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Pete Grutzius
Pete Grutzius is field services commander with the Lansing Police Department.

With the Memorial Day weekend signaling the unofficial start to summer and the kids getting out of school soon, it is a good time to start thinking about safety.

It has been my experience that while the summer brings many fond memories, it can be marred by avoidable accidents. Here are some easy tips to make the summer a happy and healthy one for you and your family.

Be aware of the heat

Everyone is at risk any time the heat rises above 90 degrees, but the elderly and very young are most susceptible to heat-related illness.

Heat-related illnesses can cause serious injury or even death if not treated. Signs include nausea, dizziness, flushed or pale skin, heavy sweating and headache.

Move the injured person into a cool place, give cool water to drink and place ice packs or cool moist towels to the skin. If water cannot be tolerated, vomiting or unconsciousness occurs, call 911 immediately.

Safety tips include:

• Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. This helps reflect away the sun's energy.

• Drink plenty of water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continually even when you don't feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, they speed up dehydration.

• Slow down and avoid strenuous activity. If needed, plan these events in the morning or evenings and avoid the hottest part of the day.

• Check on elderly family and neighbors. Make sure the elderly and those without air conditioning have a proper area to cool down. If they need assistance, contact your local emergency services for locations of cooling centers.

• Never leave children or pets unattended in a motor vehicle. The temperature inside a car can get dangerously hot, even in moderate weather with the windows slightly down. Children and animals can quickly become overwhelmed by the heat.

Use precautions around water

Drowning continues to be a leading cause of death in children. Most of these tragedies are avoidable with simple precautions.

• Never leave a child unattended around water. Children are drawn to water and can drown in as little as an inch of standing water.

• Always have adult supervision of young swimmers. Do not rely on other children to have the knowledge or composure to take the needed steps in a rescue situation. Do not mix alcohol and supervision of children in the water.

• Check gates, fences and locks around the pool. Defective gates that do not close and secure should be fixed or replaced.

• Teach children to swim at an early age. There are many great swim classes given by local park districts. Confidence in the water can prevent accidental drowning if the child falls in.

Watch for burn hazards

Summer usually marks an increase in EMS calls and emergency room visits for children and adults burned. These usually occur because of carelessness around barbecue grills, campfires and from playing with fireworks.

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• Never let children play around the source of heat. Many grills can easily be tipped over or the child may fall into the fire if allowed to play in the area.

• Keep flammable materials such as gasoline, propane or lighter fluid away from the fire. Canisters of fluids can expand and burst if too close to the heat source.

• Use the proper tools to prevent injuries. Wear oven mitts, heavy gloves and use long-handled utensils when working with grills. Allow coals to cool or extinguish them with water prior to dumping them on the ground.

Beware of storms and lightning

Many people are injured each summer because of quickly forming thunderstorms. The National Lightning Safety Institute's slogan is "If you can see it, flee it. If you can hear it, clear it."

• Seek shelter immediately. Inside is the safest place during a storm.

• Crouch low if trapped outside. Keep your feet together, your head tucked and ears covered. Avoid huddling together in a group. Try to spread about 15 feet apart.

• Avoid tall trees or objects. Lightning is attracted to the highest objects in the area.

• Drop all metal objects. Do not hold golf clubs, fishing poles or baseball bats. If possible, place an insulating object under your feet. A sleeping bag, folded jacket or coil of rope are examples.

These are a few of the hazards that face us each summer. Taking the time to properly prepare for outdoor activities can greatly reduce the chance of accident or injuries this summer. I hope you and your family have a safe and fun summer.

Pete Grutzius is a commander in the Lansing Police Department. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.