Create a safe haven at home

Falls account for approximately 1.3 million injuries each year and are the leading cause of nonfatal home injuries for children. According to the NYS Department of Health, one of the most common causes of fall related hospitalizations for children include falling from playground equipment. “I have yet to see a safe play area in a backyard,” says Meri-K Appy, President of the Home Safety Council. “Every swing set needs to provide a safe landing with padding in the fall zone. Beyond a bone breaking, there is head trauma which is not so easily fixed.”

From 2004 to 2006, Dutchess County had the highest rate of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) hospitalizations in New York State. Falls, which are the leading cause of TBIs, constituted twenty nine percent of the causes of injury related hospitalizations for children in Dutchess County in 2006.  The NYS Department of Health recommends that playground surfaces consist of shredded rubber, fiber mulch, or fine sand that extends 12 inches deep and 6 feet around equipment to reduce injuries due to falls.

“Children are going to climb and they are going to fall. Make sure they have a safe landing and supervise them,” says Appy. “Parents buy play sets for their kids to grow into, but kids are going to use them right away.”

The whole family

Does your family have a fire escape plan? “As a family talk about what you’re going to do when the fire alarm goes off,” recommends Appy. “Have a family fire drill. Make sure the children know what the alarms sounds like and where they should go. Elementary age children can sleep through an alarm. You may have only minutes to wake up and get your children.”

Michael Vatter, Chief of the Newburgh Fire Department, recommends changing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year and using Daylight Savings Time as a good reminder for the switch out.

“We still find very old wiring in residences along with substandard electrical service,” says Vatter. “Older homes are a major concern for us. We do find that heating systems are neglected. Failure to maintain the heating systems is a major cause of carbon monoxide incidents.”

Beginning on February 22, 2010, NY State Law requires that every dwelling unit have a Carbon Monoxide Detector installed. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is highly toxic to humans. “Wood stoves, fireplaces, even an attached garage, all of these are key sources of carbon monoxide,” says Appy. “The scary part is that you only know it is there if the alarm goes off.”

Think ahead

Parents need to continue to reevaluate their home’s safety as their child grows. Resources are available through the Home Safety Council, your local health department and fire department to learn about what you can do to keep your home safe.

Janine Boldrin is a freelance writer who lives in West Point with her husband and three children.

Home safety starts at birth, find out more here.