerbc.org, or contact your local Alzheimer resource centre.

January is Alzheimer disease awareness month. Alzheimer’s causes a number of changes in the brain and body that may affect safety. Depending on the stage of the disease, these can include:

  • Judgment: forgetting how to use household appliances.
  • Sense of time and place: getting lost in familiar places.
  • Changes in behaviour: becoming easily confused, suspicious or fearful.
  • Physical ability: having trouble with balance.
  • Senses: experiencing changes in vision, hearing, and possible sensitivity to temperature or depth perception.

Alzheimer’s progresses differently in each individual living with the disease. As caregivers, the following general principles may be helpful in adapting to the challenge of an individual’s change in behaviour and functioning.

  • Think prevention: Conducting a safety assessment of the home, may assist in providing a sense of control over problems that may create hazardous situations.
  • Adapt the environment: It is more effective to change the environment than to change ones behaviours. While some behaviours may be managed with medications, many cannot. Making changes to an environment may decrease the hazards and stressors that accompany behavioural and functional changes.
  • Minimize hazards: By minimizing hazards, the independence of the individual living with Alzheimer’s can be maintained for a longer period of time. A safe environment can be a less restrictive where the person with Alzheimer’s can experience increased security and greater mobility.

Safety throughout the House
A safe home can be a less stressful for the person with Alzheimer’s, the caregiver, and family.

  • Display emergency numbers and the home address near all telephones. Use an answering machine when unavailable to answer phone calls, set it to turn on after the fewest number of rings possible. A person with Alzheimer’s may be unable to take messages or could become victim to telemarketing fraud.
  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in or near the kitchen and all sleeping areas. Test their functioning and replace batteries frequently.
  • Simplify the environment by removing clutter or valuable items that could be misplaced, lost, or hidden. Keep all areas where people walk free of furniture and obstructions.
  • Light sensors that turn lights on automatically when one approaches certain areas may be useful both for visibility and to alert caregivers of wandering behaviour.
  • To prevent the person with Alzheimer’s from opening the door to unwanted solicitors or potential criminals, consider installing a “NO SOLICITING” sign on the door. Use door alarms such as loose bells above the door or devices that ring when the doorknob is touched or the door is opened. Hide a spare house key outside in case the person with Alzheimer’s locks you out of the house.
  • Remove any locks from doors to spaces where the person with Alzheimer’s may need to use (i.e. bathrooms, bedrooms) to prevent them from accidentally locking themselves inside. Install locks on doors to rooms the individual should not be in (i.e. other family members’ bedrooms, pantry, garage).
  • Install childproof door latches on storage cabinets and drawers in kitchens and bathrooms where valuables, breakable or dangerous household items and medications are stored. Install cushioned corner guards on corners and sharp edges to prevent injury should the person with Alzheimer’s trip or fall.

Personal Safety
The cognitive impairments associated with Alzheimer’s will amplify the personal safety needs of those living with Alzheimer’s. In addition to general personal safety tips for older adults, consider the following:

  • Visit the Alzheimer Society of BC www.alzheimer.ca/bc to learn about creating an Identification Kit for individuals at risk of getting lost. If the individual goes missing, caregivers will have immediate access to valuable information to assist the police in the search for their loved one.
  • Obtain a medical identification bracelet for the person with Alzheimer’s with the words “memory loss” inscribed along with an emergency telephone number. Place the bracelet on the person’s dominant hand to limit the possibility of removal, or solder the bracelet closed. Visit the Alzheimer’s Society of BC Association to learn more about the MedicAlert® Safely Home® program.
  • While disasters and emergencies affect everyone, the impact on people with disabilities/special needs is often greater. It is important to have a plan in the event of a disaster or emergency, visit www.getprepared.gc.ca for the Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities/Special Needs.

Motorized mobility scooters or motorized wheelchairs (motorized mobility vehicles) offer those with limited mobility a sense of independence and an efficient means of getting around their community. Although motorized mobility vehicles do not require registration, insurance or a licence to operate in BC there are a number of considerations users of these modes of transportation should keep in mind. Motorized mobility scooters and wheelchairs by law are classified as pedestrians.

Obey Rules for Pedestrians

Ride only where it is safe, follow the same rules and guidelines as pedestrians. Use sidewalks wherever possible, keep to one side of the sidewalk. If there are no sidewalks or if the sidewalk is not accessible, travel on the far left side of the road facing oncoming traffic.

Drive at the same speed as other pedestrian traffic. Avoid driving closely behind or obstructing pedestrians. Use caution when travelling close to store fronts to avoid crashing into pedestrians as they leave a building.

Cross at pedestrian crosswalks. Check for traffic before crossing. If there is no crosswalk available, stop, look both ways, and proceed only when all approaching vehicles have come to a full stop. Make “eye contact” with motorists or pedestrians before crossing their path to confirm their intention to stop.

Be cautious of traffic as when approaching driveways and laneways. Obey all traffic control signs and devices.

Driving of motorized mobility scooters and wheelchairs in bicycle lanes is not permitted.

Learn to Use and Care for Motorized Mobility Vehicles

  • Before using a mobility vehicle in public, learn and be comfortable with how to operate it. Practice in a quiet parking lot. Once comfortable operating the mobility vehicle, find a friend who will travel with you on foot or scooter during the first few trips.
  • Mobility scooters have a high center of gravity and can tip easily. Curbs, ramps and inclines should be taken “head on”. Drive in the most level path of the incline or curb, do not drive across the incline.
  • The operator’s manual may have additional safety and user information. Read the operator’s manual and any documentation supplied before operating the mobility vehicle.
  • Become familiar with routes where mobility vehicles can safely drive. Be aware of areas that do not have curb cuts or streets that do not have sidewalks. Allow additional time in the event of unforeseeable circumstances such as construction, resulting in taking an alternate route or backtracking.
  • Use caution when travelling on wet or slippery surfaces. The automatic mobility vehicle brakes may not slow or stop the scooter if proper traction is not available.
  • Scooter baskets are not designed to carry heavy weights. Place heavy objects on the floor of the scooter between the user’s feet. Do not overload the motorized mobility vehicle with parcels or loose items.
  • If the mobility vehicle is not regularly used, batteries should be charged up monthly to keep them active. Keep air inflated tires fully inflated to ease rolling of the mobility scooter, lengthen the time needed between battery charges, maximize mileage and maximize tire life span.

Be Visible

Users of motorized mobility vehicles are at a height disadvantage to the other users of the road and sidewalk, making them less visible to drivers in vehicles. The following can assist in increasing the visibility of motorized mobility vehicle users:

  • Brightly coloured clothing
  • Fluorescent orange bike flag in the back seat of the motorized mobility vehicle
  • Light on back of the motorized mobility vehicle
  • Light on front of the motorized mobility vehicle
  • Reflective strips on sides, front and back of the motorized mobility vehicle

Using Mobility Vehicles on Public Transit

Before making trips on public transportation such as buses, SkyTrain or SeaBus, users of mobility vehicles should be comfortable with manoeuvering the mobility vehicle in tight spaces. Users should also feel comfortable boarding facing forward or backwards. Users should have the ability to maneuver their mobility vehicle safely and effectively.

In busy transit hubs, always proceed slowly and cautiously, as there are often people moving in all directions.

Some community public transit providers offer users of mobility vehicles travel training to allow them to practice getting on the bus with their mobility vehicle or to determine whether their mobility vehicle will fit on a bus. Contact the local transit provider to inquire whether this service is available in the service area.

When travelling on accessible buses, bus drivers can: kneel the bus or lower the ramp upon request to assist with getting on and off the bus; assist in emergency situations; provide users of mobility aids extra time to reach their seat and when getting on and off the bus. They can further assist in securing mobility vehicles.

When travelling on a bus using a mobility vehicle: remove flags and store parcels away from the securement attachments of your device; and advise the driver of the desired destination. If travelling with an attendant, identify him/her to the driver.

March is Fraud Prevention Month. Statistics show that between four per cent and 10 per cent of Canadian older adults (seniors) experience financial abuse, including fraud.

