My fear of fire began when I was 7 during Passover. A tradition
of the holiday is to ceremoniously burn all the bread removed from
your home. My dad decided to burn a paper bag filled with the bread
in the alleyway close to our sidewalk.
He poured gasoline on the bag and lit it on fire, which quickly
spread, forcing us to run as fast as we could from the flames.
Luckily, I came away with only a singed jacket and some singed
Just like my father, many parents forget vital safety rules from
time to time - or never learned them. Recently I had the
opportunity to spend a day at Underwriters Laboratories in
Northbrook to learn how to stay safe in a variety of situations.
UL, an independent product safety certification organization that
has been testing products and writing safety standards for 115
years, assisted Chicago Parent in providing our readers with
essential safety tips to make your family more safety savvy.
The tips and facts I learned at Underwriters Laboratories would
have helped my father and me that morning - and probably
could have prevented it from happening altogether.
KNOW IT: Every year,
almost 4,000 kids end up in the emergency room every year because
of injuries from electrical outlets
PREVENT IT: Kids should never put their fingers
or objects in an uncovered electrical outlet. Cover your outlets
with an outlet plug cover. Use a ground-fault circuit-interrupter,
specifically in the bathroom, to prevent electrocution or serious
shock injury.associated with electrical outlets.
KNOW IT: About 20 million students are carrying
twice the recommended weight on their back, which can lead to
stress injuries and spinal pain.
PREVENT IT: Pack backpacks light and right.
Organize your child's backpack to use all of its compartments
- the backpack should never weigh more than 10-20 percent of a
child's body weight.
KNOW IT: In 2007, recalled products caused at
least 657 child injuries and six deaths.
PREVENT IT: Make sure you have up-to-date
information on recalled toys and children's products. Check the
Consumer Product Safety Commission's web site
for the latest information.
KNOW IT: Parents like
to think their kids would know how to act in an emergency. But your
children might not be as safety smart as you think.
Most parents, a whopping 97 percent, said their children knew
what to do if they were ever in a fire, but only 47 percent of
children surveyed said they would get out of the building right
away, according to a UL safety survey done in April. Nearly half
said they would call 911 first or try to find a parent or
PREVENT IT: Parents must make sure their kids
know how to get out of a fire. "It's all about awareness,"
Hirschmugl says. "Everyone knows what to do, but empower them to
escape. Have a fire escape plan drawn out."
Get out and stay out. The most important thing to do in the
event of a fire is to get out of the building as safely and quickly
as possible and stay out. Tell your children to get out of the
building before they do anything else.
Practice fire drills at home and reinforce the importance of
participating in the ones at school.
Get down and get out. Smoke is lighter than air and rises to the
ceiling, so remind your children that if they see smoke, they
should get down, get out and never re-enter a burning building.
Also known as the "silent killer" because it's colorless,
odorless and causes flu-like symptoms, carbon monoxide kills about
200 people in the U.S. every year.
PREVENT IT :
Have your fuel-burning appliances inspected by a technician at
least once a year. Install alarms inside your home to provide early
warning of unsafe levels of CO.
Like smoke alarms, CO alarms need to be tested monthly and
cleaned. If your unit is battery powered, the battery should be
replaced at least once a year. CO alarms should be replaced
whenever an end-of-life signal is activated or the manufacturer's
replacement date is reached.
If the CO alarm sounds, immediately go outdoors or by an open
window or door. Do not re-enter until given permission by the
When a CO alarm beeps, some people take the batteries out and
stay in their homes. Don't make that mistake, says Stephanie Lane,
Northbrook lab operations manager. "When a smoke detector goes off,
smoke is already there. The CO detector gives you enough time to
get out of the house."
Alyssa Goldman is a Chicago Parent intern. She is a
sophomore at Indiana University Bloomington and lives in
This article appeared in the
edition of Chicago Parent.
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