Kick-off the Fall Season with a Fail Safe Fire Plan

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Each and every one of us know a friend, neighbor, or family member that has been impacted by a fire. Whether it was a house, garage, barn, or even gas grill fire, families have likely experienced great losses including their home, valued possessions, animals or pets, and even more devastating beloved family members. As we get ready for the fall season and celebrate National Fire Prevention Week next month, here are a few important tips to help prepare your family in the event of a fire:

  • Establish a Fire Safety Plan – Work as a family to develop an escape plan in the event of a home or barn fire. Instead of just creating a fire safety plan, put it to the test and demonstrate exactly what you would do if a fire occurred. Take a note from the schools and have random fire drills at various times throughout the year. Determine the best escape route. Depending on where the fire is occurring you should try and identify more than one way to vacate. Practice where you would meet as a family to assure everyone’s safety and what you should say when calling 911 or the fire department. Keep those important numbers stored as a contact in your cell phone, as well as written down and placed in a central location that can easily be found by all in the event of a fire or other emergency.
  • Install Smoke Alarms – A smoke alarm can sometimes be your first alert to a fire and can ultimately save your life! Make sure a smoke alarm is installed on every floor of your home and replace them every 10 years. Also, don’t forget to check the batteries! On a monthly basis, check to assure smoke alarm batteries are working properly and change the batteries each year.
  • Know the Proper Use of a Fire Extinguisher – Many of us know what a fire extinguisher is; however, many of us our guilty of not knowing how to properly use it. As a family, learn about the different types of fire extinguishers and practice how to use them properly. Keep fire extinguishers in an easily accessible place and check gauges regularly to make sure they are in working condition if need to be used in an emergency.

Fire safety is one of the most popular topics taught at a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®. Last year alone, 58% of our 396 Safety Days held a station on fire safety. These fire safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, which are held each year throughout North America. Learn more about the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program at

Fire Safety Picture

A participant learns the correct way to use a fire extinguisher at a 2014 Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® held in Eastern Iowa.

Back to School Safety Tips

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Notebooks…check, pens & pencils…check, new clothes…check, safety…wait what? For many families, this is a very busy time of year! Just likes it seems to do every year, summer went by too fast and those three little words most kids dread to hear “BACK TO SCHOOL” are being echoed around the country. Over the past few weeks, we tried squeezing in our last family getaways and headed out to the stores for all the last minute back to school necessities, but as we officially kick-off another school year it is important to discuss SAFETY! Here are a few quick tips to assure your child is starting the school year off right:

  • When back to school shopping, be sure to select a backpack that is ergonomically designed. Remind your child to not over-stuff their backpack, they should not weigh more that 10%-20% of your child’s weight. Also, encourage them to use both straps to evenly distribute weight.
  • Getting back in the school routine after summer break can be challenging, but by assuring your child is getting a good night sleep, get in their vitamin C, and starting of each morning with a healthy breakfast, they will be better equip to fight off the germs, prevent illness, and will be more alert during the school day.
  • Encourage your children to always walk on sidewalks. If there isn’t one, they should walk on the left side of the road facing the oncoming traffic.
  • The U.S. National Safety Council offers these suggestions regarding bus safety: Walk your child to the bus stop on the first day of school and show the child the appropriate ways to board and exit the bus. Tell your child to stand at least 6 feet back from the curb while waiting for the bus. If your child must cross in front of the bus, teach him or her to walk on the curb until he or she is 12 feet ahead of the bus. Make sure your child knows that he or she should always be able to see the bus driver, and that the bus driver should always be able to see the child.
  • If you are driving your child to and from school, always make sure your child wears a seat belt and children 12 & under should sit in the backseat. Depending on the size and weight of your child, a booster seat may still be needed.
  • You never know when the school may need to reach a parent in the event of an emergency. If you have moved or changed your phone number or e-mail since the end of the last school year, be sure you to notify the school with the change.
  • Make it a point to talk to your child about their day at school, whether in the car ride home or over dinner. This will help you identify any signs of bullying or other issues that may be going on at school and allow you to address the problem early on.

