Safety day highlights hazards facing rural youth

Dam Hansen
rew members from the Adams-Columbia Electric Co-op demonstrated how they reconnect electric wires following a power outage.

HANCOCK – Most of us are aware of the physical dangers children living in large cities face daily from gangs, drugs, traffic and other hazards common to that urban environment. 

Living on a farm or in a rural community, however, presents its own unique set of potential hazards that can result in serious, or even fatal, injuries. Rural children are much more likely to be exposed to farm machinery, pesticides, chemicals, and large animals such as cows and horses.

Providing boys and girls with information on to avoid the potential hazards found on farms and in rural households can significantly reduce the likelihood of them being seriously injured.

A program that has been providing this valuable information for many years is the Central Wisconsin Rural Youth Safety Day.

Rural Youth Safety Day is a prime example of community, businesses and schools working hand-in-hand for the benefit of children, with several area farms and businesses sponsoring the event.

This year’s program was held May 18 at the Hancock Agricultural Research Station. The program was coordinated by Zeth Engel, agriculture education instructor and FFA advisor for the Tri-County School system in Plainfield, Tri-County Fourth-Grade Teacher Jessica Rettler, and Amber Gotch, a member of the research station staff.

After several years at the Hancock research facility, the event was held, on a smaller scale, for a few years at Veteran’s Park in Plainfield, according to Engel.

Being safe around farm machinery with power take-off units and ATV’s was a key part of the Rural Youth Safety Day.

“The last three years that I’ve been here we’ve been reaching out to more businesses and others interested in focusing on safety for these kids,” he noted. “We expanded to the point where we outgrew Veterans Park, and returned to the Hancock station two years ago. We’ve had a very good relationship with Amber and with Dr. Felix Navarro, the superintendent here at the research station.”

This year approximately 155 four-grade students from Almond-Bancroft, Coloma, Tri-County in Plainfield, and Wild Rose grade schools, along with a group of home-schooled students, participated in the Rural Youth Safety Day program.

“The students are divided into small groups for 20-to 25-minute sessions at nine different stations on how to be safe in a rural environment,” Engel said.

Safety stations

“We have sessions on ATV and farm machinery safety, focusing on power take-off units and chains that are used to operate various machines,” Gotch related.

“One of the unique challenges of living in a rural community can be response time if an emergency occurs,” she stressed. “Some of the stations we’ve added include a first-aid station, and we have a member of the Plainfield Fire Department here teaching about fire extinguisher use.”

In the session on chemical safety, students learned that chemicals are tools that can be beneficial for farms and homes in controlling harmful insects and weeds if used correctly according to label directions.

“Members of the Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative line crew are here to talk about the safe use of electricity, focusing on the danger of downed power lines and the need to call Digger’s Hotline before doing any digging around the home or property,” Gotch said.

Students got a close look at the Spirit 1 medical transport helicopter, and were able to ask questions of the pilot and medical staff.

Engel stressed the importance of knowing how to stay safe around wild animals and domestic livestock. “It’s important to make animals aware of your presence, and not to surprise them,” he said.

DNR Hunter Safety Instructor Greg Dobratz gave students a brief introduction to the various types of rifles and shotguns, and demonstrated how to handle firearms safety. “Treat every firearms as a loaded gun, and if you come across a gun, don’t touch it, and tell an adult,” he stressed.

The highlight of the day for many youngsters was the arrival of the Spirit 1 medical transport helicopter operated by Ministry Health. All the groups got a close look at the copter, and were able to ask question of the crew that comprised the pilot and two nurses.

Members of the Tri-County FFA Chapter assisted with many of the safety presentations and demonstrations.