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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Safety standards crucial for family

By Stacey Williams | | June 12, 2003

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Home sweet home! We all know the saying and we all know the feeling. Home is where we gather with loved ones. It ?s where we eat, sleep and relax in comfort and safety ? the one place in the world where we can let our guard down.

Each year, some seven million Americans suffer disabling injuries and another 28,800 die as the result of injuries sustained at home. Most children feel safe and secure in their own homes. But unfortunately, home is where many injuries and deaths occur.  Fire, burns, poisoning, drowning, and falls are the primary causes of these injuries and deaths.

Accidental injury remains the leading cause of death among children ages 14 and younger in the United States. Among children in this age bracket, it is estimated that 40 percent of deaths and 50 percent of nonfatal accidental injuries occur in and around the home. The good news is that approximately 90 percent of accidental injuries within the home environment can be prevented.

Fire Related Deaths - Most home fire deaths happen between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Inhalation of smoke and toxic gases, rather than the fire itself, is the root cause of many deaths. Alarming smoke detectors should be installed on each level of your home, including the basement.

You should also consider installing alarming smoke detectors near sleeping areas. For extra protection, consider installing an alarming smoke detector in every bedroom. Be sure to test the batteries and electronic circuitry at least once a month. Test the detector as well. The battery and electronic circuitry can be satisfactorily tested using the installed test button, while the detector must be tested using a smoke source.

Except when replacing them, never remove the batteries from your alarming smoke detector. A good rule of thumb is to replace the battery every six months, when you change your clocks from and to daylight savings time. Alarming smoke detectors save lives. The chance of dying in a residential fire is reduced by 50 percent when a smoke alarm is present.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - A major contributor to poisoning is carbon monoxide or CO.  Because CO is odorless, colorless and tasteless, it often goes undetected. CO is a normal by-product of combustion. Therefore, any fuel-burning appliance in your home is a potential CO source.

Every home should have at least one alarming CO detector placed in an area near sleeping rooms. Be sure your detector displays the Underwriters Laboratories label. Its battery and electronic circuitry should be periodically tested using manufacturer?s instructions.

Drowning ? It?s not just in pools that children drown. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental injury or death among children ages 1 to 4. Although the majority of near-drownings and drownings occur in residential swimming pools, children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water. Consequently, they are at risk of drowning in wading pools, bathtubs, buckets, toilets and hot tubs.

An incident of this nature can occur in a matter of seconds. Within two minutes, a child will lose consciousness. Irreversible brain damage occurs after four to six minutes without oxygen.

By following these simple safety tips, you can minimize the chances of your child drowning.

* Never leave a child unattended in the water or pool area for any reason.

* Do not rely on floats (e.g., water wings, inner-tubes) to protect your child in the water. 

*Use a pool alarm, which sounds when someone falls into the water of an unattended pool.

*Attend a CPR class. Make sure your baby-sitter knows CPR. Contact your local fire department, hospital, or American Red Cross for the nearest class.

* Do not overestimate your child?s ability to swim.

Slips, Trips and Falls - Inadequate design contributes to most falls in homes. Install grab bars in all bathrooms and shower stalls. Use a non-slip mat, or install non-slip strips or decals in bathtubs or showers to help prevent slipping.

Properly shaped handrails on both sides of all stairs are important. Don?t forget that stairs with just two or three steps (typical on the exterior of many homes) need handrails.

A lightweight, sturdy step stool or quality ladder is necessary for those hard-to-reach places, for hanging pictures, installing draperies, and for cleaning and general home maintenance. A chair should never be used as a ladder; the use of a chair for elevated tasks immensely increases the risk of a fall.

Use night-lights near bathrooms, bedrooms and stairwells. Make sure stairwells, hallways, walkways and entrances are always adequately lighted.

Summary - Home can, in fact, be a safe place for everyone, providing certain precautions are taken.  The closer your home is to being in compliance with recommended home safety standards, the more you lower the risk that someone you love will suffer an injury or fatality at home. 

For more detailed information please consult the National Safety Council on Home Safety, the National Safe Kids Campaign, or call a member of the Risk Management Office staff at 639-5249.

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