Barbara Johnson, guest contributor
When I was thirteen years old, two young neighborhood boys were playing cowboys in their basement. One found his daddy’s handgun and thought it would be the perfect prop for catching the bad guy. He ended up accidentally shooting his 2-year-old brother, who died instantly. It was traumatic for everyone in the neighborhood. I have lived in rural areas, and I have known three families personally who have had small children drown from accidentally falling into the canal or ditch near their yard.
Home is supposed to be a place of safety and comfort, yet one of the leading causes of accidental death in children is home injuries. These have been extreme examples I have given, but your home can be a dangerous place if the right precautions are not taken. Here are a few tips so you can avoid a traumatic accident, and ensure your home and yard are a place of safety for your children.
1. Never leave your child alone near water. Any water. It only takes four inches of water for a child to drown. This includes all sinks, tubs, buckets, toilets, swimming pools, kiddie pools, ponds, canals, and ditches. Constantly watch children who are near water; if your child is in the tub and the doorbell rings, wrap them in a towel and take them with you. It only takes a few seconds unattended for them to drown. Make sure all buckets are stored upside down, child locks are on the toilet seat, kiddie pools are emptied after use, and there are fences and locks around all other standing water.
2. Keep all chemicals and medications out of reach. This includes all pills, cough syrups, bleach, cleaner, detergent, yard fertilizer, weed killer, lighter fluid, and all others.
3. Know the possible hazards in your yard and neighborhood. Does your neighbor have an unfenced pool? Is there construction down the street? Are there storm drains? Check to see if there are any poisonous plants in your area. In your yard, keep hoses and all tools and equipment cleaned up when not in use, and keep fire pit and grill areas secure. Also make sure your children know to stay out of the street, and how to cross safely.
4. Keep all dangerous items locked away. Keep all firearms unloaded, and lock up ammunition and firearms separately. Keep all knives—kitchen or otherwise—in a locked drawer. Keep all potential weapons locked and out of reach. Children love to put things in their mouths, so all small items are a choking hazard and should be kept far out of reach.
5. Install and maintain smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. They may be annoying when they start chirping with a low battery, or when you burn dinner and set them off, but the extra time they give you when there is an emergency will save lives.
6. Place plastic covers into unused electrical outlets and secure all wires and extension cords—inside the house as well as outside—to keep children from sticking things in outlets or chewing on wires and getting a shock.
7. Keep furniture away from windows, and use window stops to keep them from opening far enough to let a child through. Keep doors locked, block stairways, have corner protectors on sharp wall or furniture edges, and keep blind cords out of reach.
8. Keep beds clear and as bare as possible. Too many blankets and stuffed animals can cause suffocation in babies and small children if something accidentally covers their face. Use only one small blanket, and never let it get higher than the baby’s chest. If baby is too cold, put them in warmer pajamas rather than using more blankets. Also, remember to always lay babies on their backs when sleeping to keep their faces clear as well.
9. Watch children closely when the stove or oven—or any other appliance, for that matter—is on, and teach them as soon as they are old enough to stay away from hot pans and stoves. Turn down the water heater to 120 degrees, which is still warm enough for bathing, but not hot enough to scald little fingers.
10. Be prepared for anything that might happen. Stay certified in child CPR, make plans for what to do in case of a fire or other emergency and make sure the kids (if old enough) know their part. It is also a good idea to have emergency numbers stored in an easy-to-see place, and for the children to know about them. Have friends and family’s numbers listed as emergency contacts, as well as poison control, your doctor, the police, and any other number you may need. Keep a first aid kit in an easily accessible spot, and make sure you know how to use the equipment in the kit.
While following these tips may not prevent every single accident from happening, they will certainly lessen the seriousness of the injuries caused by the accidents In addition, they will give you a little more peace of mind knowing that your home and yard are as safe as possible for your growing children.