Summer Home Safety Tips
Summer vacation is here. And while that means more fun for families, extra time at home also presents a number of safety concerns that parents should be aware of.
With children out of school, they will be spending a lot more time at home, and possibly visiting relatives that may not have safety precautions in place. When kids have more time on their hands, their curiosity always creates potential for trouble.
The Home Safety Council has designated June as Hands on Home Safety Month. And they're working to let parents and grandparents know steps they can take to child-proof their home during the summer months, focusing on the five leading causes of home injuries to children – falls, poisoning, fires, choking and suffocation and drowning.
To help ensure a safe home for your kids, consider the following tips from the Home Safety Council.
Although parents often baby-proof stairs and other areas where babies and toddlers could potentially fall, they may not think about falling as a risk for older children. According to the Home Safety Council, falls are the leading cause of nonfatal home injuries among children under age 15, accounting for an average of 1.3 million injuries a year. So even with school-aged kids, parents need to be aware of potential falling hazards around the home.
To help prevent falls around your home, the first and most obvious place to start is at the stairs. You should have handrails along both sides so if your child slips he can grab the rail with his dominant hand whether heading up or down. You should check the lighting around your stairs and consider keeping a small light on through the night to help prevent accidents. And whenever you have a mobile baby or toddler in your home, even just for a visit, you should gate both the top and bottom of the stairs.
Other precautions include installing a grab bar in the bath tub. Always use a step ladder for climbing, rather than a chair or stool. And provide a soft landing area around outdoor play equipment. Grass and dirt do not provide sufficient cushion.
According to Meri-K Appy, the Home Safety Council president, you should use wood or rubber mulch 12 inches deep and 6 feet around the equipment in all directions.
According to the Home Safety Council, in 2002, more than 1.2 million unintentional poisonings among children ages 5 and under were reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers.
"One of the reasons for this, we believe, is they have access," says Appy, who explains that any product with the word "caution," "warning," "danger" or "poison" written on the label in all capital letters should be locked away, up high and out of reach of children. You should also keep all medications and vitamins out of reach. And always keep products in their original containers with the labels intact.
You should also keep the number for Poison Control – 1-800-222-1222 – near each phone or on your refrigerator. This is their national hotline that you can call for emergencies and non-emergencies, and if necessary they can connect you with local emergency help.
Most fires in home start when people are cooking and either aren't paying attention or leave the kitchen for some reason. These fires can be prevented by staying in the kitchen, and if you have to leave to answer the door or check the kids, turn everything off until you return. If a fire does break out on the stove, cover the pot with a lid to cut off the oxygen supply. And don't peek once you've put the lid in place, because removing the lid even for a second can supply enough oxygen to reignite the flames.
"We don't recommend fire extinguishers for kitchen fires because the pressure from the release can push the pan and spread the fire," Appy says.
If a fire were to break out in your home, many times a smoke alarm will be your first warning. Therefore, you should have functional smoke alarms on each level of your home and in or near each sleeping area. Appy also recommends interconnected smoke alarms, so if one goes off they all go off. An interconnected smoke alarm system will prevent fires in the basement, or other areas of the home where people don't usually congregate, from going undetected. And if you're building a new home, consider installing a sprinkler system.
"A sprinkler system will keep a fire in your home small, or even put it out completely," Appy says. "These really are the ultimate in fire safety."
You should also practice fire drills with your entire family and plan your best escape route. In most cases, a family will have three minutes to get outside the home in the case of a fire, so you should be prepared. If you have a two- or three-story home, keep a fire escape ladder in your child's room so you can all leave through that exit. Test to make sure your escape ladder fits the window sill properly, but don't practice going out the window to prevent falls.
And with kids in the home, you should keep all lighters and matches locked out of reach, especially if you are a smoker.
4. Choking, Suffocation and Airway Obstruction
Airway obstruction is the leading cause of injury-related death in children under 1 year old. For this reason, one of the most important ways to protect your infant in the home is to double check your crib. Make sure your crib is modern and meets current product safety guidelines, and then clear it out.
"Clear out pillows, clear out stuffed animals and clear out comforters," Appy says. "You want a bare crib, and you can use a sleep sack to keep your baby warm."
You should also make sure your window coverings are child-safe – cord-free drapes are safer than mini-blinds. Insist that your kids sit down to eat everything. And read product safety labels. Anything small enough to fit through a toilet paper roll is small enough to choke a child. So read and follow age recommendations on toys.
"Safety labels are usually there because someone else suffered a tragedy," Appy says. "Take that seriously."
Water is synonymous with summer – pool parties, learning to swim and wading pools are all popular summertime fixtures. If your child is invited to a pool party, offer to help the host parents out with the poolside supervision. And if you throw a pool party yourself, enlist as many adults as possible to watch over everyone. Know CPR, and make sure you have proper lifesaving equipment within close reach. Also, if you own a swimming pool you should put a 5-foot-high fence around all sides so the pool is completely isolated. Wading pools and baby pools should be drained after each use.
"Realize that if you can't put a fence around it or drain it, you have something very dangerous on your property," Appy says.
Children can never be left alone around water. You should be within an arm's reach of your child in the tub, around any type of pool and even around the mop bucket.
Safety This Summer and Beyond
Although the hands on approach to home safety may seem like a long list of things to check and replace, all you have to do is get started. With each item you tick off the list, your home is a little safer for the people you love the most.
"Just start," Appy says. "You can make sure your family is safe in the place you want them to be safe."