A Close Call: How Childsafe is Your Home?

Allison Greenland paled as she looked at the picture message from her husband that had just appeared on her phone: a large dresser in her daughter’s room toppled over, drawers askew, contents strewn across the floor. Her immediate thought, had anyone been hurt? Thankfully her concern was quickly allayed by the message that followed: Someone’s looking out for us.
Allison’s five-year-old daughter had been trying to reach a headband at the top when the dresser upended. A drawer or two had been open, sending the bulky unit off kilter. ‘My husband heard a loud crash and screaming,’ says Allison. ‘He rushed to the bedroom and, to his great relief, discovered our daughter was safe. She had realised the dresser was off balance and stepped out of the way just in time. I’m so glad she had the instinct to move but I keep thinking, what if it had been our son, who is only two and wouldn’t have had that instinct?’
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Photo: Courtesy of Allison Greenland
It was a simple mistake, one that so many parents make: not to bracket bookshelves, dressers and other heavy items to the wall. Allison says: ‘We’ve been pretty diligent about childproofing our home. We have safety covers on switches, cabinet locks, and so on. This was the one thing we hadn’t done – but it was on our to-do list.’ After reading a post in Inner West Mums about the hazards of large furniture items toppling only months earlier, Allison had bought a kit to bracket the dresser to the wall then realised they needed a particular drill to install it. Ominously the kit had been sitting in the top drawer of the dresser at the time of the accident. ‘I got the kit, even though I didn’t think it was possible to pull the dresser over. It’s sturdy, well made. I even tested it. It just goes to show that you can’t be too careful.’ Allison is borrowing an appropriate drill from a friend – another Inner West Mum – today and will install the bracket immediately.
Following her family’s close call, Allison was keen to increase awareness of the dangers of unsecured furniture items. She decided to post in Inner West Mums: ‘I’m posting this here in the hopes that it may make someone more aware of the danger …’ she wrote in the group on 26 November. ‘Please don’t make the same mistake I did …’ Allison had worried that others might see her and her husband as negligent, but decided that it was more important to help others to learn from her family’s hair-raising experience. Her warning to the group drew numerous supportive responses. ‘There were so many comments expressing relief and thanks. Some members offered to lend us their drills, another even said her partner could come and install the bracket himself – how amazing is that?’
I ask Allison what the group means to her. She says: ‘I’m from Atlanta, Georgia in the USA and my husband is from New Zealand. We have lived in Sydney for nearly ten years, in Drummoyne for the past six years. My business [Leap into Literacy, a creative reading and writing class for kids] is based in the Inner West too. With no family in Australia, Inner West Mums has been an extended circle of friends. I’ve made friends through the group and many of the families I work with are from this community too. I love seeing the stories of people coming together, helping one another. It’s such a warm, caring community.’
 
Home Safety Tips
Following are some tips to make your home safe for you and your children. (Please note this list is not exhaustive.)

  • Walk through your home with fresh eyes and try to spot any potential hazards.
  • Buy equipment that meets Australian safety standards. Look for the Australian Standards tick of approval.
  • Bracket bulky furniture items such as dressers, bookshelves and televisions to the walls!
  • Bunk beds are a common hazard. Install a guard rail on the top bunk. Where possible, choose single beds.
  • Install baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs – and keep them closed!
  • Never leave a baby unattended on a change table (or other raised surface). Keep everything you need, including nappies, wipes, creams and clothing, within easy reach of the change table and one hand on the baby at change time.
  • Use child-resistant locks on any cupboards containing potentially poisonous items, such as medicines, alcohol, cleaning products and batteries. If you cannot install cupboard locks, store items in a lockable container out of harm’s way. Keep a close eye on children around areas containing these items – and remember that some children can open locks!
  • Ensure hot drinks and foods are out of reach of children.
  • Store a fire extinguisher and fire blanket in your kitchen.
  • Check there is safety glass or a protective film on any glass doors or low windows.
  • Ensure windows cannot be opened by a child or have guards, such as bars.
  • Ensure doors leading onto balconies are locked when not in use. Always supervise your child closely whenever they are on a balcony.
  • Secure any free-hanging blind cords.
  • Check your home has smoke alarms and electrical safety switches.
  • Use plug-in covers over electrical sockets that are not in use.
  • Beware of choking hazards with toys that have small parts.
  • Do not leave babies or young children unattended in the bath. Always pull out the plug as soon as you remove your baby or child from the bath.
  • After use, empty the water from your paddling pool and store it away or upright to prevent refilling, e.g., with heavy rain.
  • Check and maintain your pool fence. Always supervise your child closely when poolside.
  • Do not allow your child to play in the driveway or on the roadside. Always hold your child’s hand near roads.
  • Keep a list of emergency contact numbers in your kitchen (or other prominent place).
  • Learn first aid and keep a CPR checklist in your kitchen (or other prominent place).
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