Home is where an older adult should feel the safest. But fraudsters use many tactics to invade the security of older adults from inside and outside their homes, scamming them out of their personal information and money. Some drive around neighborhoods during the day, looking for older adults and return trying to sell unnecessary repairs or goods. Other methods used to target older adults include mail, telephone, and email.

Characteristics that make Older adults vulnerable:

  • Availability: Older adults are often seen as targets because they are often retired, can be less mobile, and more often are at home for the calls or visitors. Scam artists can easily troll a neighbourhood for older victims.
  • Isolation and Loneliness: Older adults are more likely to be alone because families move away and sometimes have little or no interaction with loved ones. Some older adults do not have others to assist them when considering major decisions. Because of their isolation, friendships can often be limited, and this can make them vulnerable to friendly cold callers who drop by their home. Some scams are perpetrated by individuals who work to build new friendships with older adults and then prey on their vulnerabilities.
  • Health Issues: Chronic health issues may lead to difficulties maintaining their property. Older adults may need to rely on outside sources for help. Unscrupulous workers can bilk seniors out of thousands of dollars for a job that should only cost hundreds of dollars or recommend repairs that are not needed.
  • Prosperity: Money is one of the most notable reasons for vulnerability in older adults. Scammers see them as a supply of wealth that includes homes, property, life savings and other assets.

What to do if you have become a victim of Identity Fraud

  • Contact your local police to report the incident. Also, a report should be filed with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
  • (1-888-495-8501), the central agency in Canada that collects information on fraud related activities.
  • Contact all credit card companies, creditors, banks and other financial institutions where you have accounts that may have been affected. Close every account that may have been compromised. Obtain replacement bank or credit cards with a new account number and a new Personal Identification Number (PIN). Closely monitor bank and credit card statements for suspicious transactions.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report. Contact both major credit bureaus (Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada) and let them know you have been a victim of identity fraud. Request a copy of your credit bureau report. Request that a “Fraud Warning” be placed on your credit file instructing creditors to contact you personally before opening new accounts in your name – these warnings remain on file for 6 years.

Scam-proofing Older Adults

Family and friends can help older adults avoid the humiliation and potential financial devastation of falling victim to a fraudster:

  • Shred documents that could be useful to criminals, including bank statements, credit card statements and offers containing personal information, and other financial information once they are no longer required. Documents that need to be preserved, such as tax returns or house and car titles, should be stored in a safe place.
  • Insist that the older adult check with the Better Business Bureau in their community before acting on an offer received by phone or mail, or agrees to a visit from an unknown person, business or charity. If suspicious letters or emails are received, advise the older person to contact a phone number for the legitimate agency they currently have dealings with, not the phone number provided in the letter or the link in the email, to verify the correspondence.
  • Have the older adult’s phone number added to the National Do-Not-Call List. Instruct them to hang up if they get solicitation calls. Address the guilt factor by reminding an older adult it can be difficult to recognize a scam.
  • Insist that personal information is never given out over phone or online.
  • Advise the older adult not to feel compelled to donate to every charity that may solicit. Ask the charity for their registration number and verify the status of the charity with Revenue Canada’s Charities Listings. Establish a strong defense by posting a “No Solicitation” notice at the front door.
  • Remember that all new technology has a learning curve. Educate older adults about email and phishing tactics.
  • Be curious about individuals who have befriended the older adult. Lonely or isolated older adults may be more vulnerable to criminals who befriend them and provide companionship.
  • Older adults who are scammed may be embarrassed and try to hide what happened. Watch for changes in their lifestyle as well as any other unusual financial or business activity. If an older adult is unable to handle his or her finances, encourage your loved one to put a plan in place that can help ensure bills are paid and assets are protected.
  • As a family member, if you cannot be there for your older family members, find trustworthy people who can serve as eyes and ears for your loved ones. Helpers could be neighbors, relatives, friends, faith community members or professional caregivers.

The sunny skies and warm weather of summer make this time of year the ideal season for spending time outdoors. As individuals age, the ability to adjust to temperature changes and hot weather may also be impacted. By being aware of some health and safety precautions, older adults can safely enjoy outdoor activities with everyone else.

Stay Hydrated

As people age, the ability to conserve water and adjust to temperature changes decreases. This makes older adults more susceptible to becoming dehydrated in warmer temperatures. It is recommended to drink between 6 to 8 cups of water a day. Avoid caffeinated beverages. If spending time in the sun or being physically active increase water consumption. Sport drinks can assist in replacing electrolytes for those who have been sweating.

Keep Cool

When temperatures reach their peak in mid-day, it is important older adults and those with chronic medical conditions to have a cool place to go rest. If you do not have an air conditioned home, keep the hot air out during the warmest time of day by keeping shades and blinds closed. Shutting windows and doors may also help. When temperatures cool down in the evening use an oscillating fan or open doors and windows to create a cross-breeze. Consider seeking refuge in an air conditioned location such as: the local seniors’ centre, library, recreational centre, or shopping mall.

 Protect your Skin

Wear appropriate clothing – clothing made from natural fabrics traps less heat than those made from synthetics. light cotton shirts and shorts are good choices. Loose fitting clothing allows heat to escape, and light colors absorb less heat from the sun. A hat helps keep the sun off one’s head and face. Sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 is recommended for all, regardless of age.  Many skin products containing sunscreen are readily available. Wear sunglasses to prevent damage to your eyes from UV rays emitted from the sun. Use a good bug spray to keep mosquitoes and other disease carrying bugs away.

Limit Outdoor Exercise

Limit activities such as working in the garden, going for long walks and other forms of outdoor exercise to early morning our evening hours when the sun is not at its peak. Wear appropriate clothing, and stay hydrated while exercising. Keep track of the time to avoid exercising too long and risking exhaustion. Be aware of the forecast and any extreme weather advisories before you head out.

Recognize Signs of Heat-Induced Illness

Hyperthermia, heat stroke, heat cramps and heat exhaustion are all considered heat-induced illness. Warning signs include: body temperatures that exceed 40 degrees; minimal or no sweating in extreme heat; headache; sudden negative change in mood; flushed or dry skin; nausea and/or vomiting; feeling faint; and shortness of breath and/or rapid pulse. If any of these signs and symptoms are present escape the heat, apply ice packs to cool the body and seek medical attention if the symptoms persist.

Check the Side Effects of Medications

Some medications may make individuals more sensitive to the sun. Some medical conditions can make individuals more susceptible to heat related illness. Understand the side effects of your medications or medical condition, take extra precautions if required.

Practice Summer Food Safety

Avoid keeping food at room temperature for more than one hour. Marinate meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Keep raw meat separate from other foods – never put ready-to-eat food on a plate that contained raw meat. After handling raw meat, clean countertops, cutting boards, utensils, and wash hands with warm soapy water.  Use a digital food thermometer to ensure meat is thoroughly cooked.

Be aware of your Security Habits:

  • Do not leave doors or windows open that can not be monitored – this can make homes vulnerable to potential intruders. Protect property by ensuring all windows and doors are locked even when you are outside in your backyard. If leaving a window open for ventilation, limit the size of the opening by installing a securable window stop. Do not leave windows or sliding doors open when going to sleep or stepping away from home.
  • If going away be sure homes look lived in. Make arrangements to have someone check-in on the house, collect mail, newspapers and flyers.
  • Get to know your neighbours. Having an involved and watchful community is one of the best crime prevention resources available. Leave a phone number where you can be contacted with a neighbour so you can be contacted during an emergency.

Another school year has started. Getting back into the school-year routine can be daunting. The following safety tips can help to ensure your child(ren) get to and from school safely.

Heads Up – Phone Down

Texting and walking, or distracted walking, can be as dangerous as distracted driving. According to Parachute Canada, a child pedestrian is killed or injured every three hours. On average, 30 young pedestrians are killed in Canada each year and 2,412 are injured. In a 2014 poll, a fifth of 13- to 18-year-olds admitted that they did not always look when crossing the street and 15 percent admitted they often text while crossing. Half of the teens say that they have been hit or narrowly missed by cars while walking.

