FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Preventable deaths due to unsafe sleep environments claimed the lives of 17 infants in Broward County last year. Seven of those deaths were reported in urban areas of Fort Lauderdale, which is the highest rate in the county.
It is a tragic loss of life that Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue aims to prevent through the launch of "Safe Sleep" for infants, a comprehensive prevention program that includes training, home site visits and education.
"Our mission is to reduce the number of preventable deaths to ‘zero,'" said James Carroll, Captain in the Department's Emergency Medical Services Bureau. "We developed a multifaceted action plan that specially trains personnel who will be responsible for on-site sleep environment evaluations, one-on-one education with parents and other caregivers and the distribution of Safe Sleep kits."
The program begins with the training of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Firefighter Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians. Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Broward County, Inc., is partnering with Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue to assist with training personnel how to identify, evaluate and mitigate unsafe sleeping environments for infants.
The outreach plan goes into action when Fire Rescue is dispatched to a 9-1-1 emergency call from a household with an obstetric patient (OB) or infant. Responding crews will systematically assess patients and evaluate sleep environments for infants. Responders will verbally communicate environmental risks and educate new parents and caregivers with "how to" measures to create a safe sleeping environment.
Parents and caregivers will also be provided with a packet of information with illustrations depicting safe sleeping environments. Parents will "Sleep peacefully knowing that your baby is sleeping safely," reads the headline on the packet, which includes the following 10 guidelines for reducing the risk of SIDS:
1. Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night.
2. Place your baby on a firm sleep surface, such as on a safety-approved crib mattress, covered by a fitted sheet.
3. Keep soft objects, toys and loose bedding out of your baby's sleep area.
4. Do not allow smoking around your baby.
5. Keep your baby's sleep area close to, but separate from, where you and others sleep.
6. Use a clean, dry pacifier when placing your infant down to sleep.
7. Do not let your baby overheat during sleep.
8. Avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS because most have not been tested for effectiveness or safety.
9. Do not rely on home monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS.
10. Provide "tummy time" when your baby is awake to reduce the chance of flat spots developing on your baby's head.
"We want to spread the word to parents, grandparents, babysitters, childcare providers and other caregivers to ensure that everyone who cares for a baby knows the Safe Sleep Top 10," Carroll said. "With the right training and community support, we can dramatically decrease preventable infant deaths in Fort Lauderdale and provide the tools needed for other fire rescue agencies to utilize as a model program in their service areas.
For more information, visit www.fortlauderdale.gov/fire-rescue/safesleep
Other helpful links:
Crib safety and crib recalls: http://www.cpsc.gov/info/cribs/index.html
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