Our Joey loved to play.  I’ve said before that she spent half of her life on a playground–in our backyard, at parks, and of course, at school.  Her dad would push her on the swings until his arms felt like they’d fall off.  As National Playground Safety Week drew to a close last week, I felt a little guilty for not posting about the importance of playground play–not too guilty though–we were busy playing outside!

Nevertheless, with spring taking hold across the country, kids big and small are headed outside to play.  And thankfully, today’s playgrounds are nothing like the ones we grew up on, with hot metal slides, splintery wooden structures, and asphalt pads underneath (what the heck were our parents thinking?!?)  Here are few tips we’ve gathered to help keep your little charges safe on today’s playgrounds!

According to the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS), more than 200,000 children are injured every year on playgrounds in United States. NPPS shares these four S.A.F.E. factors for keeping it fun and safe:

  • Supervision: Seems like an obvious one, but all too often, adults in charge at the playground can be too wrapped up in conversation or smart phones to provide help or direction to kids at play (yep…guilty here too).  Of course, scraped knees and bruised feelings will happen anyway but, adult attention to safety and injury allows kids to get the most and best out of their playtime!
  • Age-Appropriate: It’s a good practice to match playground equipment with the developmental levels and needs of the child.  Most playgrounds post age guidelines for visitors, and more and more are designed to be inclusive of special needs playmates, like our Joey.
  • Fall Structure: Gravity is a fact of life, and sometimes a painful one!  One way to reduce the risk of injuries from falls is to ensure that playgrounds have appropriate cushioning and surfacing, like rubber or sand.  Our backyard playground was cushioned with rubber chips (which we also recommend for “snow” angels and “ice cream” stands).
  • Equipment: It is important for playgrounds to be routinely maintained and for visitors to report concerns to the owners, municipalities, or schools that maintain them.  The best playgrounds get LOTS of use so, the more eyes on the safety of the equipment, the better and safer we all are.


What actions can you take to address the S.A.F.E. factors?

When it comes to supervision, it’s not just about being on-site.  According to NPPS, adults should be constantly moving around the playground, with eyes open for faulty equipment, broken glass, and other potential safety hazards.  And if your playground looks like it needs some attention, speak up!

The Kids Health® organization suggests teaching our kids to not roughhouse on tall or mobile structures and to use equipment only for its intended purpose.  No, the monkey bars aren’t actually a sky-high balance beam…

The National Parks and Recreation Association recommends that children ages 2 to 5 play separately from children ages 5 to 12 while on the playground.  And according to NPPS, if you need to lift your child onto a particular play element, it’s likely not suited for that child’s developmental level (or YOUR back!).

On Joey’s birthday, Dec. 11, 2013, we cut the purple ribbon of a playground opened in her honor in Bridgeport, CT, as part of a project called “Where Angels Play.”  Here, she continues to share the joy of play with many children who visit this special playground, designed for the safe play of children of many needs and developmental levels.  For more on Joey and her playground, click here to watch the video created by ESPN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATv7lfWAcLg

Wishing you and yours lots of happy, healthy fun at the playground!

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Written by Michele Gay, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative.  

In the years since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012, many have been working to improve school safety. School communities across the country are reexamining measures, plans, and procedures in place to better prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. As part of these efforts, schools nationwide are looking for tools that help.

Many are looking to the growing number of apps and software technologies now available to assist school emergency preparedness. It is not surprising that this trend has emerged, with smart phone sales exceeding 1.2 billion units in 2014 according to GFK. Companies like CrisisGo, Guardly Corp., Guard911, Punch Alert Technologies, Elerts, Livesafe, and NaviGate PreparedTM, among others, have developed software that school communities can use to better prepare for and communicate during emergencies.

Blog Graphic - Benefits and Features of Safety Apps

The technology integrated in these tools is not only supportive of the school community during a crisis, but also to first response teams. With interactive maps and floor plans available in many programs, first responders can quickly locate entry points and reduce the time it takes to respond to an emergency. As well, school communities can train staff and conduct drills using app technology. First responders can use apps to readily access emergency information, practice and refine procedures with students and staff, and reunify a school community following practice or true emergency.

Many school districts have started to use app technology for emergency preparedness and practice. Lake Forest Schools in Illinois is implementing an app to serve as a panic button for classroom teachers. Davies County Schools in Indiana now uses an app to alert first responders of emergencies, and may expand their app use to communicate internally as well. Royalton Schools in Minnesota is using an app to replace its 40-page crisis management plan.

One concern some community members have expressed with the new technology is protecting private and critical information like student attendance and schedules. In counties like Lake Forest, school board members have decided that the privacy risk is worth the security trade off. Several app companies now offer government level security protection of critical information with their technology.

As exciting as these innovations are, it is important to consider that tools and technology are only part of a comprehensive approach to school safety.  Successful school safety requires education, training, innovation, and collaboration to keep students and staff safe!




Preparedness is a hard word to digest. It’s long and has a stale taste as it leaves your lips. As a concept, it is always just a little too ambiguous (i.e., How do I know when I’m really prepared?) or too overwhelming (i.e., The 165.5 Steps to Safety).

Preparedness, by any other name, is much more simple—it’s being ready. Unlike preparing for emergencies, preparing for everyday things is easier and often happens without forethought. We prepare for the day by “making sure the kids have both shoes and a lunch when they leave for school” or we prepare for success by “studying to pass our tests and graduate.” Preparation comes easily and makes the most sense when we do it to provide for, protect and support the people we love so that they can be safe, healthy and successful.

The fault in our logic is that, because we don’t know when emergencies might happen, we don’t necessarily prepare for them in the way that we should. The devastating aspect of this lack of preparation is that our children—the people we love the most—are often the most vulnerable individuals in times of crises. As a nation we are largely under-prepared to protect children in emergencies.

  • Each day, 69 million children are in school or child care, away from their parents should disaster strike. Still 21 states and the DC lack basic standards for protecting children in these settings.
  • Less than half of American families have an emergency plan.
  • And although two-thirds of parents are concerned about the risk their child faces from disasters or school shootings, 67 percent don’t know how often and what types of emergency drills are practiced at school.

Keeping children safe requires the cooperation and involvement of the entire community. It involves emergency managers, government, organizations, schools, care providers, and families who want children to be safe no matter where they are. Between the systems, plans and protocols, YOU, as a parent or care giver, play the most critical role keeping children safe and securing their future.

We need to be champions for our children—if we aren’t, who will be?

Don’t wait until it’s too late to take action.

  • Be familiar with your community’s emergency protocols, including communication and warning systems.
  • Ask about schools’ and caregivers’ emergency plans; ensure that everyone who cares for your child(ren) has your current emergency contact information.
  • Make a family emergency plan that accounts for different types of emergencies and identifies different evacuation routes and meet-up locations.
  • Be an advocate for children’s safety, raising your voice about creating emergency plans at state and local levels that account for children’s unique needs.

Fostering a culture of preparedness begins with children. It’s about starting the dialogue about emergencies early in life, making education a priority, and creating an environment where preparedness is expected, not an afterthought tacked on to the latest disaster. By integrating these life-saving skills and lessons from the beginning, we can turn the tide, sparking a movement and building a generation of citizens who are prepared for disaster.

If that ugly preparedness word still plagues you and you’re tempted to avoid it or put it off, I urge you do it now–do it for your kids. They deserve a safe and empowered childhood. They deserve the opportunity to talk about, learn, and build resilience before an emergency strikes.

Whether we admit it or not, saying, “I prepared to keep you safe is saying, “I love you and protecting you is important to me.

-Sarah Thompson, Associate Director, Get Ready Get Safe, Save the Children