With increasing numbers of children and teenagers owning digital devices, children need to be aware of and practice basic safety tips:

  • Do not walk, talk and text. If you have to talk or text, move out of the way of others and to the side of the walkway.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Do not cross or walk in the street while using an electronic device. Do not walk with headphones in your ears.

Walking to School

  • Review road safety rules with children. Note the importance of not accepting rides or any invitations from strangers, and keeping focused on getting to school or getting home. Coordinate a buddy system with other children in the area who may also walk to school.
  • Have practice walks with children to establish a designated safe and direct route to school. Hazards should be identified (i.e. train tracks, busy intersections).
  • Stay on sidewalks whenever possible. If there is no sidewalk, use the left side of the road facing traffic.
  • Cross streets only at crosswalks. Look to the left, the right and then left again before proceeding, even at intersections with pedestrian walk signs. Wait until traffic comes to a stop before crossing. Make sure drivers see you before you cross.

School Bus Safety

While school buses have an excellent safety record, accidents on the bus or outside the bus can happen. The following are some tips to ensure children get onto the bus safely and ensure safe travel:

  • Arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the scheduled pick up time. Children should never run after the school bus to try to catch it. If they miss the bus, suggest they go back home or report to a teacher.
  • Stay on the sidewalk, away from the roadway and stay back until the bus has come to a full stop and the door opens.
  • If your child needs to cross the street, teach them to look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Use the handrail when boarding or exiting the bus.
  • Once on the bus, take a seat as quickly as possible. Put belongings under the seat and stay seated.
  • When getting off the bus: take two large steps away from bus. If they must walk in front of the bus, have them walk ahead at least three metres (10 giant steps). The driver must be able to see children and will give a signal when it is safe to cross. Cross in a single file.

Safety Tips for Drivers

  • SLOW DOWN. Be aware of children walking on sidewalks and streets. On streets without sidewalks or streets with on-street parking, it might be hard to notice children behind parked vehicles.
  • On streets without crossing guards, watch out for children trying to cross the street. Be alert, children may dart into the street without looking.
  • When approaching a stopped school bus, with alternating red-lights flashing at the top, drivers must stop before reaching the bus, whether you are approaching from the front or rear. Vehicles must not proceed until the bus moves or the overhead red signal-lights have stopped flashing.

Additional Safety Tips

  • Check with the school to see what policy it has regarding posting names and photos online. Identifying/personal information should not be posted in a public forum. If photos are posted, they should be group photos that do not identify individual children. Caution your child about carrying or wearing items that visibly display his/her name.
  • If your child goes home alone, make sure the rules for safety at home are clearly understood. Make sure your child understands what to do in an emergency. Prepare an emergency contact list (kept close to the telephone) that includes phone numbers for you, 9-1-1, doctor, poison-control center and at least one other trusted adult.
  • Discuss with your child what he/she should do if anyone follows, approaches or in any way bothers him/her. Include instructions to get away quickly, what to do if anyone tries to take him/her away, and to tell a trusted adult.
  • Find opportunities or “teachable moments” to practice safety skills with your child. Create “what if” scenarios for your child to make sure he/she understands safety messages and how to use them in a real situation.

*Adapted from resources found at www.PrevNet.ca – Canada’s authority on research and resources for bullying prevention

Youth today have never known a world without Internet. The world is more connected than ever. Skype, email, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Tumblr are just a few social media sites connecting individuals in the online world. You can snap a picture on our phones, post a thought or share a joke with thousands of other people instantly. Problems arise when technology is used to harm or abuse others. Being pushed out of a social network by your peers can lead to a world filled with loneliness, embarrassment, isolation, fear or shame.

Cyberbullying involves communication technologies to repeatedly intimidate or harass others it includes:

  • Sending mean or threatening emails or text/instant messages.
  • Posting embarrassing photos of someone online.
  • Creating a website to make fun of others.
  • Pretending to be someone by using their name.
  • Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and circulating it to others.

Traditional forms of bullying may allow for victims to find safe places to escape. Cyberbullying can follow a victim anywhere 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This may include to and from school, at the mall or in the comfort of their home. Youth who cyberbully are often able to hide behind the technology by choosing to remain anonymous.

Practice Netiquette online

Just like the offline world, there is etiquette to follow for safe and acceptable online behaviour.

  • Respect people’s feelings, never treat someone online in a way that you would not feel comfortable doing face to face.
  • Never share passwords other than with a trusted adult.
  • Never share cellphone numbers or email addresses (yours or anyone else’s) unless you know and trust the person or have permission to do so.
  • Never share personal information or photos (of yourself or anyone else) in a chat room.
  • Never post, email or forward naked photos of yourself – or anyone else – to anyone.

What to do if being cyberbullied

  • Walk away or leave the online conversation.
  • Keep track of the bullying (write it down and/or save a screenshot of the online message).
  • Tell a trusted adult. If you do not trust anyone or need to speak with someone urgently, contact the confidential and toll-free Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.
  • Report bullying to school administrators.
  • Report criminal offences, such as threats, assaults and sexual exploitation to the local police.
  • Report unwanted text messages to your telephone service provider.
  • Report online bullying to the social media site and block the person responsible.

Be Part of the Solution

Youth are more likely to convince their peers to stop bullying than adults. As an active bystander, you can have a greater impact on bullying than your teachers or parents.

  • If you feel it’s safe to do so, tell the bully to stop.
  • Find friends/students/youth or an adult who can help stop it.
  • Befriend the person being bullied and lead them away from the situation.
  • Report it to a teacher or school staff, or fill out an anonymous letter and drop it off to a teacher or any trusted adult.
  • Remember, once you post it, it’s there for all to see—you can apologize, but you cannot take it back.
  • Refuse to forward hurtful emails, text messages or embarrassing photos to friends – by refusing to pass it on, you become part of the solution. The choice is yours!

 * Adapted from Council of Ontario Directors of Education Parent Tool Kit: Relationships: What Parents Can Do to Help Their Children Develop Healthy Relationships

The impact of positive caring adults on children and youth cannot be overestimated. As parents and community members, everyone has a role to play in fostering the well-being of children and youth in our communities. By fostering healthy relationships with children and youth, we can model healthy and positive relationships and help them develop valuable skills.

Healthy relationships provide children with a sense of security and stability; a sense of being valued and belonging; support and guidance to learn essential skills; and the ability to manage stress.

Connect Positively

  • The healthiest force in the lives of children and youth is their connection with adults.
  • Children often need help to talk about important things in their lives such as school, friends or peer pressure. Often they need someone to listen and not rush in to rescue.
  • Reinforce it is okay for children or youth to speak to a trusted adult.
  • Unless the conversation requires the intervention of a third party, such as the police or school official, treat what children say as confidential in order to build trust. Allow the child or youth as much control as possible in dealing with the situation. Help them discover and explore how they will get help or resolutions for the situation. Be present or available for the child or youth.
  • Engage children and youth with open-ended questions that will elicit conversation versus ‘yes/no’ or one word responses, such as “Tell me about your day” versus “How was your day?”

Help Develop Empathy and Respect

  • Healthy relationships are based on good communication. This involves not only language but understanding, respecting, and caring about how another person feels.
  • Help children understand their feelings. Talk about how they feel when someone says hurtful things. Let them know you understand. Children need help to understand the feelings of others. Encourage them to watch for facial expressions and body language and to respect the feelings and views of other people. Discuss their perceptions. Encourage them to help those who may not feel included and to put themselves in the shoes of others who may be affected by their actions.

Relate Age Appropriately

  • Expectations and rules change as children become pre-teens and teens. As youth they may want more independence. It is helpful to adopt adult ways of communicating. Whatever their age, encourage open discussion, and allow them to voice what is important to them. Invite them to be part of the problem-solving and decision-making process.
  • Be Supportive: Guide, do not dictate. Youth want information to make their own decisions.
  • Be Patient and Available: Do not be discouraged if your first offer is turned down, as youth will often come around when they feel up to it.
  • Be Open: When they come to you, listen, listen, listen!
  • Be Understanding: Youth learn and grow through failure and mistakes – the important issue is how youth and their support systems respond to setbacks.
  • Be Empathetic: Do not belittle the feelings of youth or be patronizing. Their feelings are real and important to them, even if what they are going through does not seem like a big deal.

