Healthy Living in the North

School Safety: The old and the new

Special Constable Fred Greene gives the facts about school safety in today’s world.

As I walked into the Prince George RCMP detachment to discuss school safety with Special Constable Fred Greene, I thought back to my school years. Was I safe back then? I think so. I knew to look both ways before I crossed the road, drugs and cigs were bad, and planning a safe ride home was a good thing. Pretty simple, right?

Well, to fall on that old cliché: “Times have changed.”

fred greene at a desk.It seems that each new generation of students has to deal with both the safety concerns of old (like crossing the road safely), and new safety hurdles that previous groups didn’t have to deal with. Technology has changed, social norms have changed, heck – even the climate has changed! Luckily, one thing hasn’t changed: the importance of teaching students about school safety and what they can do to be proactive.

That was why it was so great to sit down with S/Cst. Greene, an RCMP Community Safety Officer with more than 10 years’ experience. As someone who has presented hundreds of personal safety talks to student bodies ranging from elementary schools to universities, he was able to break down the big topics with me.

Here’s the big four, and what he had to say about each:

Pedestrian Safety

“Make eye contact and hand gestures with drivers before crossing street.”


  • Use marked and signalled crosswalks, not shortcuts.
  • Wear light or reflective clothing at night.
  • Use sidewalks when provided, and walk facing the traffic if they’re unavailable.

drugs being exchangedDrug Awareness

“Plan ahead. As you make plans for the party or going out with friends, you need to plan ahead. You need to protect yourself and be smart. Don’t become a victim of someone else’s drug use. Make sure there’s someone you can call day or night, no matter what, if you need them. And, do the same for your friends.”


  • First time use of street drugs can be fatal.
  • Usage and eventual addiction of prescription meds can be an easy way to get hooked on hard street drugs.
  • Consider that fentanyl may be found in street or non-prescribed medication.
  • Be cognizant that date rape drugs are easily attainable and can be found locally. They’re colourless, odourless, and easily placed in any drink.


“No information is truly private in the online world; an online ‘friend’ can forward any information posted on your site in a moment. Every text, conversation, photo, or phone call once sent will be permanent, public and searchable. If you delete a post, it can always be found.”


  • Cyberbullying can be investigated under the Criminal Code as stalking, harassment, or threats.
  • If you receive bullying messages, don’t respond. Print them off and tell someone.
  • Anyone can pretend to be anyone, or anything, they want online.
  • Any inappropriate photos of someone under 18 years old on a device is considered child pornography.
  • Watch out for classified ads and inquiries from out of town or country. Be cautious of anyone asking for payment by Western Union or Crypto-currency.

Street Safety

“Stranger Danger. Don’t go with, take anything, or talk to a stranger. An adult never needs help from a child.”


  • You are always safer in a group.
  • Use the buddy system when walking, attending events, or simply to talk to if you’re having a bad day.
  • Stay in well-lit areas at night and don’t use isolated trails.
  • Know your location at all times in case you need to reach someone or call 9-1-1.
  • Never meet a person from social media for the first time by yourself; meet in a public place with a friend or parent.

Interested in more safety tips? Visit these resources!


A family’s plan to prevent drowning

Family in a canoe

Paddling is a fun northern activity for so many families in our region! When you are on, in, or near the water, be sure to wear a life-jacket!

July 17-23, 2016 is National Drowning Prevention Week. Parachute Canada has some important information that really frames this topic for me:

Did you know?

  • Children under 18 are at greatest risk of drowning in rivers, lakes, and ponds.
  • Boys are more likely to drown than girls.
  • Drowning can happen in an instant.

I want to encourage everyone to have a safe summer, but I know that talking to parents about safety can be tricky. It only takes media coverage of one injured child to spark all sorts of harsh judgements and criticisms of parents. Sometimes I wonder if what I write about childhood safety will be viewed as a criticism of things parents aren’t doing. I certainly hope not.

You see, I am also a parent of young children. I am not perfect, not even close. We have “close calls” or times when I feel we have come far too close to one of my children experiencing a preventable injury. Every day, I wonder if I am enough for my children. What I can tell you is that when I parent without support or help, I am in fact setting myself up for failure. No single person is meant to be enough or everything for our children. There is a reason we say “it takes a community.” It really does!

When it comes to water safety, the same is true. No single plan is enough.

Water injuries are predictable. There are many ways to reduce the risk of drowning.

  • Children need to swim within arms’ reach. Drowning is often silent. When kids get into trouble, they do not call, wave or signal; all of their energy is used just keeping their head above water. Visit the Lifesaving Society (BC & Yukon Branch) for more information.
  • Actively supervise all children around water. According to the Red Cross, the absence of effective adult supervision is a factor in 75 per cent of deaths by drowning for children under the age of 10. An older sibling is no substitute for parent supervision.
  • Wear a properly fitted life-jacket every single time kids are on a boat. Young children and weak swimmers should wear a life-jacket on, near, or in the water. Want to learn how to properly fit a life-jacket? has you covered with great video tutorials!
  • Learn to swim. Learning to swim and play safely around water is a life skill in Canada. Enrol in swim lessons at the local pool.

This isn’t a menu of options, where you just pick one. These are multiple ways to protect children and prevent drowning that can all be used together. Even though I may teach my child to ask permission to enter the lake every time, there will always be the one time it gets forgotten. I will blink, look away, and get distracted countless times. Relying on many strategies or supports is not a sign of weakness, it is responsible parenting. And it drastically decreases the risks of incident for my children.

So, parents, you do not have to do it alone! Use whatever resources are available to make sure that water play is safe play!

Want a new tool to add to your water safety plan? Enter our Facebook contest for your chance to win a life-jacket!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.