Family House and Home

Simple Changes to Make Your Home Safe For Kids and Pets

When pets and children are active, accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re sharing a snack on the couch and seconds later you’re grabbing your kid by the diaper — or a pet by the collar — to pull them away from danger.

You can’t save them from every incident, but just a few minor adjustments to your house and routine can make your home a safer place for children and pets.

Go beyond the usual motions

If you have kids and pets, the primary safety protocols you should follow are similar, with a few exceptions. Pets can jump higher than many kids can reach, so you’ll need to place dangerous objects a little higher for your four-legged family members.

You know the routine. Keep sharp knives out of drawers, plug unused electrical outlets, lock up cleaning supplies, tie up cords from your window blinds, and block off stairs with baby gates.

All of these usual precautions will work with one exception: Tying up cords into the manufacturer-recommended “safety knot” isn’t enough. In a 1997 study, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that 49% of window cord strangulations in the U.S. were not reported.

The total number of deaths between 1981 and 1995 was estimated to be 359, or higher than officially reported numbers. The same study revealed that 86% of deaths occur with Venetian blinds or mini-blinds, and take place when parents think their children are safe in their crib or bed.

Many of these parents did indeed tie the cords into a “safety knot,” but it wasn’t enough. It took thirty years and hundreds of deaths for the CPSC to launch an serious effort to make window-blind manufacturers replace potentially hazardous cords with safer alternatives.

To enact a legal ban of such cords is a lengthy process, but it’s finally underway.

Retailers like Target and Ikea have stopped selling corded window blinds. “Cordless blinds are the safest option,” Target executive Irene Quarshie told ABC News. “So as a responsible retailer we were very eager to do whatever we could to increase the safety of our products.”

Window blinds manufactured before 2001 should be replaced with products that meet updated safety standards, according to Blindster. The company also notes that retrofit cord kits are available for homeowners and renters who can’t afford replacements.

Whatever the correct number of deaths in the past might have been, the fact that children strangle in window blinds and cords at all should be a good enough reason to replace yours.

Re-tack your carpet

You’ve probably stepped across the threshold of one room into another and noticed a sharp prick on the bottom of your foot. That’s not usually a nail, but a tac.

Tac-strips are used to attach carpet to the wall, the back of steps, and in areas where hardwood meets carpet or vinyl. Sometimes a tac-strip is used in doorways.

Tac-strips maintain the stretch of a carpet and are supposed to penetrate its backing. If your carpet is thin, tacs poke through when weight is applied. That’s why you can’t see them, but you can sure feel them.

To resolve this issue, take a 2×4 or any solid object and lay it over the tac strip. Use a hammer to flatten the sharp points. Or contact the person who installed your carpet if you know who it was, and ask them to fix it.

Before you flatten the tacs, recognize that this will lock down the carpet and make it harder to remove later.

Keep your dishwasher locked when not in use

Kids are smart enough to figure out how to open nearly anything, including the dishwasher. Keep it closed and locked, and if your child learns how to open the lock, duct tape it shut or buy a safety strap to lock it down.

Don’t put knives in the dishwasher until you’re ready to run it. Keep them in the sink.

Choose your cabinet safety locks carefully

Choose the type of safety lock you use with care. Magnetic locks that require pushing on the cabinet door are cheap but aren’t complex enough.

You need locks that require dexterity, such as the kind you push with your finger. Kids can figure out simple safety mechanisms by watching you operate them. So can cats.

If you have a cat, consider installing high-end safety locks for your cabinets. Cats are naturally curious and will figure out how to open doors, drawers, and cupboards, including doors secured by a so-called childproof latch. The mechanism that would work best for you will depend on your cat’s determination.

Let go of the belief that “it can’t happen to me”

It’s dangerous to assume a serious accident can’t happen to your child or pet. Accidents occur without warning, so it’s best to take all the precautions you can.