Accept Mistakes as Learning Opportunities

  • We learn from making mistakes. Ask children what can be learned from a mistake. Try to focus on the learning. Learning from mistakes helps to improve themselves and their relationships. Try to help the child understand why the mistake happened and how it could be avoided in the future.
  • Apologies are important for young children and youth to learn. Helping young people focus on the apology can keep them from justifying their mistake. Children can learn about heartfelt apologies and practice at home.

Remember Positive Parenting Works

  • Positive parenting requires parents to be supportive, warm, and encouraging while also being firm, consistent, and fair.
  • The best gift parents and adults can give children and youth is their time. Show that they enjoy devoting time. Show that their time and energy can make a difference. Recognize the value they offer. Encourage youth to take part in community projects.
  • Create opportunities for children and youth to be successful. Help them find out what they are good at. Help build confidence in their skills and abilities. Be active together, choose something youth like and can do; comment on a job well done or recognize an act of kindness; and acknowledge when they meet a difficult

* Adapted from resources found at www.cybertip.ca operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection

The Internet offers great possibilities for children and youth to learn and experience things they may not have the opportunity to in their personal environments.  The interactive components of online games, websites, apps or social networking sites make them appealing and popular with children and youth.  The Internet can also be a door that opens up to dangers.  These dangers can be minimized when parents, children and youth are aware and understand the risks of the online world.  The online world is far reaching and largely uncensored. Parents need to know what their children are facing as they explore social media.

As a Parent

  • Learn about the features of your computer’s operating system that set parental controls. Create the expectation that you will be monitoring your child’s online and Smartphone activities.
  • Be involved, show interest in the online games your child plays. If possible, play the games with younger children.
  • Assist children with the creation of their online profiles. They should not contain identifying characteristics about them or their hobbies (e.g. shygirl, bookworm, etc.).  When signing up for online games, provide a family or parental email account rather than a child’s email address.
  • Learn the features of a game that allow users to restrict/block certain players’ access. Review the social networking sites and apps your child is accessing to ensure s/he is using appropriate privacy settings.
  • Monitor the game apps children download onto Wi-Fi capable devices. Many are free and can be easily downloaded without parental consent.
  • Explore the online games children play with to determine if they are age-appropriate. Is the game moderated?  Does it contain sexually explicit or violent material?
  • Be aware instant messaging programs, as well as chat and social networking sites are widely available on Smartphones.
  • Monitor the use of webcams and posting or exchanging of pictures or videos online.
  • Do not allow children to communicate in chat rooms that are not moderated. Know the chat rooms your child visits.  Be aware of conversations your child is having in chat rooms.
  • Set a time every evening in which all technology, including Smartphones, are shut off in the house. Also establish guidelines around texting and gaming.

Connecting with your Child

  • Communicate openly with children, talk about what they like to do online, encourage them to share their feelings with you.
  • Explain there is a lot of good information on the Internet, there is also inappropriate information and material.
  • Review what information is safe to share online. Explain the risks of personal information being misused if shared online. Ensure your child has permission before chatting with other online gamers, or on social networking sites and instant messaging
  • Talk with your child/adolescent about online “friends”, and what that means. Discuss the difference between healthy and unhealthy online relationships.  Reinforce not everyone online is as they appear.  Discuss how to terminate or remove themselves from uncomfortable situations.
  • Describe what appropriate and inappropriate online behaviour is in the offline world. Create guidelines for online activities.  Explain that it is against the law to threaten someone, and they should tell a safe adult if they are threatened on or offline.
  • Explain the importance of establishing and respecting personal boundaries when using technology. The information shared should be protected and handled with respect.  Emphasize this continues to apply after a relationship has come to an end.
  • Express the importance of getting help, and not responding to harassing, harmful, or unsolicited calls or messages. If received; save these types of messages.  If harassing calls/messages continue report them to the appropriate school and/or local police department.

Preventable injuries kill more Canadian children than any single disease.  According to the Canadian Pediatric Society most injuries sustained by children and youth are both predictable and preventable.

The following information provides tips on preventing injury from the most common causes of childhood injury.

Preventing Falls from Windows

  • Window screens do not prevent children from falling out. Install window guards and stops on windows higher than ground level to prevent them from opening. Ensure there is a safe-release option in case of a house fire. Move household furniture away from windows to discourage children from climbing to peer out.
  • A child’s mobility should not be underestimated; children begin climbing before they can walk. Children should not be left unattended on balconies or decks. Move furniture or planters away from the edges as children can climb up and over them.
  • Talk to your children, in an age appropriate manner about the dangers of opening and playing near windows.

Medication Safety

  • Store medication out of reach of children. Be alert to visitors’ medication – guests in your home may not be think about safe storage of medicine.
  • Children should be taught that medicine should always be given by an adult. Do not refer to medicine as candy, it may encourage them to try it on their own.
  • Reduce the risk of children getting into medicine by disposing of unused or expired medicine – many pharmacies have a medicine take-back program.
  • Place the phone number for Poison Information on or near your phone in case of emergency. In British Columbia the toll-free 24-hour Poison Information line is 1-800-567-8911.

Poison Prevention

  • Teach children what the hazard symbols on the containers mean DANGER DO NOT TOUCH!
  • Store all household products and cleaning solutions locked out of sight and reach of children. Keep cleaning products in their original containers. Do not put a potentially poisonous product in something other than its original container (such as a plastic soda bottle) It could be mistaken for something else. Laundry and dish detergent pod packets are attractive to children and can be dangerous if ingested.
  • Keep other harmful products, including cosmetics, drugs, vitamins and first-aid treatment products, out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Place the phone number for Poison Information in or near your phone in case of emergency.

Choking and Strangulation Prevention

  • See the world from a child’s perspective. Get on the floor on your hands and knees so that you are at the child’s eye level. Keep small objects such as buttons, beads, jewelry, pins, nails, marbles, coins, stones and tacks out of reach and sight.
  • Inspect games or toys that include magnets. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect parts have been swallowed – look for abdominal symptoms, such as pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Be aware of button batteries – If button batteries are swallowed, saliva triggers an electrical current causing a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours – it may not be obvious at first that there is something wrong, as the child can still breathe and act normally after ingesting a battery, though it may seem like your child has a cold or flu. If you suspect your child has ingested a battery, go to the hospital immediately – do not induce vomiting or have your child eat or drink anything until assessed by a medical professional.
  • Keep cords and strings attached to window blinds or curtains out of children’s reach. Remove cords and drawstrings from children’s hoods, hats, and jackets. Do not tie strings or ribbons to pacifiers or toys, remove bibs before bedtime or nap time.

General Safety Tips

  • Make sure furniture, such as a wall units, bookcases, or cabinets, are securely fastened to the wall using angle braces or anchors to prevent tipping. Televisions and heavy items should be placed on lower furniture as far back as possible. Install stops on dresser drawers to prevent them from being pulled all the way out.
  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of a home. Place near sleeping areas – test the batteries every six months. Create and practice a home fire escape plan with exit routes out of every room.
  • Prevent falls, cuts, and other injuries by being attentive to a child placed in a grocery shopping cart, children should stay seated and belted at all times.
  • Put up a barrier around fireplaces or wood burning stoves to prevent burns from touching hot surfaces.
  • Keep cords for electrical appliances out of the reach of children to prevent children from being hurt or burned if they pull an appliance off a counter.

Nothing is better than ongoing supervision. Do not leave a young child unattended or rely on a safety item to keep them safe. Additional safety tips can be found at www.parachutecanada.org, a national charitable organization dedicated to preventing injuries and saving lives.

As Summer comes to an end and the start of another school year begins, families are familiarizing themselves with the back to school routine. Whether getting your children back into the school routine has become a yearly activity or this is a new experience for your family, the following checklist can help children have a safe school year.

