- Never step away when your baby is on a high surface such as a changing table or countertop.
- Keep the sides of a baby’s crib raised.
- If an infant seat is used outside the car, place it on the floor.
- Avoid infant walkers.
- Install safety gates (not accordion-style) to guard stairways.
- Lock doors to dangerous areas such as the basement and garage.
- Check the stability of drawers, tall furniture, and lamps before a baby becomes mobile. Remove tablecloths that might be within the reach of a toddler.
- Make sure any windows above the first floor of a multistory house are closed or have screens or guards that cannot be pushed out.
- Don’t underestimate the climbing ability of a toddler.
- Remove or pad low furniture with sharp corners, such as coffee tables, in your child’s living area.
- Place safety latches on all drawers and cupboards that are off-limits.
- Move anything dangerous – cleaning products; plumbing, gardening, painting, refinishing, and agricultural chemicals and supplies; knives or other sharp utensils; and medicines – to high cabinets that are latched.
- Make knives off-limits to a child until he is old enough to learn (and demonstrate) how to use them correctly.
- Put covers on unused electrical outlets.
- Keep electrical cords out of the reach of children.
- Remove all poisonous plants from the home.
- Put the number of the nearest poison center on all phones. Call if a child puts some-thing in his mouth that might be poisonous.
- Buy syrup of ipecac, but use only if directed to do so.
- Purchase all medicines in containers with safety caps.
- Do not transfer toxic substances to bottles, glasses, or jars, especially if those containers originally contained familiar liquids for drinking (such as juice).
- When leaving your children with a baby-sitter, leave emergency phone numbers, a permission slip for emergency care, and insurance information. (Or designate whom the sitter should call.) Make certain the sitter knows the address and phone number of your home, in case she needs to provide this information to the emergency personnel.
Unfortunately, accidents do happen, and often in what is usually considered to be the safest of places in the home. Here are simple preventive measures that you can take to reduce the risks of serious injury, most of which are simply a question of common sense. Every member of the family should be fully aware of the dangers present in all areas of the home.
Just a little thought and planning as to the potential dangers can give peace of mind and, more importantly, reduce the risks of a serious accident occurring. The elderly are especially vulnerable to accidents in the home, as are children particularly those under 4 years of age. If you have young children, or even grandchildren, who visit, look around your home to count the hazards lurking there; it is surprising how many there are. It is impossible to watch children every minute of the day, so it is vital that you make every effort to eliminate potential hazards, most of which can quickly be removed.
Different areas of the home present different safety issues. Refer to the information given below and take the necessary action. Any safety products that you need to buy are relatively inexpensive, and will be a small price to pay for the creation of a safer home environment for all the family.
The hallway, staircase and landing are the first priority. If you do not already have one, you need to install a smoke detector or two if your home is on different levels so that every member of the household can be quickly alerted in the event of a fire. Smoke alarms are inexpensive and widely available, and can save lives. Regularly check that the alarms are functioning properly by vacuuming the vents to remove dust and letting the smoke from a snuffed candle drift into them as a test. Alternatively, some alarms have a special button for testing on a weekly basis. Always follow the instructions supplied by the manufacturer, and replace batteries as soon as they run down, also keep spares in the house so that you can fid them straight away.
Sufficient lighting is vital on the staircase and in the hallway to avoid misleading shadows being cast on steps and stair treads. Rugs on polished floors can easily slip when trodden on, so attach special non slip backing strips to prevent them from sliding. Make sure, too, that the carpet is securely fitted with no tears or gaping seams, as these can cause a serious fall.
The Living Room
Ensure that any glass topped tables, patio doors and interior glass doors are fitted with roughened or laminated safety glass. You can buy a special safety film (available front DlY stores) that is invisible once fitted, but will prevent shards of glass from causing injuries should the glass shatter.
Never overload a socket outlet (receptacle), ideally, there should only be one plug to one socket. If numerous electrical appliances are in use, be sure to use the correct adapter, ask your retailer for the one most suited to your needs. Avoid trailing flexes which can easily be tripped over.
If anyone smokes in the household, insist that cigarette buts are placed in an ashtray that is washed out before going to bed. This will ensure that any smoldering ashes are extinguished and will leave the room fresher too. Ensure that an open fire is always covered with a fire guard whenever the room is unoccupied, even if only for five minutes.
