Tips for a safety-savvy family

An authority on home safety shares some tips


By Alyssa Goldman


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 hair.

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.

Electrical Outlets


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.

Product Safety


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.


Fire Safety

extinguisherKNOW 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 teacher.

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.

Carbon Monoxide


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.


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 emergency services.

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 Skokie.


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