Rules of the Road

  • Review road safety rules with children. If a child walks to school, walk the route with him/her to identify landmarks and safe places if he/she is being followed or needs help.
  • Teach children the dangers of accepting rides or invitations or requests from strangers, and advise them to avoid shortcuts and isolated areas. Coordinate a buddy system with other children in the area who may also walk to school.
  • Ensure children are aware of their surroundings: Children should not be walking and texting or crossing the street while using an electronic device. Children should not use their headphones while on their way to and from school.
  • If taking the bus to school, children should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the scheduled pick up time. Children should never run after the school bus to try to catch it.  If they miss the bus, suggest they go back home or report to an emergency contact.
  • If riding a bike to school, ensure children have properly fitted cycling helmets – it is the law. Hockey or other types of sports helmets are not legal for cycling.  Helmet use is recommended for children riding skateboards and other non-motorized modes of transportation.
  • Motorists: SLOW DOWN – be aware of children walking on sidewalks and streets. When approaching a stopped school bus with alternating red lights flashing at the top, drivers must stop before reaching the bus.  Whether you are approaching from the front or rear, vehicles must not proceed until the bus moves or the overhead red signal-lights have stopped flashing.

Staying Safe at School

  • Check with the school to see what policy it has regarding posting names and photos online. Identifying/personal information should not be posted in a public forum.  If photos are posted, they should be group photos that do not identify individual children in any way.  Caution children about carrying or wearing items that visibly display their name.
  • Check with the school to learn more about what their emergency policy is. This will assist parents in knowing where children be located, how parents will be notified, when and where will children and parents be reunited etc. in the event of an emergency
  • Ensure the school has up-to-date contact numbers for a parent/guardian, family member(s) or a trusted adult who can be contacted in the event of an emergency. Ensure the  school is updated on whom your child can be released to. .  Teach children a pre-selected code word to be used by those who may be asked to give the child a ride.
  • Discuss with children what to do if anyone follows approaches, or in any way bothers him/her. Include instructions to get away quickly and to tell a trusted adult.  Teach children if anyone tries to take them away, they should yell loudly and make every effort to get away by kicking, screaming and resisting.  Take time to update a child’s identification, including having a recent photograph of the child, which can assist the police if a child goes missing.

Home Alone

  • If a child goes home alone, make sure the rules for safety at home are clearly understood. Establish a policy where your child checks-in with a designated adult upon arrival at home.  Ensure they understand that when they are home alone they should have the doors locked at all times, Make clear whether they can use kitchen appliances, such as the stove or microwave, and make clear your rules about having friends visit.
  • Teach the child what to do in any emergency. Have emergency phone numbers posted close to the telephone.  Include phone numbers for both parents, police/fire/ambulance, poison control and trusted adults the child can call for assistance.
  • Establish a routine. Create a list of activities for the child to complete such as homework, chores, what snacks they can have, whether they can spend time online.

Teachable Moments

  • Make time to connect with children at every opportunity. Be available to answer questions and offer assistance.  Teach children it is okay to ask for help – use everyday scenarios to teach your child when and how to ask trusted adults for help.
  • Be a role model for respect and inclusion, and physical and mental well-being. Use mistakes as learning opportunities. Mistakes offer opportunities to challenge oneself to learn or do something differently the next time in similar circumstances.

* Adapted from resources found at www.cybertip.ca

Referred to by the media as “sexting,” self/peer exploitation is defined as creating, sending or sharing sexual images and/or videos with peers via the Internet or electronic devices. It usually involves exchanging images through cell phone picture/video messaging, messaging apps, or social networking sites.
As children and youth are growing up in a technology–rich society, the likelihood of being confronted with a self/peer exploitation incident increases.

Why Youth Engage in Self/Peer Exploitation

  • Romantic Relationships or Sexual Experimentation: Youth in a relationship (offline or online) may voluntarily produce and share images with each other. These images may subsequently be circulated without the knowledge of the affected youth. After the breakdown of a relationship, images may be shared with others impulsively or with malicious intent.
  • Attention-Seeking Behaviour: Images may be produced and shared among friends as a joke, a dare or a challenge. These images may be circulated to others with or without the knowledge of the affected youth. Images may be produced, shared or posted publicly (e.g. Facebook, YouTube) in an attempt to gain acceptance or popularity.
  • Coercive Circumstances: Peers, romantic partners or online acquaintances may demand images through extortion/coercion, or threaten to release images obtained in circumstances where the adolescent is unaware, unwilling or in a compromised position.

Steps to Consider if your child is a Youth Affected by Self/Peer Exploitation (victim)

  • Reassure that they are not alone and there is help available to assist them get through this. Notify the police and school officials to ensure the incident can be appropriately documented and investigated. Save the evidence – although there may be an instinct to delete or remove the offending images to prevent further harm to the youth, this information may be used as evidence if a criminal investigation ensues.
  • Engage the School for Assistance: Explore with school officials what steps can be taken to prevent further harm and stop any related behaviour from continuing. Work with the school to create a safety plan to ensure those who have been affected feel supported and know what and to go to for help to address any further problems.
  • Address the Offending Content: After evidence of the offending content has been saved, if the content continues to be publicly available on the Internet (i.e. social networking sites), contact the site directly by utilizing the Report Abuse function to request the material be removed. Visit the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s www.needhelpnow.ca for additional information for removing offending content.

When Talking to Youth about their Involvement

  • When speaking with a youth about their involvement in the incident (whether they are the victim or offending youth) consider the following tips:
  • Listen to the youth without judgement. Keep the lines of communication open, let them know you are there to listen to them and to support them. Depending upon the youth’s role in the incident, they may be experiencing a wide range of emotions and social impact amongst peers.
  • Errors in judgement, such as this, provide youth an opportunity to learn and grow. Accountability and ownership of the situation is an important part of learning and healing. Differentiate the error in judgement from having the incident define who the youth is.
  • Consequences for the inappropriate behaviour need to be reasonable and fit the situation. Use the incident as the backdrop for discussions about the boundaries and limits for the safe use of electronic devices. Discuss what healthy and respectful relationships look like and how others deserve to be treated.

Resources

KidsHelpPhone.ca – 1-800-668-6868 – a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential helpline for children and youth.
Cybertip.ca – Operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, along with being Canada’s tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children, Cybertip.ca provides resources for parents, educators, and youth on Internet safety.
GetCyberSafe.gc.ca – a resource of the Government of Canada providing information to keep Canadians safe online.
Kids in the Know – www.kidsintheknow.ca – is the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s interactive safety education program designed for students from Kindergarten to Grade 9. The program provides educators with resources to teach effective personal safety strategies to reduce the likelihood of victimization in the online and offline world.
NeedHelpNow.ca – an initiative of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, providing information and support to youth who have been negatively impacted by a sexual image to help stop the spread of the image.
www.mediasmarts.ca – Provides digital and media literacy programs and resources to provide adults with information and tools to help children and youth develop critical thinking skills for interacting in the digital world.

The BC Crime Prevention Association (BCCPA) in partnership with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) are reminding pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers to follow the rules of the road in an effort to avoid tragedies this summer.

With the nice weather and summer months approaching, more and more people will be out for walks and cycling in the streets of Vancouver. BCCPA and VPD want to remind everyone that road safety is a priority, and it is everyone’s responsibility to keep our roads safe by watching and being aware of all road users at all times.

Crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists increase from June to September. The VPD’s traffic enforcement officers will be focusing their efforts on behaviours that put the safety of pedestrians and cyclists at risk.

In the Lower Mainland, an average of 450 cyclists are injured and three are killed from June to September every year.

“Everyone shares the responsibility of making sure people get where they are going safely,” says Acting Inspector Ken Eng of the VPD’s Traffic Section. “Collisions are preventable and we encourage pedestrians, drivers and cyclists to watch out for each other.”

