Home Safety: Preventing Injuries in the Home
Guest post by Nick Hanson
In talking about home safety it is imperative that parents realize childproof is not foolproof — give kids enough time to bypass any sort of safety item and they will!
Ideally, children can be free from harm 1000% of the time. I can tell you that as a firefighter, more than 85% of all injuries are preventable. The other 15% of injuries that occur means that no matter what you do as parents, your child will get hurt to a certain degree. Like I said earlier, given enough time, kids will overcome just about every safety obstacle placed in front of them.
As a parent or caretaker, if you reduce 85% of the potential injuries to your child, you are successful!
Just telling a child “NO” does not solve any problems. It may even make it worse as the child is naturally curious and testing your boundaries.
- Good childproofing creates boundaries and safe zones for kids so they can live and grow as needed.
- Good childproofing even establishes certain areas that are off limits- like pet feeding areas and the kitchen while adults are cooking.
Phoenix Child Proofing – Home Hazard Prevention was created from owner Nick Hansen’s dreams to put a fire extinguisher in every home, have a properly installed car seat for every child in Maricopa County and to help families learn to recognize preventable hazards in hopes of reducing the number of accidents in the home. As a firefighter for The Town of Queen Creek, Nick has acquired vast knowledge and resources related to emergency scene management, accident prevention and personal safety.
When to start
I always recommend that parents start to child proof before their child arrives. This will help with the design and placement of their crib/nursery items, baby monitors, play pens, gates, and related items. Starting early also will help offset the costs by spreading it out over a longer time frame.
The first 15 months (conception to around 6 months) revolves around planning and placement. A majority of childproofing should be completed before the child’s 1st birthday—once they can crawl and walk, they can get into trouble. Spreading out child proofing duties from 3rd trimester through about 6 months old will allow you to see where your child naturally goes (hint: anywhere mom and dad go). Putting up corner protectors after your child is crawling and impacts their head on the corner does little good. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more true that when dealing with preventable childhood injuries.
Where to start
Most parents that I deal with look at safety from their (adult sized) vantage points—great idea if children were born over 4 feet tall. The most important thing to do is to get down on the ground and look at your house (inside and out) from an infant’s or child’s perspective. This is certainly an eye opener for most parents. (Plus it shows where all the dirt and grime ends up when they “clean” their floors.)
From under cabinets and tables to corners and pet food, everything under 18 inches is directly in a child’s path and danger zone. When you see where all the dirt, food, toys, and other “junk” collects, then parents start to see how kids can get these items stuck in their noses, throats or ears. Kids have tiny fingers and learn everything by touch and taste—bad combinations for homes that have a lot of “stuff”. Not only can they reach into extremely small spaces, but any space less than 2 3/8 inches is likely to result in their hand getting trapped and a response from the local fire department to help free them. As a rule of thumb, any opening larger than the bottom of a soda can means a baby might get caught and injured.
Some tips to start
There are several checklists available, both online and from professional safety companies. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Electrical outlets and cords
- A majority of outlets are within 14 inches of the ground—well within a child’s reach and extremely dangerous for kids. When possible, tv cords and other electrical cords (check local fire and building codes) should be installed behind the dry wall, exposing only a few inches of the cord near the outlet.
- If placing TV wires and electrical cords behind the drywall is not an option, then parents are encouraged to use cord wraps, hook-and-loop (Velcro) and/or zip ties to secure loose wires. Since we already know that kids learn by touch and taste that means they are potentially chewing on electrical cords, pulling lamps or TVs over or getting tangled in excess cords.
- Any item above 2 feet from the floor should be securely mounted to the wall or floor to prevent pullover or tip-over from a child learning to pull themselves up (or using the furniture as a ladder).
- Potential hazards for children as they are crawling and beginning to walk: toys left out from older siblings, plants, household chemicals and buckets, unlocked pantries and cabinets, vitamins and spices, keys, coins, buttons, stale food, knives (really everything in the dishwasher-including the unit itself), batteries, paperclips, magnets. The list is nearly endless. As a rule of thumb, anything 3 foot or lower to the ground and within 6 inches of the edge of a counter is well within range of a child and should be moved or secured.
- Any item that can fit into a standard toilet paper tube should be considered a potential choking hazard and should be heavily monitored or removed from “circulation” until your child gets older.
- Food is another potential choking item. Be sure to out locks on freezers, refrigerators, pantries, and to put pet food and water dishes in an ‘exclusion zone’ in another room or behind a gate where a child has no access.
What will it take to start?
A typical 2500 square foot home may take 50 hours for a do-it-yourselfer and cost around $600 (hence spreading it out over many months). Hiring a professional childproofing and safety company may cost four times that much, but you are paying for their knowledge, expertise and warrantied installation of materials.
Every home and situation is different, and like we sometimes need an electrician or plummer to fix a problem, parents should consider working with child safety specialists to work towards preventing many childhood accidents.
Aside from do-it-yourself or hiring a company, the other alternative is do nothing and take your chances, the live and let learn policy. There are 2.5 million ER visits for children from household accidents annually. The cost of the ambulance ride to hospital, ER services, physician services, orthopedic specialist, etc. can easily cost over $100,000. Insurance may cover some of this, but parents may still be out $1500-$4500 (or more!) out of pocket. The much darker side is planning a funeral for your child. As a soon to be father, I can imagine no greater pain.
In my experience, parents can greatly reduce the cost of a professional’s services if they take a self-directed safety survey and implement the strategies listed above. Then call the “big guns” to complete the process. We have much better success with parents that take this approach versus just writing a “blank check”, mainly due to these parents not wanting to necessarily take the time to learn about safety.
Share with us in the comments: How much childproofing did you put your house through? Did you hire a professional?
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