For a complete list of back to school safety tips, visit the National Safety Council

These safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, which are held each year in more than 400 local communities throughout North America. To learn more about the Safety Day program, visit our website at

Ticks, Mosquitoes & Spiders Oh My! Identifying & Protecting Yourself from Insect Bites

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Whether relaxing in the evening after a hot summer day, keeping busy outside doing yard work or farm chores, or just taking a hike through the woods, bugs have a tendency to ruin your pleasurable experience. We invest money on citronella candles and zappers to keep the pesky bugs away, but we still seem to end up with bug bites. If we are lucky, we only need to put up with the annoying itching and irritation for a couple days at most, but sometimes bug bites can lead to bigger problems if not taken care of immediately.

In recent years, ticks have really become an issue. As a mother of two young girls, checking them for ticks has become as common as having them wash their hands before a meal. Both of my children have had tick bites and luckily the ticks were removed properly with no issues; however, several others in my family have not been so lucky and have encountered an infectious disease, known as Lyme disease. The disease is transmitted to humans through a tick bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick. A tick has to be present on the skin for 24 to 48 hours to transmit the infection. One of the scariest things about Lyme’s Disease is most people have no memory of a tick bite. The results of the illness or pathogens transmitted by ticks often begin days to weeks after the tick is gone. After a tick bite, individuals may develop symptoms due to the organism that the tick transmits during its bite. The earlier a tick is removed, the less the likelihood that the tick transmitted any disease. For proper tick identification, it is important to keep the tick by putting it in a plastic baggie with some rubbing alcohol. With tick bites being so common in my area, Lyme’s Disease has been a popular topic at my local Progressive Agriculture Safety Day.

Mosquitoes are looked at by many as more of a nuisance than a dangerous insect, but they can spread diseases among both humans and animals including various forms of encephalitis. One of the most common diseases in recent years has been West Nile Virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 70%-80% of people who actually become infected with West Nile Virus rarely develop symptoms; however, 1 in 5 of the people infected will develop symptoms. Most people with this type of West Nile Virus recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

Although the black widow and brown recluse are the only two medically significant spider bites common in North America, almost all spiders are venomous to some degree; however, most venom is too weak or the spider is too small to be a danger to humans. Redness, swelling, itching, and pain are the most common indicators of a spider or other bug bite. If these symptoms continue to get worse over a 24 hour period or you experience additional symptoms it is wise to seek medical attention.

For most of these insect bites, infected individuals may experience the following symptoms: headache, fever, nausea & vomiting, sweating, chills, numbness, rash with a “bull’s eye” or “halo” appearance, confusion, exhaustion or weakness, stomach cramps, pain and swelling in the joints, heart palpitations or rapid pulse, and even shortness of breath. The best way to avoid experiencing any symptoms is through prevention of the bite. This can be challenging, but dressing appropriately and using insect repellant can help combat bites. Unfortunately, there are no vaccinations for many of these diseases. Treatment can be as mild as a cream or oral antibiotic, intravenous antibiotics to even hospitalization.

If you do get a bite you are concerned about, it is important to document your encounter to get the best results and help identify the culprit. It is helpful to know when you first noticed the bite, when and where you think the bite occurred, and take daily photos of the infected area. It is also important to note if you have been traveling, as diseases common in other areas may not be on your local health care provider’s radar. The most accurate you can be with these answers, the best chance your bite can be identified and appropriate treatment can be determined.

These safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, which are held each year in more than 400 local communities throughout North America. To learn more about the Safety Day program, visit our website at

What Hosting a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day could mean to your Community?

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Each year across North America, hundreds of Progressive Agriculture Safety Days take place. Since our program originated in 1995, Safety Days have reached more than 1.2 million participants and volunteers. We continuously strive to make farm and ranch life safer and healthier for children and their communities.  No matter the time of year or your community’s size or location, Progressive Agriculture Safety Days are taking place year-round in both rural and urban areas to both large and small audiences.