Pedestrians Tips:

  • Always make eye contact with an approaching driver or cyclist before crossing the road, and assume they cannot see you.
  • Wear bright reflective clothing at night or during poor visibility.
  • Do not J-walk – cross roads at crosswalks and obey traffic signals.
  • Pay Attention – don’t text while walking.

Driver Tips:

  • Actively watch for cyclists on the road – make eye contact with cyclists whenever possible to let them know you have seen them.
  • Shoulder-check for cyclists before turning right and watch for oncoming cyclists before turning left.
  • Before you or a passenger opens a vehicle door, shoulder-check for cyclists coming from behind.
  • Before you pull away from the curb, make sure you shoulder-check for cyclists.
  • If you need to cross a bike lane to turn right or to pull to the side of the road, signal well in advance and yield to cyclists.
  • If you’re entering the roadway from a laneway or parking lot, always scan for cyclists and other road users.

Cyclist Tips:

  • Cycle responsibly.
  • Plan your route before you go, give yourself plenty of time and choose bike lanes and paths where possible; if you’re new to cycling, plan your cycling route and pick routes with less traffic – municipalities often have great maps of bike routes on their websites.
  • Be aware of what’s going on around you at all times and scan ahead for hazards like potholes, gravel, glass and drainage grates; watch for vehicles entering the roadway from laneways and parking lots.
  • When turning, shoulder-check well in advance, hand signal and then, with both hands on the handle bars, shoulder check again before turning.
  • Ride at least one metre away from parked vehicles to avoid being hit by an opening door or a vehicle pulling into your lane from the curb; use caution if you notice someone in the vehicle.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • It is illegal to cycle on most sidewalks and in crosswalks; it puts pedestrians in danger and drivers don’t expect cyclists to enter the roadway from a sidewalk.
  • Get a bell for your bike to help pedestrians hear you.
  • When riding at dusk, dawn or at night, your bike must be equipped with a white headlight visible at 150 metres and a rear red light and reflector visible at 100 metres – consider adding more lights to be even more visible.

Crashes involving pedestrians increase during fall and winter months due to reduced visibility caused by inclement weather and shorter days. According to ICBC, on average, 76 per cent more pedestrians are injured in crashes in BC from November through January every year compared to June through August.

Pedestrian Safety Tips 

  • Wear bright reflective clothing or use a flashlight at night or during poor visibility.
  • Pay attention – do not text while walking, do not use headphones.
  • Before stepping off the curb, look left and right for oncoming vehicles and for vehicles that may be turning onto the roadway from beside or behind you. Make sure that vehicles in all lanes are fully stopped before crossing.
  • Always make eye contact with an approaching driver before crossing the road. Assume drivers cannot see you.
  • Do not J-walk – cross at crosswalks and obey traffic signals.
  • When walking on a road without a sidewalk, walk facing traffic so that you can see oncoming vehicles.

Cyclist Safety Tips

  • With lower visibility due to inclement weather and darker days, it is important to have reflective gear and lights on your bicycle.
  • Do not ride bicycles on the sidewalk – it’s illegal to cycle on sidewalks or in crosswalks. Stay to the right hand side of the roadway or in designated bike lanes.
  • Use a bell on your bicycle to warn approaching pedestrians and other road users.
  • Bicycles are vehicles and must follow all rules of the road.

Driver Safety Tips 

  • Give yourself extra time to get to your destination.
  • Do not tailgate. Maintain a sufficient distance from the car in front of you so that you will have plenty of distance to stop.
  • Yield to pedestrians on roadways.
  • Watch for pedestrians at intersections, especially when making left and right-hand turns.
  • Expect the unexpected – a vehicle stopping in the lane beside you may be yielding to a pedestrian crossing the road.
  • Before you or one of your passengers open a vehicle door, check for on coming cyclists.
  • Be mindful of pedestrians when pulling into and out of driveways or parking spots, especially if you are backing up. Pedestrians can easily enter your path without your knowledge.
  • Ensure your vehicle is equipped for the weather conditions you will be driving in. Check road conditions and be aware of highways that require the use of winter tires – M+S or a tire with the mountain and snowflake pictograph on it.

The holiday season can be a wonderful time of celebration.  BCCPA and Metro Vancouver Transit Police encourage you to celebrate safely and responsibly.

Plan Ahead

  • Make a note of the time of your last bus, train or SeaBus and leave enough time to get there.
  • Carry extra cash or a credit card for a taxi in case of an emergency.
  • Ensure you your cell phone is charged in case you need to make a call.

If you are drinking

When under the influence of alcohol, it becomes more difficult to be aware of your surroundings.  If you choose to indulge, consider the following:

  • Travel with a friend or someone you trust.
  • Be mindful of fast moving trains approaching the stations-stay behind the yellow line.
  • If in doubt, consider taking a taxi home to avoid missing transfers and the potential of being left stranded.

Remember that being intoxicated in public is against the law.  This includes public transportation.  Please enjoy the holidays responsibly, keeping in mind your personal safety and the safety of others.

Travelling Safely

  • Tell someone when and where you are travelling.
  • Walk to and from the bus stop or transit station along a well-lit path. Don’t be tempted to short-cut through a dark or isolated area.
  • Avoid poorly lit areas-stay in sight of CCTV cameras or other people.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and present yourself confidently on your journey.
  • Falling asleep on transit makes you vulnerable to crime—move around if you feel tired.
  • Avoid being engrossed in your personal electronic device—remove one ear bud to stay in tune with what’s going on around you.
  • Request A Stop: If you feel safer getting off the bus at a point between two regular bus stops, some transit authorities offer “Request A Stop” between certain hours in the evenings. The bus driver will let you off if he or she believes it’s safe to do so.
  • If you drive to a transit exchange, park your vehicle in a well-lit area. When returning to your vehicle, have your keys ready.  Conduct a safety check by walking around your vehicle.

Protect your belongings

  • Have your transit pass or ticket ready so that your wallet is out of sight.
  • Keep purses secure and carry wallets in an inside pocket.
  • Keep all electronic devices close to you and out of sight.
  • Do not leave personal items or bags unattended.

According to the Canada Safety Council, more fatalities occur on Canadian roads during the summer months than at any other time of year. Alcohol, fatigue and aggressive driving are often implicated in these tragedies.

The BC Crime Prevention Association reminds all drivers of the following tips for ensuring safe summer driving;

Stay Alert
During summer months, travellers often drive long distances to get to their vacation destinations. This creates a temptation to keep driving for extended periods.

Fatigue is a form of impairment, do not give into the temptation to push on. If you feel fatigued, have a good sleep before you take the wheel. Rest stops are important. Stretch breaks help drivers maintain alertness.

Be sure your route is broken down into doable driving segments, both to and from your final destination.

Mechanical Fitness of Vehicle

  • Before leaving on a road trip, have your vehicle inspected to make sure it is mechanically sound. Repair or replace worn parts. Check all tires, including the spare tire, for condition and pressure. Replace your windshield wiper blades if they are worn or cracked. Make sure all lights work.
  • Pack plenty of water; keep a flashlight, flares and first aid kit in a place that can be easily reached in an emergency.
  • When stopping for fuel, check your vehicle’s fluid levels, tire inflation and lights.
  • Program or adjust your GPS or any electronic devices before you leave. All provinces in Canada have some form of distracted driving law prohibiting the use of electronic devices, including GPS.
  • Be aware of fuel levels and of road signs warning of where the next service station will be located. Often there can be hundreds of kilometres between service stations or towns in isolated areas. Be aware that cellular phone service may not be reliable in isolated and remote areas.

Share the Road

  • Be cautious of cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.
  • Wild animals on roads can be hazardous – scan the road and ditches ahead for animals, especially when driving during dawn or dusk hours.
  • Summer brings increased construction on roads and highways – be prepared to stop or slow down in construction zones.
  • Many jurisdictions have laws requiring motorists to slow down and move over, for ALL vehicles (emergency or maintenance) stopped alongside the road, which have flashing red, blue or yellow lights.

