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Mom is keeping kids safe

October 18, 1998

Mom is keeping kids safe

Kim BuchananBy TERRY TALBERT / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




Kim Buchanan has turned her kids into "little safety terrorists." The 29-year-old mother of four is obsessed with preventing kids from getting hurt, and it has rubbed off on them.

"We have a stick with a sign that says 'Buckle Up!' on it, and the kids hold it up in the car when we see someone without their seat belt on," she said. "I told them there are probably times when that isn't such a good thing to do. Some people get upset."

Buchanan works for the Washington County Hospital as coordinator of the Safe Kids of Washington County coalition, one of more than 250 such groups nationwide.

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Safe Kids is a national organization dedicated to protecting children 14 and under from peventable accidental injury.

The group provides information and puts on programs for adults and children. Among the things members teach are: bike safety, fire prevention, firearms safety, home safety, pedestrian safety, car safety and water safety.

When a friend of hers started the local program with the hospital's blessing about three years ago, Buchanan started going to Safe Kids events to learn about safety for her own children.

It wasn't long before she was helping out. Earlier this year, she was hired as coordinator when her friend resigned.

Safe Kids is a 10-hour-a-week job and a 24-hour-a-day concern for Buchanan, who takes her title of "injury prevention specialist" seriously.

"I want to save everybody, but I know I can't," she said.

She can only teach others and hope the lesson sinks in.

In June, Buchanan took a four-day class and became a "certified child passenger technician" qualified to inspect car seats for proper installation and instruct parents on how to use them.

She hopes soon to be qualified as a teacher who can train others to do the same thing. She's taking classes to be a CPR instructor.

"The safety issue with kids really appeals to me," she said. "I'd like to instruct along those lines. In fact, I'd like to finish college and become a nurse."

Buchanan has ridden with ambulance crews and helicopter paramedics and seen tragedies and safety triumphs firsthand.

"There was one little boy in a bike crash. He was about 11 or 12 years old," she said. "He was hit by a car going 45 mph. He went through the windshield headfirst. He had his helmet on, and he survived. There were horrible bruises and contusions all over his face, but he lived. If he hadn't had a helmet on, he would have died."

Buchanan is thinking about taking that boy with her to schools to talk to kids about helmets and safety.

As Safe Kids coordinator, Buchanan sees that people who can't afford them get bicycle helmets for their kids. She gives safety-related presentations in elementary schools.

Buchanan sets up information booths at health fairs, and organizes child safety seat checkpoints throughout the year. She works with police, fire and rescue agencies and Children's Village to give kids hands-on lessons in safety.

"We try to make it fun for the kids," Buchanan said. "Kids are real receptive if you get them young enough, like with the bike helmet thing. Helmets are considered "cool" now, and it wasn't always like that."

Still, there is work to be done. Buchanan said of the 400 car seats she has personally checked, "probably only 8 to 10 were installed correctly."

Buchanan said people often don't properly seat their children, or fasten their own seat belts. "Everybody's so busy, they don't want to take the extra time. But once something happens, it's too late."

Buchanan, who currently lives in Greencastle, Pa., was born in Hanover, Pa., and graduated from Heritage Academy. She went to college for two years and studied early childhood education, but left to raise her family.

"I like this type of teaching better," she said.

If her kids are any example, she's good at it. Nine-year-old Cameron, 7-year-old Connor, 5-year-old Katy Grace and 3-year-old Kiefer all ride bikes of one sort or another, and Buchanan said they all wear their helmets.

She said the kids also exhort friends, and strangers, to wear their helmets and seat belts.

Buchanan said Safe Kids could use some more members. For safety-related brochures, information on the free bike helmet program or to volunteer, call her at 301-790-8663.

Buchanan's work hours are typically 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. If she's not there, leave a message and she'll return the call.

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