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By May 3, 2021January 31st, 2023Education-Family

     My mind keeps returning to those in Texas who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a effort to get warm this past February. Relatives hold the electric company, city, and police responsible – and I agree there should be government accountability; but, people should know about this danger. But they don’t.

     Like those in Texas, I’ve also been in danger without realizing it. Twice while participating in outdoor adventure activities, I had hypothermia. I didn’t know it. The folks I was with didn’t know it and left me behind thinking I would catch up. The first time it happened I was on horseback in the middle of nowhere long before cell phones. The point is that it was years later that I put 2+2 together, clueing in to the 20-degree drop in temperature in an hour, for example, and figured out I had experienced hypothermia.


     Incidents like the above is why I added two survival skills chapters to my unit study called Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service 1878-1915. Although I have hiked for 40 years, since working with a survival skills expert for that book, I do things differently now—and certainly more safely. The point is to be prepared and to anticipate potential problems instead of thinking “It will never happen to me.”

Most people will have survival items in their backpacks, but do you know that backpacks are often lost in emergency situations? They fall overboard or down a cliff or get covered immediately with snow. Here is a statistic: Ninety percent of people who fall lose their backpacks. Survival items need to be IN YOUR POCKETS.


     Going back to the carbon monoxide poisoning, what other kinds of dangers come to mind that people should know about but in many cases don’t know? My Facebook friends came up with these ideas. This is not medical advice but things to think about and investigate.

  • Asbestos exposure (floors, insulation, roofing materials, steam pipes, batteries, homes prior to 1980)
  • Aspirin: Don’t give to kids.
  • Burning yard debris+: Don’t burn in small places.
  • Chemicals: Not mixing bleach and ammonia when cleaning.
  • Choking
  • Driving too fast and too close to the person in front of you
  • Drowning (what it really looks like); secondary water drowning
  • Earthquakes: tsunamis (See below)***
  • Fires: Getting out of your house.
  • Firecrackers
  • Flammable materials that aren’t normally flammable like stored manure.
  • Gas leak smell and what to do. Knowing where the turn off valve is—and tying a wrench to it permanently.
  • Head injuries/concussions and the healing process
  • Heat stroke
  • Home oil leaks (heating by oil common in Northeast)
  • Mold:
  • Overdose—what to do.
  • Power lines falling:…/trapped-what-to-do-if…/
  • Refrigerator: Never playing in an empty one—like one going to the dump.
  • Slides: Riding down with a child on your lap.
  • Snake bites: Carry chewable Benadryl or EpiPen.  
  • Water: Sneaker waves; never turning your back on the ocean; looking for riptides; reading tide charts; playing on driftwood 

Also a suggestion was to take CPR classes because instructors teach people to think before going into situations (e.g., gas, electricity, water).


     I attended a workshop by an Oregon State University professor who was comparing the subduction zone movement off Chile with that off the Oregon coast. He showed photos of buildings and bridges that had been damaged in the last major Chile earthquake but the structures were so solid, they didn’t pancake. Oregon State was using that research to apply to retrofitting buildings and bridges in Oregon.

     Two things the professor said remain with me:

1) The people who died in the last big Chile earthquake were tourists….who either never left their hotel or campsite near the water or went back too early. The tsunami hit six hours (I think) after the main earthquake.

2)  If there is an earthquake people need to move.  If at 5am you stay in bed and say, “Hmmm. I wonder if that was an earthquake?” it’s too late, according to the professor.  He said that those who survive get up, grab their kids, slip on their shoes near the door and are out of the house —-or business building or ???


Public schools: Should survival and safety skills be taught in public schools? Absolutely. There’s a lot in standard curriculum that can be let go.

Home Education: How can home educators teach about these potential dangers? My suggestion is to forget a “curriculum.” The reason is that learning everything related to danger can not only be overwhelming, but it takes the curiosity out of it all. Don’t even look up anything in advance. Address issues as they come up in life. If you ask questions, then your kids will ask questions. Make learning a part of life.

When there is a windstorm, ask about power lines.  Maybe even discover together which is the power line vs. the cable line. Share something you’ve read — like when a power line came down on a car.  What should you do? Have them find answers.

     One key element is to repeat and revisit the suggestions listed above over and over.  Just think about when you taught your child to cross a street. You didn’t say it only ONCE.

     There is that old saying about knowledge being power. I’m so sorry about accidents that have lead to deaths that could have been prevented with a bit more knowledge. That said, there can be no blame.