Towing a trailer or Carrying a Heavy Load

  • Before you tow a trailer or haul a load, make sure your vehicle is properly equipped. All vehicles have a maximum load/tow capacity. Check your owner’s manual or if in doubt contact your vehicle dealer. Rooftop cargo carriers have limits to how much they can store, review the product literature to ensure you have properly secured the unit to the top of your vehicle and you follow the load limits.
  • When towing a trailer, check your rear view mirrors to ensure a clear view of the road behind.
  • When driving a heavily loaded car or towing a trailer vehicles need more space to stop or pass. Leave plenty of distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead. Keep your distance. If cars cut in front of you, drop back to keep your separation.
  • When traveling slower than the flow of traffic, keep right except to pass.

Travelling with Children

  • According to Transport Canada, every year about 10,000 children (from infants to 12-year olds) are hurt or killed on the roads. The best thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to make sure your children are buckled-up properly while in the car. The back seat is always the safest place for children. Visit www.tc.gc.ca/eng/motorvehiclesafety/safedrivers-childsafety-car-time-stages-1083.htm to learn more about child safety in vehicles.
  • Pack drinks and snacks to enjoy on the road. Pack games and books to keep children entertained both in the vehicle and in restaurants or during rest stops.

Drive Defensively

  • Drive according to the posted speed limit. Speeding increases the likelihood and severity of a crash.
  • When encountering an aggressive driver, call 911, if the situation warranted. DO NOT reciprocate the high risk driving behavior.

Whether for recreation or as a mode of transportation, bicycling can be a safe and enjoyable activity for riders of all ages. Riders should respect the rules of the road and keep a safety conscious attitude. By law, cyclists have the same rights and duties as vehicle operators.  The same rules of right-of-way, traffic signs and signals, apply to cyclists.

Protect and Prepare Yourself Before Cycling

  • Ensure your bicycle is operating properly: ensure brakes are strong enough for a quick stop. Tires should be inflated to recommended pressure; lights and reflectors should be installed for when cycling in the evening or bad weather. Make sure bike is the right size and adjusted to fit individuals properly. Perform regular maintenance and safety checks.
  • Consider accessories for emergencies and increased safety. Avoid hanging bags or loose loads on handle bars, this can affect the control and steering of a bike – saddle bags allow you to comfortably and safely carry a load while keeping your hands on the handlebars. A bell is useful to warn and alert pedestrians or other trail users of your approach. A basic bicycle toolkit, pump and mini first-aid kit come in handy for roadside emergencies. Mirrors can assist in seeing traffic in front and behind the rider.
  • Helmets are the law. Ensure you have a properly fitted helmet, certified to CSA, ANSI, ASTM, or SNELL standards. Hockey or other types of sports helmets are not legal for cycling.
  • Consider weather and duration of a ride. Be visible, wear brightly coloured clothing or a safety vest. Plan routes that avoid obstacles or hazards. Avoid high volume traffic or high-speed roads.

Tips for Drivers

The top two contributing factors in motor vehicle accidents involving cyclists are one distracted driving and two failing to yield the right-of-way.

  • Do not become distracted. Watch for cyclists on the road and make eye contact if you can, so they can anticipate sudden or planned moves.
  • Shoulder check for cyclists before turning right and watch for oncoming cyclists before turning left.
  • Yield to cyclists and signal well in advance when crossing a designated bike lane or when pulling over.
  • Keep a safe distance (at least three seconds) behind cyclists. Make room (at least one metre) when passing a cyclist to avoid the risk of side-swiping or running a cyclist off the road.
  • Scan for cyclists before entering the roadway from an alley or when entering or exiting a parking lot.
  • Open doors can be dangerous. It is important drivers and passengers shoulder check for cyclists before opening doors.

Safe Cycling

Look up when riding and look one and a half to two blocks forward. Anticipate behaviour and movements of others on the road. Make eye contact with other road users. Make hand signals well in advance of any turn. Do not cycle beyond your confidence level. Do not wear headphones while cycling.

Be aware of hazards. Be aware of traffic emerging from driveways. Drivers of large vehicles, such as trucks and buses, have blind spots and may be unable to see cyclists, if you cannot see the driver in the mirror, they cannot see you – avoid riding in blind spots and be prepared for wide turns. Cross railway tracks carefully – watch for uneven pavement and grooves that can catch wheels. Cycle at least one metre away from parked vehicles to avoid being hit by an opening door or a vehicle pulling out from the curb.

The law requires traffic moving less than the normal speed of traffic to keep to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway. Cyclist may choose to take the whole lane by riding in the centre of it if there is no bike lane and the curb lane is narrow – this may be safer than riding near the curb, which may encourage motorist to squeeze in where there is not enough room.

It is against the law to ride on sidewalks and in crosswalks.

Preventing Bicycle Theft

A bike is stolen ever 30 seconds

  • Invest in a good quality lock. Avoid cable locks, which can be easily removed with wire cutters. Chain and U-locks offer better protection. Always lock bikes up, no matter how long you will be gone or where it is parked.
  • Learn the best way to secure your bike. Park with other bikes – bikes do not need to be impossible to steal, just more difficult to steal than other bikes. Do not forget to lock your wheels and saddle.
  • Record the bicycle’s serial number upon purchase – engrave your driver’s license on the frame to assist in returning the bike to you if it is found. Many local police departments have bicycle registry or identification prog

With the longer days of spring and summer, many may take advantage of a run, a hike or paddle in the lake, or a weekend adventure into the backwoods. We rarely head out for an outdoor adventure with the expectation that something may go wrong. Most times things do go well however, being prepared for the unexpected can mean the difference between a successful outcome and becoming a statistic.

The following tips will help ensured you are prepared for safely enjoying your favourite outdoor activity.

Planning Your Activity

  • Ensure you are familiar with the route or area you are planning your outdoor activity in. Know the terrain and conditions; be sure you have the knowledge and skills to safely enjoy the activity. Stay within your limits. Obey all posted safety signs and warnings.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and safety equipment.
  • Do not depend solely on technology – equipment failure and lack of reception are possible in the outdoors. Carry a map and compass as backup.
  • Pack survival items in the event of an unplanned emergency. Survival items can include: a working flashlight, fire making kit, signaling devise (whistle or mirror), large orange plastic bag, extra food or water, extra clothing, Mylar blanket, first aid kit, pocket knife, sun protection, bear repellant or pepper spray.

On the Water

  • Lifejackets or personal floatation devices (PFDs) are the most effective piece of safety equipment you can use while on the water, ensure you are wearing a properly fitted lifejacket or PFD.
  • Be aware of cold water risks, the immediate effects of cold water immersion can be life-threatening. If you end up in the water, do everything you can to save your energy and body heat – swim only if you can join others or reach safety, do not swim to keep warm.
  • Whether in a motorized pleasure craft, paddling or surfing test your equipment to ensure it is in working order. Know the rules of the waterways for the size of the watercraft.
  • All operators of motorized pleasure craft used for recreational purposes must carry proof of competency on board, typically the Pleasure Craft Operator Card.
  • Be aware of surroundings and hazards such as strong currents, hidden rocks/reefs, debris, gusty/lofty/onshore wind, and boaters or other water users.
  • Check the tide currents. Watch the weather, know the environment, and respect your abilities.

In the Backwoods

  • If you choose to go out hiking alone, complete a trip plan and leave it with a friend – A trip plan explains your destination, the route being taken, who is in the group and a return time. If individuals do not return as planned, the friend left the trip plan with can give the information to the police to initiate a search.
  • When enjoying off-road vehicles in the backwoods, ensure your vehicle is well maintained and pack the necessary tools and gear. Know your limits, ride within your abilities, in a controlled manner and with common sense. Wear a helmet and proper protective equipment. Respect the environment and other trail users – slow down your bike or ATV when you meet hikers, bikers or horses on the trail.
  • Always set and stick to turnaround times. Adjust your plan when circumstances, such as changes in weather or lack of daylight.
  • Always be alert and pay attention to your surroundings. This will assist you in recognizing signs of animals (such as bears or cougars) and assist you in retracing the route should you become lost or need to turnaround.
  • If you encounter a wild animal (i.e. bear, cougar, wolf), stop, speak in a calm tone, stand tall. Back away slowly, preferably in the direction you came from. Walk, do not run, keep your eye on the animal, but do not make direct eye contact, to allow observation of how it is reacting. Wave your arms, open your jacket or wave branches to make yourself look bigger versus appearing like prey.