You may be asking yourself, what makes a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day so special? The key ingredient to our program is providing educational training and resources for local communities to conduct a one-day safety and health program. During training, coordinators are given resources on planning for a Safety Day, as well as access to 28 safety-related topics including lesson plans, demonstrations, and age-appropriate, hands-on activities for the participants. From specific farm-related topics including grain bin, tractor, and PTO safety to general topics including healthy lifestyles, fire, ATV, and animal safety, we give you the tools to customize a safety day that fits the needs of your community. From community to school-based Safety Days, implementation of the program around what works best for your area is what makes us so unique. From learning new tips to stay safe both at home and on the farm to shedding light on unsafe practices in hopes of making a positive change, hosting a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day is one of the best things you can do for one of the most valuable resources in your community — the children!

In addition to training and resources provided to the coordinator, a t-shirt, take-home bag, and insurance coverage for the day is all provided by the Progressive Agriculture Foundation. We are able to do this year after year thanks to the amazing support of our corporate sponsors, commitment from dedicated volunteers, and in-kind donations of cash and other items at the local level. If you are like me, you will find hosting a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day as one of the most rewarding experiences you will even have. Hearing success stories from how old, unsafe practices were changed to new safer practices to how a lesson helped save a life or prevent an injury, really help put into perspective exactly why this program is so dynamic.

Who can be a coordinator? Anyone with a passion and interest in helping their community be safer and healthier. Our coordinators range from Extension Educators, school teachers, 4-H leaders & FFA advisors, Individuals working in a health or safety-related field, retirees, and community leaders to name a few.

Do you want to host a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day in your community for 2015? Visit our website at, click on the “Apply Now” button, and tell us about plans for a Safety Day in your community. You will be notified by early-fall if your request to host a Safety Day has been accepted! Hurry —- the deadline to apply is July 15, 2014!


Staying Safe While Visiting a County Fair or Amusement Park this Summer

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

The smell of popcorn and cotton candy fill the air, the sounds of youngsters shouting for joy as they soar up and down on a carousel, and the colorful balloons and smiling faces are just some of the special memories you may recall about a past trip to a county fair, local festival or amusement park. Although each venue is unique and special in their own way, safety practices while attending one of these places are universal. So how can you assure your visit to a county fair, local festival or amusement park is a safe, healthy and happy one? Here are some tips to ensure you and your loved ones have a fun-filled and safe time.

The first step in assuring safety starts before you even leave your house. Be sure to check the weather report and dress appropriately. This can help you avoid being too hot or too cold, alert you to pack a poncho or umbrella in case of rain, or postpone your trip due to potentially hazardous weather conditions. Also, be sure to pack waterproof sunscreen, wear comfortable shoes, and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. Drinking water is important in both preparation for your visit, as well as during your visit.

Secondly, when you arrive to your destination, locate a special family meeting place. This way if you happen to get separated, you can all report to one place instead of frantically looking for each other among the crowds. Make sure you remember what your child is wearing, that way others can assist you in locating your child. This can be easily done by snapping a photo of them on your cell phone at the start of the day. Having your child wear some form of identification such as a bracelet or a contact tag. In addition to locating a meeting place, you may want to identify the location of a first aid station in case your family would need to visit it during the course of the day.

Third, ride safety is must! Be sure to check health conditions, as well as height and safety requirements prior to getting in line for a ride. Safety requirements are listed for a reason and should be followed. As you enter a ride, make sure to fasten your seatbelt or harness and keep your hands inside the car or on the grab bar at all times. If you do not feel secure, don’t be afraid to ask a ride attendant for help. It is always better to be safe than sorry! Never exit the ride until it comes to a complete stop. Also, fences and gates are in place for a reason, so never climb them or trespass forbidden areas.

Fourth, be aware of your surroundings. In many cases, injuries can stem from not paying attention to those around you. From tripping over someone or something like a baby stroller or electrical cords on the ground to running quickly to get in line for a ride, slowing down and paying attention can avoid a lot of unnecessary accidents. On a beautiful day, numerous others will have the same idea as you and be heading out to an amusement park or fair, so be prepared to deal with crowds on your visit.

Fifth, always wash your hands. At many county fairs and festivals there are petting zoos or animals on display. To prevent the spread of E.coli bacteria and other diseases, always wash your hands after touching an animal and especially before you eat a meal. Be sure to check for a restroom or hand washing station on the grounds.

