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North Hills Monthly

Bringing Home Baby: Safe Landings Program Helps Parents Prepare

Oct 30, 2015 03:06PM ● By Jennifer Monahan

Gen and Kenny Morgan with Bill Humes

Welcoming a baby is a uniquely thrilling, joyful and sometimes terrifying experience for new parents. Through its Safe Landings Program, Cranberry Township’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS) has pioneered a creative approach to helping expectant parents ensure that their children come home to the safest possible environment.

“We would much rather come into your home for a program like this one than come there on an emergency call for an injury that could have been prevented,” explained Ted Fessides, deputy chief of Cranberry Township EMS.

According to Fessides, EMS calls that involve young people usually involve preventable injuries. The goal of Safe Landings is to teach parents—in their own homes—how to create a safe environment.

The program takes four hours, and covers car seat safety and CPR instruction; technicians also perform a walk-through of the home to examine potential safety hazards and conduct a crib check. Participants may invite family, friends and potential caregivers to attend. The cost is $150, but Cranberry EMS has partnered with Highmark, which reimburses its members for the full cost of the program. Through a generous donation from ALCOA, the Safe Landings team is also currently able to offer the program at no charge to low-income families. Cranberry Township’s EMS technicians will travel up to 30 miles outside of Cranberry to offer the course.

Dr. Joseph Aracri, chair of pediatrics for Allegheny Health Network, lauds the program as a win-win endeavor because it both decreases parental anxiety about having a newborn and also helps to ensure that infants will go home to a safe setting.

Expectant mom Aubrey Rader of Harmony initially learned about Safe Landings because she contacted Cranberry EMS to do a car seat check. When Fessides offered her this more comprehensive option, Rader enthusiastically responded. “It was easy to set up,” she noted. “They came on a Sunday. The EMS technician arrived with a printed agenda for the course, a huge check-list for the car seats, and four or five CPR dummies, including infants.” Rader’s group included her husband Joshua, himself a firefighter, as well as various family members.

“Everyone commented that they’d learned something, even though we’d all had CPR training before,” she added.

Rader believes that having the program in the family’s home is beneficial, though she was understandably a bit nervous about having a professional come through her home to spot safety hazards. “I knew they’d find things,” Rader explained, “but I’d rather know about it so I can address it. It’s better in the long run.”

Cranberry residents Kenny and Gen Morgan share that philosophy. “We want to protect our family, so we are glad for any recommendations to prevent potential hazards,” said Kenny Morgan.

Both Fessides and Aracri agree that the home visit is an essential component of the program. “We bring the education to you,” said Fessides. “It’s one thing to give out a list of potential safety issues, but it’s a lot easier to have our guys go through your house and show you.”

According to Fessides, most people learn something new during the on-site visit. Both Rader and Morgan noted that they were surprised during the car seat checks when EMS technicians recommended against having mirrors or toys attached to car seats. “Any place that sells baby gear, you’ll see mirrors and pull toys. We were excited to get them as gifts. But they said that if you’re in an accident and the mirror or toy flies off, it could land on the baby,” said Morgan. “That really stood out to me.”

Rader was struck by how many potential hazards that Teak Baker, EMS paramedic crew chief, showed her existed in her home. “Teak talked to us about securing heavy furniture to the wall so that it couldn’t fall on a toddler trying to climb it, and about safety covers on the knobs on our gas stove,” she explained.

Technicians try to address as many potential dangers as possible. “It was really interesting to hear about all of the preventative steps for SIDS,” noted Gen Morgan, adding that Bill Humes, EMS paramedic crew chief, even did a crib safety check. Humes examined the firmness of the mattress and taught the Morgans what to look for to create a safe sleep environment.

Fessides explained that Cranberry EMS seeks advice from pediatricians and Cribs for Kids (an organization for safe sleep education) to teach its technicians what to look for. “We want to connect with experts,” he noted, adding that the program’s effectiveness relies on getting the most up-to-date safety information available.

Aracri has seen too many preventable injuries bring infants and children to his attention, and he supports the program whole heartedly. “It is the best money that you can spend in preventing injury to your child,” he said. 

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