Know What to Do if You Get Lost or Stranded

  • Do not panic, stay calm and remain where you are. Avoid heading downhill or down gullies, as this can lead to thicker bush and more dangerous terrain.
  • Help searchers find you. Use signalling devices – whistle blasts (x 3), lighting a fire, display an orange garbage bag. Animals will not be attracted to your signals. The most important thing is making yourself and your location visible to searchers.
  • During the daylight, stay in the open. At night, build or find shelter.

Additional safety tips for a variety of outdoor activities can be found at Adventure Smart, a national program dedicated to encouraging Canadians and visitors to Canada to “Get informed and go outdoors” www.adventuresmart.ca/index.php.

Spring is now upon us. As the days get longer and temperatures get warmer, many will flock towards outdoor activities. With these activities come hazards we need to be prepared and aware of.

The following reminders will help keep spring activities safe and fun for all:

Protecting your Home and Property

  • Keep doors locked at all times. If you are working in the backyard, keep your front and garage doors closed and locked. Keep doors locked when you leave, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
  • With warmer weather, many people open windows or sliding glass doors while they are at home. Remember to close and lock windows and sliding doors when you go to bed or leave.
  • When not in use, put all ladders, lawn care equipment and tools back into a secure storage area. Do not forget to secure recreational items such as bicycles and sports equipment when they are not in use. Always lock any storage unit or shed where property is stored.
  • Be aware of home improvement scams. If you did not solicit the contractor or salesman who shows up at your door unannounced, do not do business with that person and notify your local police if necessary.
  • If a Utilities representative comes to your house, request identification. True representatives have identification that should be viewable. Call their company for verification if necessary.
  • No one knows your neighborhood better than you, be aware of your surroundings and watch out for your neighbours. Having an involved and watchful community is one of the best crime prevention resources available.

Tips for the Gardener

  • Prevent theft of hanging baskets by using lockable hanging baskets. Alternative options include using plastic cable ties which can be wrapped around the basket chain hook or use a padlock and clamp the hook on the chain onto the bracket.
  • Make newly planted trees or shrubs more difficult to steal by using plant anchors specifically designed to anchor trees and shrubs.

Scooter, Bike, In-line Skating and Skateboard Safety

  • Wear appropriate safety gear. Wrist, elbow and knee pads that do not interfere with movement. Comfortable, properly fitted helmets should sit level on top of the head, not rocking in any direction and not interfering with vision or hearing – always fasten the safety strap.
  • Know how to stop properly. Come to a complete stop before entering driveways, paths or sidewalks. Look left, right and left again for bikes, cars or pedestrians heading in your path.
  • On in-line skates or skateboards, know how to fall safely. Bend your knees and get down low. Try to fall sideways, not backwards or head first. Try to land on your shoulder and roll. Fall onto your pads. Kick the board out from under your feet.

Yard Work Safety

  • Survey your lawn before mowing to ensure it is free of debris or objects that can cause injury. Never operate a mower in your bare feet and avoid wearing loose clothing. Never start a mower indoors. When refueling your mower, make sure the engine is off and cool. Don’t spill gasoline on a hot engine. Never leave your mower unattended. Don’t use electrical mowers on wet grass.
  • Inspect equipment and tools before each use – do not use if damaged. Read the equipment owner’s manuals and operate them according to instructions and only for the job they were engineered to do. Unplug all power tools when not in use and don’t leave tools unattended or allow children or inexperienced adults to operate them. Use proper eye protection. Make sure blade guards are in place on all cutting equipment.
  • If excavating, “call before you dig” – BC One Call 1-800-474-6886 to eliminate the risk of accidents where digging or excavation.

Ladder Safety

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the ladder. They contain guidelines for weight and height limits as well as for proper use.
  • Inspect the ladder before using it to make sure there are no loose or broken rungs.
  • Make sure the ladder is the right height for the job. Never stand on a ladder’s bucket shelf.
  • Make sure the ladder is completely open, and that all of its feet are planted on a firm, level surface.
  • Extension ladders should not be placed at an angle that is too extreme.
  • Face the ladder when climbing down and make sure your weight is centered between the two sides.

* Adapted from resources found at www.redcross.ca and Transport Canada

According to the Canadian Red Cross, an average of 400 Canadians drown each year. The risk of water-related injury or death when in, on or near water is often underestimated.

BCCPA encourages swimmers, boaters and those who will be near water to think safety when in or around water.

Pools
Backyard pools can provide many hours of summer fun, they can also be dangerous. Owning a backyard pool or hot tub comes with the responsibility of ensuring safe use.

  • Install a fence that has a self-closing and self-latching gate; keep the gate closed with restricted access at all times. Note: Many cities and municipalities have bylaws governing the fencing around residential swimming pools.
  • Have an action plan including adult supervision, an emergency signal, safety equipment and emergency procedures. Learn CPR and how to recognize and respond to water emergencies and injuries.
  • Keep the pool deck clear of toys and debris. Do not use glass containers in the pool area.
  • Do not use alcohol or drugs in or around the pool.
  • Small on-ground portable or kiddie pools should be emptied and turned over when not in use. Above-ground pools should have the ladder or steps removed when not in use. Keep hot tubs covered when not in use.
  • Active adult supervision is of the utmost importance – never leave children unattended. Establish pool rules – these can include: swimming with a buddy, having an adult present at all times; no running in pool area, and areas not to swim near, such as drains or suction outlets. Ensure children wear appropriate flotation devices.
  • Enroll children in swimming lessons. Adults who are weak swimmers should also take lessons. Most community pools offer swimming lessons for children and adults of all ages. Contact your local parks and recreation for details.

Open Waters

  • Never underestimate the power of currents. Swimming in open water is different than swimming in a pool – distance is deceiving, and one often has to contend with cold water, waves, drop offs, sandbars, undertows, and underwater obstacles, as well as boats and watercrafts.
  • If you become caught in a river current or fast moving water, roll onto your back and go downstream feet first to avoid hitting obstacles head first. When you are out of the strongest part of the current, swim straight toward shore.
  • If your boat has overturned, hang on to the upstream end of the boat.

Diving

Diving is a popular water activity – the risk of head, neck and spinal cord injury also means diving could be extremely dangerous without proper training and taking appropriate precautions. Diving is the leading sports-related cause of spinal cord injuries. 95% of diving injuries occur in water 1.5m deep or less.

  • Whether in familiar or unfamiliar waters, always enter feet-first the first time to be sure of the water depth and be aware of any hazards. Weather conditions can affect the depth of waterways or increase the amount of debris found in the water.
  • There are many factors to consider when determining whether or not it is safe to dive: the height, weight and skill level of the diver; length and depth of the diving area; and the height from which the dive will be taken.

In the Boat

  • Be prepared. Check weather forecast and water conditions. Carry marine charts. Inspect all equipment before departure. Ventilate all areas where fumes may accumulate.
  • Along with a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, boaters are required by law to carry marine safety equipment. At minimum, the following should be carried on board your boat:
    • Canadian-approved personal flotation device for each passenger on board
    • Buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres in length
    • Watertight flashlight OR Canadian approved flares
    • Sound-signaling device
    • Manual propelling device (i.e. paddle) OR an anchor with at least 15 metres of rope, chain or cable
    • Bailer OR manual water pump
    • Class 5 BC fire extinguisher
    • Additional safety equipment may apply depending on the type and length of your boat. Visit Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety for additional information at http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-menu-1362.htm
  • Operate your boat at a safe speed. Consider factors such as: visibility conditions; wind and water conditions; the maneuverability of your boat; other users in the water and the effects a boat’s wake may create; hazards such as rocks, logs or tree stumps.
  • Do not cruise with alcohol. Drinking and driving whether on land or water, is illegal and punishable by law.