4-H Guiding Principles: Youth are physically and emotionally safe

Explore how to implement the second 4-H guiding principle in 4-H clubs and communities.

4-Hers practicing safety while using bows
4-Hers practicing safety while using bows. Photo by Jan Brinn, MSU Extension.

Almost everything we do with youth has an element of risk. Whether it is working with animals, using tools in a craft project or just young people having fun, there is the possibility of participants to get physically hurt. Is your club prepared for those types of emergencies?

Here are some activities you could do to help encourage physical safety in your club:

  • Ask the manager of your fair if there is an emergency plan. If not, help to develop one. Here are some points to consider:
    • Is there a tornado shelter? Is there room for everyone on the fairgrounds? How would people get to the shelter if there was a concert in the grandstands?
    • What is the procedure if an animal escapes? Who should know that procedure? If the police attempt to chase down a steer with sirens blaring, the results might not be good.
    • What would happen if there was an animal disease outbreak?
    • What happens to animals in an emergency?
    • How would you get animals out in the case of a barn fire?
    • Where are the fire extinguishers on the fairgrounds?
    • Are there long enough hoses to put out fires?
    • Is there a defibrillator on the fairgrounds?
    • Does your club and family have an emergency meeting place to make sure everyone is OK?
    • Is there a railroad or major highway near the fairgrounds? If there is, how would you handle a chemical spill?
    • How could 4-H members assist in crowd control during an emergency?
  • Have an emergency drill at club meeting place or the fairgrounds.
  • Plan a trip to a local police, fire department or ambulance service instead of a normal club meeting.
  • Bring in a first aid expert to teach club members; CPR certification is a good example.
  • Have club members create emergency plans for their own families. gov has resources available for families.
  • Create homemade first aid kits as part of a club meeting.
  • Have youth who have a medical condition, such as asthma or bee sting allergies, teach other club members about how they deal with an attack or an emergency.

The emotional safety of youth is just as important as physical safety. Mental Health First Aid is a program to teach about how to help someone in a mental health emergency, and something your club could consider. A structured yet flexible environment encourages honesty, trust and respect among all youth and adults. Adult and youth volunteers should model constructive ways for providing feedback and addressing situations, behaviors and emotions. Rules, expectations and consequences should be clear, consistent, developmentally appropriate and applied fairly.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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