Keeping kids safe at home

By Kathy Jefcoats

Almost a week ago, David Tippin, 4, walked out of his Stockbridge home and vanished.

More than 48 hours after his parents last saw him, David was found safe and sound when a man noticed something amiss in one of his empty rental homes. For several days, family, friends and strangers who put their lives on hold to look for him celebrated his safe return.

To keep David from wandering off again, his parents, Robert and Stacey Tippin, accepted the offer of a free security system. Henry County mom Terri Crawford already understood the value of having such a system – not only to keep out criminals but to keep in her two children.

"Once they got old enough to unlock the doors themselves, we started using the security system as much for them going out as someone coming in," said Crawford.

Crawford has taken just about all the necessary steps possible to keep her kids, Will, 5, and Emily, 3, safe while inside their Parkside subdivision home. There are locks on the cabinet doors and outside gate and the kids learned the hard way about poisonous chemicals.

"We talked about calling the poison control center," she said. "We've been through all that already, had a big talk about that because Emily took the Spray ?N Wash and sprayed it inside her mouth."

The Web site for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta contains a wealth of information about keeping kids safe inside the home. In addition to door and cabinet locks, experts advise parents on bathroom and kitchen safety.

Hot water temperature should be 120 degrees, with the best temperature for baths being 96 degrees, and children should never be left alone in the tub.

"When they were smaller, we had a cover for the handles to keep the kids from turning the water on while in the tub," said Crawford. "And I sit with them during bath times."

Experts advise keeping all electrical appliances out of the reach of children and away from the sink and tub.

Crawford said Will and Emily like to help in the kitchen, which forced her to become even more diligent about safety. Their stove is in an island in the middle of the room and the kids pull up chairs to the surrounding counter to help her cook. In front of the stove is a large oval, dark blue braided rug.

"They're big helpers in the kitchen," she said. "And we have ground rules. Like in our house, you're not allowed on the blue rug when I am cooking. They do like to help but they know their limits."

Child safety experts advise not putting hot foods on the edge of counters and tables, using the back burners of the stove with pot handles facing away from the edge and not carrying a child while also carrying hot food or drinks.

Microwaved food, while heating without flames, can also be a source of danger. The inside of food is generally hotter than the outside and can burn a child's mouth. Baby bottles should not be heated in the microwave for the same reason. Steam from opening microwaved containers can also burn.

The backyard is fenced and accessible from the front through a locked gate. Will and Emily are allowed to play only in the backyard after Will went careening down the steep driveway in a wagon into the cul-de-sac in front of the home.

The Crawfords' three-story home has three sets of stairs, which the kids learned to navigate at early ages. Experts recommend using safety gates to prevent tumbles.

"We had to use gates with netting because Will put his toes through the other kind and climbed over," she said. "He is my monkey child and climbs on everything."

The family doesn't have a backyard pool but their subdivision has a community pool. This summer, Will and Emily learned how to swim.

"I won't leave them at the pool alone but I am more comfortable with them being around water now that they know how to swim," said Crawford.

Parents can buy any number of safety products to childproof a home. Items include furniture wall straps that affix large items to the wall to keep them from tipping over, stove knob covers, a tub spout cover to prevent injuries, electrical outlet covers and appliance latches.

Access www.choa.org, www.familydoctor.org or www.preparedness.com for more information on child safety inside the home.