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Cause For Alarm: What Parents Miss When Childproofing

by Wendy Mitchell

As new parents prepare for the arrival of their baby, they'll likely make safety a top priority. They put poisons out of reach, cover up unused electrical outlets and install safety gates. But experts say parents may miss the deadliest threat in the home for small children.

A new survey conducted by Kelton Research revealed that only 11 percent of parents surveyed believe a home fire is more likely than their baby accidentally falling or being poisoned. While falls occur more often, fires are more deadly. Fires and burns are the leading cause of unintentional home-injury deaths for children over age 1 and the second-leading cause for infants, according to the Home Safety Council's State of Home Safety in America.

"New parents undoubtedly have safety on their minds," said Meri-K Appy, president of Home Safety Council. "However, the misplaced safety concerns revealed in this survey show a greater need for educating new and expectant parents about the risk their baby could face regarding fires and burns."

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), children under age 5 face nearly twice the risk of dying in a home fire than adults. While the NFPA reports that adults are more likely to develop a fire escape plan after they have children, 78 percent of the Kelton survey respondents have never conducted a home fire drill.

"In addition to working smoke alarms, families need to take all necessary precautions to help protect themselves and their children in the event of a house fire. This includes having fire extinguishers within reach and regularly practicing a fire escape plan," said Chris Rovenstine, vice president for Kidde Residential & Commercial.

Steps to Take Before Bringing Baby Home

Parents can easily incorporate fire safety into overall childproofing plans:

Install UL-listed smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms near sleeping areas and on every floor of your home. For optimal protection, install both photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms, which may provide the earliest opportunity of detecting either smoldering or fast-flaming fires.

A combination alarm offers protection against both fire and carbon monoxide (CO) in one unit. Look for one with voice warning, such as the Kidde Talking Alarm, which will clearly announce the hazard present, fire or CO.

Test alarms per manufacturers' instructions and replace batteries as needed.

Replace smoke alarms every 10 years and CO alarms every seven. Alarms monitor the home every minute and do not last forever. If you do not know the age of your alarm, replace it.

Do not "borrow" an alarm's batteries for other uses such as in toys or radios.

Keep a UL-listed fire extinguisher (minimum 2A-10B:C), such as the Kidde Living Area Fire Extinguisher, on each floor and in your bedroom. A fire extinguisher can help put out a small, contained fire or aid in creating a pathway to safety.

Steps to Take as a Family

Develop and regularly practice a fire escape plan.

Include two exits from every room and also details such as who will assist young ones out of the home. An escape ladder can be an alternate exit from second- or third-floor rooms.

Practice your plan at least twice a year, both during the day and at night.

Close your children's bedroom doors. If a hallway fire occurs, a closed door could hinder smoke from overpowering your child and give firefighters extra time for rescue. Keep a working smoke alarm and baby monitor in the room so you can hear if the alarm sounds.

Teach toddlers not to hide. Remind them that firefighters are there to help.

For more information on baby safety and to download a free childproofing checklist, visit www.safehomesafebaby.com. Having smoke alarms and fire extinguishers on hand is an important part of babyproofing.

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