Buy a kettle guard to hold a kettle safely in place so that it cannot he tipped or pulled. Alternatively, a ‘curly’ cord will prevent the hazard of a trailing flex but will still allow the kettle to be lifted. Remember to keep a domestic fire extinguisher in the kitchen, but do not position it too close to or the cooker as a pan fire would make it inaccessible. Check that everyone knows how the extinguisher works and if possible choose one that is suitable for electrical fires. A compact fire blanket, hung on the wall will suffocate flames from deep fat fryers, which are a major cause of household fires. You should never throw water on this type of fire.
Take care not to stretch over or move a gas cooker if you are wearing clothing with loose sleeves, such as a dressing gown or a baggy sweater, especially with synthetic fabrics as the gas could catch on to the fabric. Always turn pan handles inwards to avoid them being caught in loose clothing and to make sure you do not inadvertently knock them over as you pass by.
Prevent a slippery floor, bath or shower from causing falls by installing ‘grab’ rails at a height that can be easily reached. Modern baths often have an integral safety rail. If yours does not, fit a rail to the nearest wall. Mop up splashes of water and even body lotion on vinyl or tiled floors quickly, and always have a bath or shower mat on the door so that wet feet do not slip. Non slip rubber safety mars and stickers will prevent slipping while getting in or out of the bath.
Keep all electrical appliances away from sources of water where they are likely to get splashed or saturated with steam. Remember that even cordless gadgets can deliver a powerful shock if dropped into water. Replace flick switches with pull cord light switches.
Keep a check on the state of paving stones and paths, as a loose stone can easily trip an unwary visitor. Never use petrol (gasoline) or any other household chemical to light a fire or barbecue. These can ignite with an explosion, causing burning debris to land on people, pets and possessions. Keep a bucket of water handy to douse afire that gets out of hand.
When using outdoor electrical equipment, plug the appliance into a residual circuit breaker (RCD), which will cut off the power should the cable be accidentally cut or a fault occur. After finishing with any tools, make sure that you put them away in order to prevent children or pets from cutting themselves on sharp blades.
Remember to wear safety goggles and a face mask when clearing guttering, when drilling into masonry, or when applying paint or creosote, in order to prevent dust or specks from getting into your eyes, nose or mouth.
Immediately when you discover a house fire, get everyone out safely and then telephone the fire services. With a pan fire, cover the pan with a lid, plate, damp towel or fire blanket. Wait until the flames are extinguished and the pan is cool before touching. If it’s an electrical fire, before dealing with a burning electrical appliance or socket outlet (receptacle), switch off the electricity at the consumer unit. After you’ve done so, put out the fire with a fire extinguisher or water.
If a television or computer is on fire, switch off the electricity at the consumer unit or at the socket if you can reach it safely. Do not use water, as residual electricity may still be present. Always smother the flames with a rug or blanket to extinguish them.
If a fire is too big to deal with, leave the place immediately, closing the door firmly behind you. Ensure that everyone leaves the house, closing doors behind the house to slow down the spread of smoke and flames. Telephone the fire services in a telephone box or from a neighbor’s house.
Smoke kills more people than flames do. It is vital to get out of a smoke filled house as soon as you can. Smoke and heat rise, so if the smoke is very dense, crawl on your hands and knees and you should be able to see and feel your way to safety. A damp towel or cloth tied over your nose and mouth can help to reduce smoke inhalation.
If you are trapped on an upstairs floor, open the window to call for help. A wet towel placed at the gap under the door will help to prevent smoke from penetrating. Double-glazed windows that are sealed create a barrier of astonishing strength. Do not attempt to smash them with your hands, instead, try to find a chair or other heavy object.
In the kitchen
Only buy detergent and cleaning chemicals with child-proof tops, as not all dangerous products have these. As many such products are stored conveniently under the sink where youngsters can reach them, so be sure to fit cupboard (closets well) with locks. Ideally, you store the cleaning materials in a high cupboard or on a shelf out of their reach. Never decant household cleaning agents or chemicals into other containers.
