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Checklist to make your home safe for a child

Dear Heather,

I have family coming to stay this summer, and they have a small child. How can I make sure my home is safe for children? We don't have any yet!

Hospitable

Dear Hospitable,

Taking preventive measures to protect children against unintentional injuries at home is essential. Each year more children die from preventable injuries than from all childhood diseases combined. With foresight and action, you can help prevent burns, cuts, falls, poisonings, drowning, choking, and other serious injuries. Use these four checklists to ensure your home is healthy and safe for your guests and their child:

In the bedroom

• Test smoke alarms. There is a tendency in Bermuda to remove the batteries from smoke alarms, as they get damp and set the smoke alarm off at odd times, which can be very disturbing. So make sure your smoke alarms do actually have batteries in them.

• Place a baby to sleep on his or her back in a crib with no pillows or soft bedding underneath.

• Use a crib — available for rent from the Red Cross (as are other baby items) — that meets national safety standards and has a snug-fitting mattress.

• Keep small toys, balloons and small balls away from young children.

• Check age labels for appropriate toys. Make sure toy storage chests have safety lid supports.

• To prevent strangulation, use safety tassels for mini-blinds and avoid strings on children's toys and pacifiers.

In the bathroom

• To prevent poisonings, lock away all medicines and vitamins, even those with child-resistant packaging.

• Never leave a young child alone in the bathroom, especially in a bath.

• Before bathing a child, always test bath water with your wrist or elbow to make sure it's not too hot.

• Make sure bathtubs and showers have non-slip surfaces and grab bars.

• Keep electrical appliances, like hair dryers and curling irons, out of the reach of children and away from water.

In the kitchen

• Keep knives, plastic bags, lighters, and matches locked away from children, or stored very high.

• It goes without saying — keep children away from BBQs at all time. They can rust quickly in Bermuda and be extremely unstable should a small child try and pull themselves up using one of the supports. The exterior metal can also get extremely hot.

• Please have an ABC (all-purpose) fire extinguisher in your home and know how to use it.

• Keep appliance cords unplugged and tied up. Replace any frayed cords and wires.

• Securely strap young children in high chairs, swings and other juvenile products.

In all living areas

• To prevent asthma attacks, eliminate sources of mould, dust and insects, such as cockroaches. If you have a pet, keep it and its bedding clean and keep the pet off the furniture.

• Use safety gates to block stairways (and other danger areas), safety plugs to cover electrical outlets and safety latches for drawers and cabinets.

• Keep children and the furniture they climb on away from windows.

• To prevent falls, keep hallways and stairways well-lit and use non-slip backing for area rugs.

• Keep cleaning solutions, pesticides and other potentially dangerous substances in their original, labelled containers and out of the reach of children.

• Keep an updated list of emergency telephone numbers, including your local poison control centre, physician and hospital emergency room, next to every phone in your home.

• Make sure your family knows what to do during a natural disaster. In a hurricane (and yes, we have had hurricanes in August in Bermuda) stay away from windows. Have handy supplies of food, flashlights and water.

Water

• When around the pool or on the beach, make sure a specific person is watching a child all the time. In crowd situations it is very easy to assume someone else is watching them…usually they're not!

• Make sure the child has a flotation device on at all times around water and on boats.

• The Bermuda sun at this time of year will burn very quickly, use adequate protective clothing and sun lotion, and avoid being outdoors between the hours of 12pm and 3pm.

Final note: ask the parents to do a quick scene survey around your home when they arrive. Put anything you deem valuable or they deem dangerous in a box or container and secure it away until after their stay. It sounds complicated but I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun.

• Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty's leading sales representatives. She has been working in real estate for 25 years. If you have a question for Heather, please contact her at hchilvers@brcl.bm or 332 1793. All questions will be answered confidentially.

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Published August 18, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 18, 2015 at 2:20 am)

Checklist to make your home safe for a child

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