2007-10-30 00:00:00

Danger-Proofing Your Home By Britt Michaelian, MA

One day a few weeks ago, our 2 year old escaped within a matter of a minute from my sister???s front door. Three adults and five kids frantically searched for the toddler, only to find that she had opened the front door, climbed down the porch steps and scaled a very steep driveway, ending up in the middle of the street.

Was I being irresponsible? No. Was I paying close attention? Yes. Could I have done anything differently? Not really. As you hear with any tragic situation, it only takes a moment. With toddlers, this is especially true and this is why we not only need to beconstantly supervising our children, but we also need to be prepared in case there is a medical emergency. The fact is that there are moments where the child can slip away or where an injury can occur no matter how closely you supervise a child.

This story is an example of when childproofing is not enough. What can we do about it? Starting before your child can crawl, go through your entire home as an octopus bulldozer. Get on your knees, open the front door and crawl in. Grab onto and pull down on anything in your reach. Everything that has the potential to be opened, pinched, tumbled or broken needs to be addressed.

Start with getting electrical socket covers and place them high and low, in every electrical socket in your home! If you do this first, you will not be sorry! Our two year old has learned how to pull these out, but we still use them! Even though she can remove these covers, they are one added step that gives us time to react when we see her at the electrical outlet. While you are at it, get power strip covers and any cord ties to eliminate a tangle of cords that can be very intriguing to children.

If a piece of furniture or large object, such as a TV, moves or shifts at all in your crazy octopus experiment, it has the potentialto fall and needs to be anchored to the wall. If a vase or other heavy object can become loose or fall, it needs to be strapped down or moved to another location where it is not a danger. If drawers or cabinets can be opened, put safety latches on them. Different safety latches work best in different types of cabinets. Some cannot be used if your cabinet has a wide frame or irregular shape, so it is important to try different brands to figure out which latch works best on your furniture. We tried as many as four types of latches in some locations before finding one that worked!

Our smart, adorable little toddler girl has broken a lot of our child safety latches (and the ones at the doctor’s office) so, I highly recommend making sure any choking hazards, such as dry pasta noodles, hard candy or other hard foods be stored up high both in the refrigerator and in other areas of the kitchen. Obviously, liquid detergent and other cleaning chemicals are extremely dangerous and should be stored in the highest possible location as well. Over the refrigerator or oven are usually safe.

Until recently, our toddler could not open doors, so I found that keeping all of the doors in the house closed is a good way to monitor her location. Most importantly, the bathroom door needs to remain shut and the toilet closed with a toilet guard.

Other hazards in the bathroom include but are not limited to the bathtub, medicine cabinet, any drawers, hairdryers, make up, nail polish, lotions and potions as well as anything that can fall on top of the child. Don’t forget, these drawers and cabinets need safety latches as well!

Another thing to keep in mind is that medications may be difficult for children to open, but not impossible. Keep ALL medications stored up high and out of reach, even when your child is very sick. And DO NOT keep any medications on your own nightstand! Many children suffer from accidental poisonings as a result of medications being left out in places where the child can easily reach them.

If you have stairs in your house, you will need a gate at the top of the stairs and another gate at the bottom to keep baby from climbing up without your assistance (and possibly falling down). If your stairway has rails that are more than 2 3/4 inches wide, you will need to get a banister guard made to keep baby from going between the rails. You will also need to make sure your windows are safe. If you have safety mechanisms on your windows, use them! If you don’t have safety windows, you can buy window guards or stints that can be removed quickly by an adult in case of fire.

When your toddler is big enough to reach the counter or stove, get a counter or stove guard. This handy plastic shield will block little hands from getting burned or pulling knives down when you are cutting food for dinner. A woman we know has a large scar on her cheek because when she was 9 months old, she pulled a dishtowel down from the counter. There was a knife on top of the dishtowel that went through her cheek and the scar remains today.

In fact, make sure all knives are pushed all the way to the back of the counter, if not stored in one of the latched cabinets! Our adorable two year old has pushed a chair over to the counter, climbed up and grabbed knives from the knife block in about 2 seconds. In addition, remember to cook on the back burners of the stove. If you are making a lot of food and need to use the front burners, have someone entertain baby outside of the kitchen or put the baby in a safe place while you cook! Every home should also have fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors that are tested every year (keep a journal of all appliances that need parts tested or changed in your kitchen).

Security alarms are another thing that parents underestimate the value of! Security alarms areimportant to protect from burglars and home invasions, but they also have wonderful functions such as a warning beep when a door or window is opened or closed and fire alarms that signal the fire department.

I highly recommend hiring a childproofing expert to come to your house to install every safety device that your house can accommodate! I also highly recommend and believe it should be mandatory for all parents and caregivers to take CPR and first aid courses every year.

In addition to this, it is important for you to prepare a family log that is readily available in case of emergency. You can use a binder and make spread sheets with your family???s important information. Make a list of any and all medical history items and medications that anyone in your family takes regularly. Have an extra dose on hand in case of a natural disaster or other emergency and list where that is (better yet, store a few in a pouch with the log!) Any information that you or another caregiver would need to know should be in this log.

Families need to have an outside the immediate area person to contact if there is a catastrophic emergency. All family members should have this person’s phone number on hand at all times. This person should also have a copyof your household???s important documents. Each household should have an emergency survival kit with enough food, water, medication and supplies for a week. Each vehicle should have an emergency survival pack (including water and food) and a well-stocked first aid kit.

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