How to make your home physically safe for children and other loved ones

I'm a father and a grandfather with six children and 28 grandchildren. Recently, my 20-month-old grandson was taken to the hospital, unconscious. He accidently ingested lamp oil and fumes from a decorative lamp in his home. My grandson has recovered, but because of this accident, I have an even greater sense of urgency about making our homes physically safe.

Every family should do the following:- Make a home survey to make sure all of the things that entice particularly young children, such as buttons, coins and other small items, are safely put away. Cleaning supplies, chemicals, medicines, etc., should be appropriately out of reach through locked cabinets, etc. Plants are often overlooked when providing a safe environment in the home. Many plants are poisonous if ingested.

Have immediately available all the information of who to contact, what to do and where to go in case of an emergency. You should know the phone number of the nearest Poison Control Center, and keep it near your phone at all times.

Have instructions readily available on how to handle emergency situations for baby-sitters or others in their home. Baby-sitters should know how to contact you immediately, if necessary.

After the recent experience with my grandson, I was prompted to contact the local poison control center. I learned the following:

Poison Control Centers are generally open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They provide assistance, via telephone, to the public and health professionals during an emergency.

Poison Control Centers are staffed around the clock by specialists in poison information. These pharmacists, nurses and physicians have additional training in clinical toxicology.

In Utah, the Poison Control Center received 42,132 calls during 1994, which was an average of 3,511 calls a month or 115 calls a day. The majority of poisoning exposures occur at private residences.

Brochures to educate people on the dangers of poisonings and poison prevention and telephone stickers are available to the public through Poison Control Centers. Be sure to contact yours so that you will have the information available if you need it. - George C. Clark, Bountiful, Utah

What we did:

Keep things simple

After years of caring for a chronically ill daughter and aging parents, we have learned many things about safety in the home. For children, the ill and the aged, keep things simple in the house and structure it in such a way that there really is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Porch and stair railings can prove to be life savers. Attach a short metal bathtub railing on the outside of the house next to doors as a grip for getting on and off porches.

Buy storm doors that have the closure control on the lower part of the door so the door can be propped open easily to free your hands to help that elderly parent.

Use area rugs that have rubberized backs, especially in bathrooms and kitchens.

Tape cords down along the walls if possible with a heavy duty tape.

As skill levels decrease, watch the weight of drawers, remove ladders and use chairs with arms to steady the ill or aged. A sheet of floor tile or plastic carpet runners bolted over existing carpet are frequently easier for shuffling feet than carpet is.

Use a small night-light in hallways at night. - Barbara J. Groen, West Valley City, Utah

Small items

We have eight children and over the years have tried to become alert to those everyday situations that may present safety hazards for little children. Our awareness was heightened when a young cousin visiting our home put a coin in her mouth and involuntarily swallowed, lodging it in her throat. Use of the Heimlich maneuver - several times - saved her life.

Ever since, however, we have taught all our children to be diligent in picking up any small or elongated items on the floor or other low surfaces that may be tempting for a baby or a small child to put in the mouth. Some of these may include pens, pencils, rulers, straight pins, etc. We are watchful of our young children's use of toothbrushes as we are aware of children who have received permanent injuries after tripping with a toothbrush in the mouth.

We also keep cleaning supplies and medicines out of reach. This includes a common caustic item - dishwasher detergent, which is often kept under the kitchen sink and is easily reached by a curious child.

With stairs in our home, we have learned to keep these blocked when a crawling infant is in the home and to teach our children at an early age to safely climb up and down them. We have also kept a thick rug at the bottom of the steps in case, despite our efforts, a child tumbles down. - James and Tanya Skeen, Charlottesville, Va.

Baby-proof the home

One of our children got into our emergency preparedness kit and started playing with matches and a pocketknife. From this experience, we realized the importance of keeping our home safe for our family. We strive for the following:

Keep any kind of potentially dangerous items locked up or out of reach of children. These include chemicals such as cleaners, pesticides, paints, fertilizers, etc., and such items as pocketknives and matches.

Baby-proof the home. Some of this happens naturally when we learn what toddlers can get into, but other situations we have to anticipate, such as keeping electrical and draperies cords secure from children's reach. Also, keep child locks on cupboards, and keep fragile items from children's reach.

Have a working smoke alarm and fire extinguisher. In addition, have a fire escape plan. - Nancie Metro, Antelope, Calif.

`Safety officer'

One parent should be appointed "safety officer" for the home. The home safety officer - mothers are ideal - should routinely check everything related to family safety: toxic solutions, matches, tools, knives, especially firearms. All family members should be involved in maintaining a safe home.

Family prayers should always include a plea for safety and protection from all harm, accidents and crime.

Leadership of the home includes preparation and training for defense against home invasion, burglaries, rapes and child kidnappings.- Daniel J. Soelberg, Salt Lake City, Utah

More alert

Since our children are grown and away from home, we do not have the immediate need to keep things out of reach and locked up as a younger family would. However, our children do come home several times a year and bring our grandchildren. Their ages range from 11 years to three months, so we are more alert while they are here. One son who is a career Air Force man, when being rotated from Germany to Texas, sent his wife and children to live with us for three months. That brought about temporary changes, such as putting child-proof locks on cabinets and drawers reachable by his youngest.

As a family of two, we keep our smoke detector on the wall near the bedrooms. We also have a carbon monoxide detector in the same area. Some years back, we installed fire detectors in all rooms in the house. They are set off by high heat. We change the batteries on these devices regularly.

We keep the use of extension cords to a minimum, never letting them be near a traffic area. We have a fire extinguisher near the kitchen in case of fire there, and one in the basement near my workshop. - Ralph Schleiger, Salina, Kan.

How to checklist:

Do home survey; put potentially dangerous items away; have night-lights, stair rails.

Have working smoke detectors, fire extinguishers.

Have emergency information, phone numbers accessible for self, baby-sitters.

Plan family evacuation procedures in case of emergency.

Write to us:

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Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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