Finally, remember that safety starts with you! Lead by example and if you notice a safety concern, such as a broken restraint on a ride or a child playing in dangerous area, alert an employee or someone in charge immediately! You may have a hand in keeping someone else out of harm’s way!

These safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, which are held each year in more than 400 local communities throughout North America. To learn more about the Safety Day program, visit our website at


Summing Up Summer Safety

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for Progressive Agriculture Foundation

FINALLY…..after what seemed to be an endless winter, beautiful weather is upon us! This year, Mother Nature seemed to skip over spring and move us straight into summer. At least that was true for me in Central Pennsylvania. With summer comes warm weather, bright sunshine and numerous outdoor activities. For many of us, Memorial Day serves as the unofficial start to summer and as June approaches, schools beginning letting out for summer break. Soon the anticipation for family vacations, picnics, and other fun-filled activities sets in. However, the moment we step out our front door, we run the risk of being faced with potentially dangerous situations.

In the hustle and bustle of our hectic schedules, we tend to forget key items to keep us safe on a day-to-day basis. We grab the swim gear and forget the sunscreen, we jump on our bike or ATV and forget the helmet, and we load up the canoe or kayak and forget the life vest! On many occasions, we hop in our car and forget to do the simplest things like fasten our seatbelt because we are only going a short distance. Even when we assure our seatbelt is fastened, we become distracted adjusting the air conditioning, finding our favorite station on radio, or sending what we believe is an urgent text message. I am sure all of us have been guilty of one these scenarios in the past! This summer, let’s pledge to change that!

As we kick-off summer, let’s strive to make special memories with our loved ones and avoid tragedies at all cost. Here are a few tips to help make sure your summer is a safe, healthy, and happy one:

  1. It is OK to say NO! If your child asks if they can ride on the tractor with you, ask to leave their helmet off as they hop on their ATV, or leave their seatbelt unfastened when taking a quick trip to the grocery store, think about the potential consequences before you agree. Accidents can happen in the blink of eye and many times they happen close to home. What can happen in a matter of seconds can have repercussions that last a lifetime! Say NO to potential hazards and say YES to safety at all times!
  2. Put together a first aid kit to take on the go! This can be a fun family project and can include some additional items that are most needed in the summer months such as sunscreen, aloe, bug spray, medications for bee stings, and tweezers to remove ticks or splinters. Even if your family if lucky enough not to need the first aid kit, you never know when you will be in the presence of another that may be in need of it. It is always best to be prepared!
  3. Don’t forget to hydrate! Water is one of the human body’s basic needs for survival that often gets overlooked. In the extreme heat, drinking water and plenty of it is essential! Don’t forget the H2O when you are on the go!
  4. Summer wouldn’t be the same without picnics! Be sure to use precautions when working around a gas grills or campfires, as well as practice food safety protocols. Wash your hands when handling food and keep food at appropriate temperatures to ensure they do not spoil. A good rule of thumb is to not let perishable foods unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.
  5. Keep your cool in and around the pool! Pay attention to signs alerting you to rules and potential dangers in swimming areas. Avoid diving in shallow areas and never swim alone. The handling of pool chemicals can also be a hidden danger. Chemicals are added to the water in pools to stop germs from spreading and keep the pool clean; however, they need to be handled and stored safely to avoid serious injuries.  Nearly 5,000 pool chemical-related injuries, including respiratory, eye and skin injuries, were treated in emergency rooms throughout the United States in 2012.
  6. Avoid distracting behavior while driving! The reports of accidents taking place during the summer holidays is sobering. Be sure to drive responsibly at all times. Avoid drinking alcohol, texting, speeding, and other distracting behavior while behind the wheel. It is important to always be aware of your surroundings and watch for other vehicles that may be driving erratically, as well as pedestrians or animals that may cross your path. Also, if we are traveling a distance and become tired or experience bad weather don’t be afraid to pull over!
  7. Lead by Example! As we reflect on National Family Month, which runs annually from Mother’s Day through Father’s Day, an opportunity exists for families to share special time together, develop or renew relationships, identify or rediscover needs and remind everyone of the importance of family involvement in raising healthy, confident kids for America’s future. This serves as a great opportunity to realize that we are our children’s first teachers and role models. Demonstrating safety at all times is crucial in not only keep our kids safe, but assuring they make safe decisions for years to come!

These safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend Progressive Agriculture Safety Days, which are held each year in more than 400 local communities throughout North America. Learn more about our farm Safety Day programs at

Candy or Medicine??? Help Prevent Accidental Poisonings in Young Children

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Many times when we think about poison safety, the thought of household cleaners & chemicals first come to mind; however, medications if placed in the wrong hands can be dangerous & even deadly! While we keep medications and vitamins in convenient areas, like near the bathroom or kitchen sink or on a nightstand, they could be posing a major threat to the children in our lives. Annually, about one million phone calls are made to the Poison Control Center because their child ingested something poisonous.

Eight years ago, I began hosting a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day for elementary school students in Clearfield County, as well as helping out with those offered in neighboring counties. Although our programs are geared towards youth, I was shocked at what I discovered through a chemical safety & poison look-a-like station we offered. Many medications currently on the market resemble popular candy, from M & M’s & Skittles that look like Coricidin to Hershey’s Chocolate that resemble an Ex-Lax to Gummy Bears that look like Vitamins. During the safety days, I was amazed that when I opened my mock-medicine cabinet the children had a very difficult time telling the difference between what was a medicine and what was a candy. It didn’t just stop with the medicine & candy, but the children struggled to distinguish juices and sports drinks, like Powerade and Gatorade, from cleaning and personal products like dish soap, window cleaner, mouthwash, and multi-surface cleaners. According to a 2012 study by Safe Kids Worldwide, approximately 165 young children in the United States visit the emergency room daily after getting into medications. 95% of these cases are children under the age of 5 that ingested medication while unsupervised and the other 5% are due to errors in medication dosages. Therefore, 100% of these cases could have been prevented or avoided! As a parent, this really opened my eyes to the dangers that can be found right in the home. It makes you think about all the measures you go through to keep your children safe, yet there are hidden hazardous right under our nose. Did you ever notice how Comet Cleaner resembles a can of grated Parmesan cheese or chewing tobacco looks like beef jerky or plant food looks like candy sticks? How can we expect a young child to tell the difference? This is scary and it is important to educate our kids about the dangerous of mistaken one of these items for another! Although from 1979 to 2006, the poisoning death rate was cut in half, the poisoning deaths from medication rose from 36% to 64% according to Safe Kids.

Another scary thought is the fact that children’s medication has changed over the years. There have been positive changes with the variety of flavors, from bubble gum to blue raspberry and everything in between, now available to get the most stubborn child to take their medication. Unfortunately this can be a negative when children identify their medication flavors as “yummy” or similar to their favorite candy. Therefore, what can we do to protect our children and prevent accidental overdoses or ingestion from happening? First, always use child-resistant packaging and secure the bottles after use. Secondly, keep all medications locked up and out of sight. Third, when cleaning, gardening, or taking medications be sure to watch children closely. Fourth, be sure to keep original labels on all products and make sure to properly identify medicine and dosage instructions before taking or administrating. Fifth, educate your children using the iconic Mr. Yuk stickers to identify potential poisonous products. This is very helpful to younger children, especially those who cannot yet read, but can associate Mr. Yuk with harmful products. Sixth, never share prescription drugs or medication with anyone other than who they are prescribed to. Finally, keep the number for the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222 or search for local chapters) posted in a visible, central, and easy to find place so babysitters and other family members can locate it if an emergency arises. For additional information, go to the American Association of Poison Control Centers at

In addition to keeping your children and loved ones safe, it is important to keep your community safe as well by disposing of medications properly. Follow FDA (Food & Drug Administration) & ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy) guidelines for disposing of drug and medications or talk to a pharmacists if in doubt. Take advantage of community take-back programs, where you can take unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. If there are no specific recommendations for disposal or you are permitted to throw your drugs away in the trash, take them out of the bottle and mix with undesirable items or place in a baggie or can to avoid them getting eaten by a pet or child and to avoid leakage. Also, before discarding your bottles, be sure to remove all personal information from the bottle to avoid identify theft.

These safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend Progressive Agriculture Safety Days, which are held each year in more than 400 local communities throughout North America. Learn more about our farm Safety Day programs at