- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 5, 2001

Accidental and often avoidable injuries kill more than 7,000 children each year. Four times as many chil-

dren are given emergency medical treatment for accidents as receive treatment for illness, according to Lowe's Home Safety Council (LHSC).

Spending time teaching our offspring how to be safe at home, in school and outdoors can save lives. While most students snore through safety lessons offered in health or gym classes, the Internet provides a new and engaging way to reach youngsters with these important messages. The 8-year-old LHSC has created a place for teaching children and families how to improve the safety and security of their homes.

www.coderedrover.org

CodeRedRover.org was created by Lowe's Home Safety Council, a nonprofit organization of Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse. LHSC is based in Wilkesboro, N.C., at the Lowe's headquarters. Lowe's founded LHSC in 1993, envisioning safer U.S. homes, and has invested more than $20 million in safety and security.

Creator quotable:

"Lowe's Home Safety Council created CodeRedRover.org to provide an interactive and engaging solution to the problem of preventable injuries in the home," says David J. Oliver, executive director of Lowe's Home Safety Council.

"With a growing emphasis on technology at home and in the classroom, plus the fact that 25 million children have access to the Internet, Lowe's Home Safety Council decided to combine technology and safety."

Word from the Webwise:

Cyber-host Rover a gangly, long-eared hound takes children on an adventure through his and their homes, teaching the importance of safety through printable resources, text-based primers and interactive games.

Designed primarily for children in third, fourth and fifth grades, this very active, character-driven site gives a colorful and noisy overview of the many ways to avoid danger such as fire and prevent accidents such as scalding, poisoning and drowning.

The first and most important stop on this cartoony adventure should be the "Safety Zone." Here, visitors will find a "Safety Checklist" listing 20 necessities for home safety, including smoke alarms, carbon-monoxide detectors and a stocked first-aid kit. Going through the list, I found that although we have the obvious stuff covered in my home, we missed a few items, such as tagging the main electrical, gas, oil and water shut-off values so that they can be located easily in an emergency.

Also in the "Safety Zone," the "Safety Encyclopedia" comes packed with revealing statistics and helpful tips. The listing of words and phrases links to plenty of definitions and explanations. For example, the survey "It's Not Always Home, Safe Home" reveals that virtually every house is at risk for carbon-monoxide poisoning and that a child is poisoned unintentionally in the United States almost every 30 seconds.

Also under "Safety Zone," the "Escape Artist" allows visitors to draw and print out a blueprint of their homes showing at least two emergency exits out of each room. The plan issues reminders to include the location of all windows, doors and smoke-alarm locations and to set up a family meeting place outside the house.

This section also features an "Artists' Challenge," which contains printable coloring sheets that can be sent to Rover for posting on his site "Home Heroes," which highlights real children who have averted disasters. Visitors can e-mail Rover's gang with questions some of which are posted on the site.

Any time left after roaming through the "Safety Zone" should be spent in "Rover's House," which contains a nice selection of games. Challenges available include "Who Wants to Be a Safety Hound?" based on the popular television game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Other interesting features are a music-mixing module and a jigsaw puzzle based on a baby picture of Rover.

Enjoying the games results in more than just faster reflexes and an education. Players can win cash. Visitors first must register with the site, setting up a user name and password. (Only a birth date and ZIP code are required.)

By playing more games and exploring more areas, visitors earn points or add more "bones" to their pile. Once 50,000 bones are accumulated not as daunting a task as it sounds as registering earns 10,000 bones they are eligible to enter a drawing for the sweepstakes grand prize of $2,500, which must be split with their school. Four drawings are held each year, and children can enter each one up to 10 times.

Ease of use:

Despite the funky and constantly playing Barney-Miller-like theme song (savvy surfers will find the LED meter to turn off the tune), CodeRed-Rover.org provides a fun stop for visitors.

The site works best with any computer or operating system that has a browser with the Flash 5 plug-in. Macromedia's recommended minimum system requirements for PCs include Microsoft Windows 95, 98, Me, NT, 2000 Professional or later and for Macintosh: System 8.1 or later.

Don't miss:

"Lowe's Great Safety Adventure" section not only explains the double-tractor-trailer exhibit traveling around the country to give children safety demonstrations, but also offers a slick, animated hunt to find trouble spots in the home. Players click on an area they believe to be a hazard to see if Rover agrees. Even Sparky the Firedog stops by with some safety questions.

Family activity:

The challenge of creating a game box can be found under the "Safety Zone." Full details can be printed for the construction of a versatile container with a reversible tabletop for playing checkers, chess, backgammon and cribbage. The entire clan will need to help, as power tools, glue, nails and plywood are needed to complete this difficult-looking project.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: This wonderful site for 8- to 11-year-olds to share with their parents has no banner ads and takes cyber-safety as seriously as threats around the home.

Overall grade: A

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (joseph@twtmail.com).

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