A Cop’s Tips for Keeping Young Kids Safe

By Sgt. Cathy Riggs, LAPD  |   Dec 18, 2019

I recently read a Calibre Press article titled Family Safety Tips for Off Duty Encounters. It brought to mind all of the things I’ve done with my daughter over the years to empower her and keep her safe.

The last thing we want is for anything terrible to happen to our children. We want to teach them what they should do in the case of an emergency, but we also don’t want them to live in fear. As my daughter’s mom, it’s my job to worry. Her job is to grow up. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do all I can to prepare her for worst-case scenarios.

Here are some of the things I’ve done with my daughter over the years to help keep her safe. I encourage you to pass these tips to your fellow officers, friends, family, and neighbors who have children.

  1. Prepare them for getting lost in crowded locations

Crowded places like Disneyland experience lost children every hour of every day. When my daughter was under five but able to walk and talk, I wrote my phone number in Sharpie on her belly before we left for a large, jam-packed location like Disney. I also repeatedly told her over the years that if she ever got lost, she should first look for a woman with children, ask for help, and show her the phone number on her tummy. I told her that if she can’t find a mom, then she should look for a store with more than one employee and ask for help. Statistically, these are her best chances of staying safe. I didn’t bother with telling her to find a police officer or firefighter, as neither are very likely to be nearby.

Finally, I also always took a photo of her with my phone right before we left for the location. If she got lost, I would be able to text or email the photo showing what she was wearing.

  1. Train them to cling or stay close in an emergency

I often played a game with my daughter where she would have to climb onto my back and cling on without me supporting her with my hands. I knew that if something bad ever happened and I needed to draw my gun while keeping her safe, this was the best place. She loved this game, as I would often ask people if they had seen her while she giggled and clung to me. People would say, “behind you!” and I’d spin around to “look” while she laughed.

  1. Find reliable ways to teach them your phone number

When my daughter was five, I changed the iPad unlock code to my full 10-digit phone number. She had the number memorized in less than a day.

  1. Help them identify ideal hiding spots

We often played hide and seek, which was the perfect opportunity to help her find the good hiding places in the house. If something bad ever happened at home, I wanted her to know where she should hide.

  1. Educate them about school shootings

We discussed (and still do, even though she’s older) school shootings. She was five years old when the shooting happened at Sandy Hook. Sure, these are unlikely events but it is always better to be prepared than to wave away the threat without talking about ways to keep your kids safe.

We came up with some plans in case there was ever a shooting at her school and she couldn’t get to the safety of a classroom. She was to leave everything and run. She asked if she could take her backpack and I said no. We had two locations that were off-campus where she should go, depending on whether she had to get out the front or back of the school. She knew to lead other kids with her if they would go, but not to let them slow her down.

We also did active shooter drills. She would be carrying her backpack, then when I said Go! she would drop it and run in a zig-zag pattern to safety. She thought this was fun.

When her school did go into a lockdown, she was calm and prepared. Other kids in her class sobbed, but my daughter sat calmly under her desk sharpening pencils. She told me they were her “weapons”—her idea, not mine.

  1. Teach them practical first aid skills

As my daughter got a little older, I taught her about bleeding control. We practiced applying direct pressure and fashioning tourniquets out of whatever material we could find. I taught her that tourniquets are for arms and legs only; wounds elsewhere require direct pressure (we haven’t gotten into wound packing yet). We will also be taking a first aid/CPR class together soon.

My daughter is now enrolled in mixed martial arts. She loves the discipline it teaches her and she feels the training makes her stronger—both in body and mind. Meanwhile, I’m still looking for ways to keep her safe and help her gain more independence. I’m looking forward to sharing that time with her.

For her part, she is becoming a strong and independent young woman who is careful and aware—but not afraid.

Have other child safety tips to share? Please e-mail us at [email protected]