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Parade safety tips for families

Children watched a group perform at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in South Boston in 2011. (Globe staff photo/Bill Greene) Children watched a group perform at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in South Boston in 2011.
By Kristi Palma
Boston.com Staff / March 14, 2012
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There are several St. Patrick's Day parades taking place in New England this weekend. Here are some safety tips for parents taking children to a parade, courtesy of Jennifer Mehigan at Boston Emergency Medical Services, an affiliate of Safe Kids Greater Boston.

Q: What are the risks parades pose to children?

A: First off, we always think about weather and dressing appropriately. And there are a lot of distractions, there is a lot going on for both the child and for mom and dad. Mom and dad really need to both prepare the child (by saying) "There is going to be loud noises and people" and by talking through what they are going to do that day and plan it out a little bit.

Q: What should parents pack for a day at the parade?

A: The weather report may say sunny and beautiful and in the 60s but you never know with New England weather -- it can get windy, breezy, cold, we could get snow. Prepare for anything. We always say layer clothing. Pack for things you don’t really expect. So pack a few extra snacks, a little extra money in case things don’t go as planned, some activities for kids if things aren’t going well. Pack for the unexpected.

Q: What steps can parents take to avoid getting separated from their children? And what should they do if they do get separated?

A: Plan ahead. Talk to your children, (saying something like) "If you can’t find me, this is what we’re going to do.” Sometimes it’s as easy as wearing different colored (bright) clothing or always knowing what street corner you are going to be on. Talk to them about being able to approach someone in uniform and asking them for help. At a lot of these parades, they do have a larger police presence. If children are age appropriate and have a cellphone, make sure they understand the numbers to call.

Q: Should children pick up items thrown out at a parade?

A: It’s very exciting when a float goes by or a band of people go by and they’re throwing candy to the children or little toys. Kids should check back with mom and dad and ask, "Is it OK for me to have this?'"

Q: Public transportation will likely be more crowded than usual. Talk about traveling safely on Sunday.

A: All public officials will advise you to use use public transportation - it is the most efficient, the easiest, you don’t have to worry about parking, you know the cost. But a lot of people will be using public transportation. Parents need to be very vigilant of where their children are at all times.

Q: What else should parents be thinking about when taking children to the parades this weekend?

A: Especially this weekend, we do tend to see a lot of public drinking. It’s never a great idea for the parents to be drinking. If you do spot a problem, you might want to call 911 or the police. Take yourself away from the problem. Most of the times if you just walk away you are going to be fine.

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