Stay Safe at Home

How to prep your home so it's safe for the whole family

Home safety for everyone

In a matter of seconds, my sixteen month old daughter grabbed a bottle of cleanser from a cabinet where the child safety lock had become loose and started running through the house. When I found her covered in white powder, I didn’t know if she had swallowed any of the chemicals.

In the end, everything turned out fine with my daughter. But, according to the Home Safety Council (HSC), approximately every 7 seconds, a child under the age of six arrives at an emergency room due to a suspected poisoning.

“Each year, there are over 20,000 deaths and 21 million medical visits (because of events) that happen in the place we like to think is the safest place we can be,” says Meri-K Appy, President of HSC. “We believe the majority of these can be prevented.”

While many parents think of traditional childproofing like securing medicine cabinets and covering outlets, there are many other areas that should be considered to make a home safe. From checking the temperature of water coming out of the tap to ensuring playground safety and checking the smoke detectors, parents need to take a look in and around their homes for safety issues that can become a hazard for their children.

READ MORE: Grocery cart safety

From baby to toddler

Many parents think about buying clothes and toys for their new baby, but how many parents think about making home safety preparations before their infant arrives? In a recent study done by the HSC, nine out of ten parents reported that they were going to baby proof, but almost half were going to wait to do it until their child was crawling. “The time to think about home safety is before you bring the baby home,” says Appy. “And certainly before they become mobile.”

The top five causes of unintentional home death for children under the age of 15 years old are fire/burn, choking/suffocation, drowning/submersion, firearm, and poisoning. Children under the age of one have the highest rate. Appy points out the temperature of the water from a tap as one area many parents don’t consider. 

She says that infants have thinner skin and if the hot water heater is set to higher than 120 degrees, a baby is at risk of being scalded. In a 2009 baby safety survey done by the HSC, less than one-third of parents set their hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or just below the medium setting. And twenty percent of parents surveyed didn’t know that infants should never be left unattended in the bathtub, no matter how shallow the water.

“Babies have been badly injured when they were left alone for the parent to get another child,” says Appy. “Practice constant supervision when children are in and near water for both drowning and scalding.”

As summer approaches, parents should understand that even a wading pool or bucket of water to wash the car poses a potential drowning hazard for a toddler. "Young children can drown in as little as one inch of water. Toddlers are top heavy and can easily fall over. Any amount of water is a real hazard,” says Appy. “You must be within touch distance to your child when they are around water.”

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