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Event to promote child safety

By Ed Brock

Sometimes the world is a dangerous place for the little ones, but on Saturday the children of Clayton County may become a little safer.

At the "Summer Safety Event," sponsored by the Clayton County Child Fatality Review Committee, residents will be able to pick up information on a variety of hazards children face every day. They'll also be able to acquire a free gun lock to keep their weapons secure from accidental firing.

Representatives from the various agencies that make up the Child Fatality Review Committee will be at the Wal-Mart in Riverdale distributing literature and answering questions from 9 a.m. to noon, said Paul Cain, an investigator with the Clayton County District Attorney's Office that is hosting the event.

"We're going to set up three tables and meet and greet the citizens," Cain said.

Along with the 500 gun locks and tips on gun safety, topics to be addressed at the event will include the dangers of leaving children unattended, water safety and the dangers of co-sleeping with children. The latter is an issue that occurs more often then some people think, District Attorney Jewel Scott said.

"We wind up reviewing so many cases of infant deaths related to co-sleeping," Scott said.

Beoncia Loveless, a medical examiner and investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's forensics lab, said she'll be at the event to talk not only about co-sleeping but providing a safe sleeping environment in general for children. It's all about preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the mysterious death of infants that usually occurs between one and four months of age.

"Although SIDS is not what we consider a preventable death there are risk factors associated with it," Loveless said.

The problem that arises when children sleep with their parents or older children in adult beds, as well as when they sleep on their stomach or in a crib crammed with toys or pillows, is that they may suffocate in their sleep. The baby can end up in a position with their face surrounded by material that leads to the creation of a pocket of carbon dioxide that can become deadly.

"There are people who sleep with their infants all the time and nothing happens," Loveless said. "We consider them very lucky."

As for water safety, Riverdale Deputy Fire Chief Jody Weller, who will be at the Saturday event, recommended that children always have adult supervision when they are around pools, lakes or other bodies of water in which they might drown. People with pools should have fences with locks around them.

Weller also had some tips about the danger of leaving children alone. When left alone in the car a child faces danger from the build up of heat, and when left alone at home they can have an accident.

"And of course you have an abduction danger if you leave them alone," Weller said.

Representatives of the Clayton County Fire Department are also scheduled to appear at the event. The Riverdale Police Department will have officers at the event to talk about avoiding being a victim of crime.

The Clayton County Sheriff's Office donated the 500 gun locks that will be handed out at the event. It's part of the department's new mandate to be proactive in addressing community safety, Sheriff Victor Hill said.

"I wanted to donate those safety locks to get them out into the community," Hill said.

Cain said the Clayton County Child Fatality Review Committee was formed, along with other such committees around the state, in 1990 by then Gov. Joe Frank Harris in response to a series of newspaper articles on child deaths.

Other member agencies on the committee are the county's Board of Education, Board of Health, police and fire department, the Family Advocacy group at Army Garrison Forts McPherson and Gillem, Rainbow House children's shelter, Juvenile Court, the Department of Family and Children Services, Clayton County Mental Health, the Forest Park Police Department and the Riverdale fire and police departments.