An Ounce of Prevention – Home Safety Edition Part III

This is part of my series on home safety, this time focusing on kids.

Little kids explore and get into stuff. They put things in their mouths. They climb and leap from heights. It’s what they do. It’s how they learn. As adults, we must do everything we can to thwart their natural tendencies if we are to keep them safe.

Tragically, about 30 years ago, a friend of mine lost her young son when a highboy dresser fell on him. To get clothes out of the top drawer, he opened lower drawers to make ladder. When he reached up and opened the top drawers, the dresser fell on him. I had young children at the time, so the next day, I went to the hardware store and bought several bolts with washers and nylon straps and proceeded to secure all our furniture to the wall.

Securing furniture to the wall is a good first step, but that’s just the beginning. Drawers and cabinets, especially in kitchens and bathrooms, often contain things that are off-limits for kids. I recommend using child-proof locks to secure every drawer and cabinet within a child’s reach (remember, they can climb). These little plastic locks require more dexterity than most toddlers can muster. Trash cans should also be secured.

Next, make sure electrical outlets are inaccessible. Even the smallest openings are irresistible for young kids to see what will fit inside: a safety pin, a Bobbie pin, a butter knife, a finger? Anything they can pick up and hold is fair game. My solution was buying about 50 spring-loaded outlet covers. To plug something in you had to push it halfway, then twist it 180 degrees and push it in the rest of the way. For adults, this becomes second nature, but not for a toddler. I tried using the plastic outlet inserts, but my kids figured out how to remove them in about 30 seconds.

Bathrooms are particularly dangerous because they include water, electricity, and lots of toxic substances, from medicine to toilet bowl cleaner. Be sure to store anything that could harm a child in a tamper-proof storage container and then put that container inside a cabinet or drawer with a lock on it.

Another great safety tool is a baby gate to prevent stair falls and limit access to rooms that aren’t secure. Some babies figure out how to climb over them, but most don’t. Another way to prevent access to certain rooms, or to the outdoors, is with doorknob covers or locks positioned out of reach of children.

I thought I had this all figured out when my sons Jack and Joe were about 3 and 5 years old. One day, someone knocked on front door and the boys said, “We’ll get it!” Of course, I knew they couldn’t, so I got up and started moving toward the door. Much to my surprise, I watched Jack drop to hands and knees and Joe step on his back and open the lock. Obviously, this was not the first time they had done so, those crafty little engineers. They opened the door and invited the visitor in. I knew I’d have to be way more diabolical if I wanted to prevent my kids from answering the door for strangers or beating a hasty exit into the neighborhood.

My third son, Danny, was an escape artist. Once when we were at a neighborhood barbecue, the adults were taking turns watching the kids in the front yard. Danny was probably 3 years old at the time. I noticed that the adult who was supposed to be watching the kids had rejoined the party, saying, “The kids will be fine.” I took off at a run, but I was too late. Danny had escaped.

I ran out into the street looking in every direction when a neighbor, a retired CHP officer named Ron Carfi, came walking up and asked, “You looking for a kid? One just passed us headed down El Dorado on his stomach on a skateboard.”

The moral of the story is this: Plan for a Danny and the rest of your kids will be safe.

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.

Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 45 years.

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