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Think ’kids’ safety first’ around your home

About 2,100 children, mostly ages 4 and under, suffer fatal accidents each year at home. Yet most of these tragedies might never have happened if basic safety precautions had been in place.

Fortunately, keeping your youngster safe at home doesn’t require a lot of money, expertise or special equipment. All that’s necessary is common sense, supervision and the ability to think like a child.

Review this list of household dangers and follow the recommendations for protecting your children.

Fire and burns

In 2002, more than 330 kids ages 14 and under died from accidental fires and burns. Some of these blazes were caused by unsupervised boys and girls playing with fire.

  • Always have working smoke alarms—they save lives. Studies show that half the kids 5 and under who die in home fires are asleep and another third are too young to know how to escape.
  • Protect your kids by quitting smoking and keeping a fire extinguisher made specifically for kitchen use mounted near (but not next to) the stove. Kitchen fires are the leading cause of residential blazes, but cigarettes are the leading cause of fires that kill.
  • Fence off wood stoves, space heaters and fireplaces in cold months and make a rule: Only Mom and Dad are allowed near them.
  • Keep matches and lighters locked away.
  • Never leave an appliance’s electrical cord plugged in while it’s disconnected from the appliance. Such “live wires” can electrocute children.
  • Turn pot handles toward the rear of the stove. Keep chairs and step stools far away.
  • Don’t leave containers of hot liquid or food neartable or counter edges.
  • Make sure the water in your home isn’t scalding hot. Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120°F.


Of all the children’s products out there, balloons are the most lethal, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It’s all too easy for balloons and pieces of burst balloons to get lodged in a child’s windpipe.

  • Never let young kids blow up or chew on balloons.
  • Keep all kinds of plastic bags out of your child’s reach. Discard unwanted bags in a trash can with a secure lid—not an open-topped wastebasket.
  • Make sure there are no gaps larger than the width of two fingers between your baby’s mattress and crib.
  • Never let infants or toddlers sleep on a waterbed or on a soft futon mattress. They can suffocate in the depressions their bodies make.


In 2002, some 160 kids, mostly under age 4, choked to death at home.

  • Avoid round or slippery foods—hot dogs, peanuts, hard candy, grapes, raisins and raw carrots. They’re the most common cause of choking in small children.
  • Small objects like buttons, marbles, coins, eyes from dolls and anything else that can be picked up and put in the mouth is a choking hazard. Rid your home of them by getting on your hands and knees (toddler level) and inspecting your house.
  • Don’t give a young child beanbag pillows or toys.


At least 420 children drowned in or around the home in 2002. Remember, a small child can drown in less than two inches of water.

  • Never leave your youngster unattended in the bathtub—even for a moment. Always drain the tub promptly after use.
  • Keep toilet lids sealed with a plastic safety fastener.
  • Leave the bathroom door closed at all times. If your toddler can reach the knob, use a hook-and-eye latch to keep it shut.
  • Never leave buckets of liquid unattended.


An estimated 80 children are unintentionally killed each year by gunshot wounds in private homes.

  • The best way to prevent tragedy is to not have a gun.
  • If you are an owner, keep guns unloaded and locked in a vault or a reinforced gun case. Ammunition should be locked up separately. Hide the keys to the cases, too.
  • Never simply “hide” a gun. One study showed that 80 percent of first- and second-graders knew exactly where their parents’ guns were “hidden.” Studies show that some 3-year-olds are strong enough to fire one.