Never leave out knives and scissors once you have finished with them. Keep them safe and beyond reach in a wooden knife tidy, on a magnetic rack or in it lockable drawer. Even if you make sure that panhandles are kept pointing inwards so that children cannot reach them, hob and cooker guards that clip to the edges are an additional safety measure for the one time they can.
A hot oven front can give a nasty burn to an unsuspecting child. Look for the cool touch oven fronts that are available on many new ovens, or buy an oven guard which forms a neat but effective barrier between the heat and the child. If you are using a frying pan, avoid spots of hot fat landing on the floor where the child could easily slip, or even worse falling on a child standing nearby by placing a spatter guard over the pan while you are cooking. Also cover sockets (receptacles) with special covers to prevent young children from poking their fingers or pencils into them.
In the bathroom
When running a bath, even if you have mixer taps (faucets), run the cold water first, then top it up with hot water to bring the bath temperature up to the correct degree. Always test the water first by dipping your elbow (which is as sensitive as a child’s delicate skin) into it. Similarly, never turn on a shower while you are standing underneath it, switch it on first, check that the temperature is not too hot, and then step in.
Unfortunately, children can find the toilet a wonderful place for dropping in your toiletries and their toys. Keep them safe by fitting special lid locks which are easy and quick to open. Cupboard (closet) locks on bathroom cabinets keep small hands away from cleaning chemicals and medicines. Always keep medicines locked away in a safe, dry place.
Wall mounted bathroom cabinets are ideal, and can be situated where children are unable to reach them. Flush old and out of date medicines down the toilet, or take them to your chemist (drugstore) for safe disposal.
Discourage children from leaving toys or clothing on the stairs, as they can be a hazard. Fit a safety gate at the bottom and the top of the stairs, so that babies cannot crawl up only to try going back once they find their way blocked.
Windows and doorways
Fit safety locks to upstairs windows to prevent them from being opened by children. Look for an extended safety gate that can also be used as a static barrier across both open windows and doorways.
In the bedroom
Jumping on beds can be great fun but the consequences are lethal if a child should crash into a pane of glass. Cover any potentially dangerous windows with special self adhesive safety film, which will stop the glass from breaking into sharp, jagged pieces. Jumping on sofas can be equally hazardous if you have glass fronted units or glass topped tables, so ensure that these too are covered with sheets of safety film. Fit safety film to window panes, glass doors or tables to prevent shards of glass from causing injury if they break.
Provide a nursery light or a simple night light that plugs directly into a socket outlet (receptacle) to give a soft, reassuring glow and to enable a child to find his or her way if they happen to wake at night. Choose children’s toys carefully, checking for any loose parts, sharp points and edges or rough joints, all of which can cause injury. Pulling any suspect parts is worth doing before you buy, to find our whether the toy comes apart and could hurt a child.
When repainting a child’s bedroom, remember that old paint may contain lead. If unsure, remove paint with a chemical stripper, not a sander or a scraper. The stripper will form a paste which will prevent any lead from entering the atmosphere. Additionally when young children are unwell, a portable baby monitor will alert you to all the sounds from the nursery, leaving you to move about freely while the children sleep.
In the living room
Always place a fireguard in front of a fire even an electric one, as children may be fascinated by the glow that it emits. If possible, choose a guard with a sloping top so that toys or drinks cannot sit on it.
Swimming pools and ponds should be covered when not in use, or surrounded by a child proof fence that cannot be climbed or crawled under. An unobtrusive wire cover can be placed over ponds and left in place throughout the year.
Statistics show that domestic burglaries are on the increase, but many of these break-ins need not have occurred if just a few basic security measures had been taken. It is easy to prevent opportunist thieves from being tempted by the sight of open windows and doors by always being sure to close them both at night and even when you go out for a short time during the day. Even the most determined burglar who sets out with a crowbar to force an entry can be thwarted by sturdy locks, bolts and security floodlights. As well as giving peace of mind, a well-secured home can save money on insurance premiums and, more importantly, the anguish of losing your valued possessions.
Outside the house
Check that garden gates at the rear of the house close firmly, and can be secured if you go away for long periods. A garden fence with gaping holes can provide a discreet entry for a burglar, so be sure to keep this in good repair. Another frequent entry point is a garage, if attached to a house; this can allow a thief to force a door into the house unseen. Always fit secure locks to garage doors to minimize the risk of this happening. Padlock a garden shed if you have one in order to prevent tools from being stolen or used to gain entry to your home.
Remember that high shrubs and hedges at the front of your house may give privacy but can also screen a burglar from the street or neighbors. Large trees situated very close to a flat roof or window can also give an easy access route. Fit a passive infra-red (PIR) floodlight to the front and back of the house. This will automatically switch on if activated by a passer by, making a pleasant welcome for a visitor but a strong deterrent for intruders. Choose one that has a variable light duration and an adjustable sensor for covering large or small areas. A hell box is another good deterrent; even a false one can deter an opportunist thief.
A spy-hole fitted in the front door discreetly lets people outside know that you can observe their movements while you are still secure behind the door. Always use the spy-hole before opening the door, and never open it unless you are sure of the identity of the person.
On a front door, replace a standard `night latch’ with a 5-lever mortise lock that cannot he opened without the key, even if the burglar can reach it via a broken pane of glass in the door. Remember, however, that locks are only as strong as the door that they are on, so choose a solid door and hinges so that both the opening and the hinged side will withstand an attempted forced entry. If you are in doubt, insert hinge bolts on the hinge side of the door. These fit into corresponding holes in the door frame, providing extra strength and preventing the door from being forced off its hinges. Even if the door does eventually give way, there is a good chance that the noise created by the burglar will have attracted someone’s attention.
Fit a door chain or bar restraint to the front door. These both work in the same way by restricting the amount by which a door can be opened, giving you valuable time to assess the validity of a caller. A bar restraint is stronger than a chain, as it consists of a solid metal bar. Both require the door to be closed for the bar or chain to be released before the door can be opened to its full extent. A door chain or bar restraint will allow you to see who is calling at the door without the risk of the door being burst open.
Fit French windows and casement doors with additional rack bolts at the top and bottom, which slide into the frame. Keep the key out of sight of intruders, but where it can be found by you and all the other members of the family in an emergency.
Insurance companies now demand key operated window locks are install to all the windows in a house, and these do contribute greatly to security. When buying window locks, however, check that they are suitable for the windows to which you intend to fit them. Measure the window frames before you go to buy, and check that they will accommodate the type of locks that you have in mind. In the case of very narrow frames, use a surface-fitted kick.
Sash windows can be fitted with dual screws, where a bolt passes through the inner frame into the outer frame to hold the 2 sections together; or with surface fitted bolts that fit on the upper sashes and allow a small gap for penetration. Replace existing handles with lockable ones that, once locked, cannot be re-opened without the key. Lockable window handles are useful for keeping children in and burglars out.
A length of wooden dowel cut to the exact length to fit inside the bottom track of a patio door can wedge it closed. Similarly, if a dowel is placed vertically in the side runner of a sash window, it cannot be opened. Sink a screw into the wood frame beside a handle to prevent it from being opened. Stay-bars on casement windows can be secured by sinking a screw through a hole into the wooden frame.
When you are out
Light sensitive fittings on interior and exterior lights sense when it is growing dark and turn on automatically. Time switches are also an excellent idea. These can be used to operate a number of appliances, making it appear as if the house is inhabited, televisions and radios create enough noise to be convincing. Electronic curtain controllers are also available, to close curtains automatically at a pre-set time. This will give the impression that the house is occupied.
Ultra-violet pens are easy to use, and leave an invisible mark that will only show when placed under an ulna-violet light. Engraving scribers, ranging from simple carbide or diamond-tipped pens to electric engraving tools can be used to scratch a postcode, telephone number or other identifiable code. Use stencils with an engraver to give a near, legible result. Another option is an etching kit, which is ideal for marking glass objects. Stencil transfers mask of fthe security code, and acid brushed over the surface etches the code. Engraving scribers are an effective and easy method for marking hi-fi equipment.
Another safety measure is the sock safe. This looks just like an ordinary socket, but is large enough to hold cash and jewelry in the box behind it.
If you return home to find signs of a break-in, do not enter but go straight to a neighbor’s house to telephone the police. If you hear an intruder in the house or trying to break in, put on the lights and make a noise to alert them to the fact that you are there. If you are upstairs, do not go downstairs to investigate but telephone the police from your bedroom if possible.