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Taking Fire Safety Seriously continued...

Don’t neglect maintenance. Have the wiring in your home checked by a professional electrician at least once every 10 years. Chimneys, fireplaces, furnaces, and wood and coal stoves should be checked once a year and cleaned, when necessary.

Use common sense. Although it may seem like a no-brainer to store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or at least well out of reach of children, many children are badly burned each year from playing with them. Other simple, commonsense tips: Cover electric outlets within children’s reach, get rid of frayed or damaged electrical cords, keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from flammable objects, blow out candles when your leave a room, unplug irons and curling irons when not in use, and put them out of children’s reach.

Set your hot water heater at 120 degrees F. Water hotter than this can cause burns in two to three seconds.

Be safe if you smoke. As if there weren’t enough health risks tied to smoking, smoking and smoking-related materials are the main cause of fire-related deaths at home. If you smoke, use fire-safe cigarettes, smoke outside, and douse cigarettes and cigarette butts in water before dumping them in the trash. Better yet, quit.

Be prepared for a fire. Keep a few fire extinguishers in strategic locations and know how to use them. Consider having a sprinkler system installed if you have a new home. Do a monthly fire drill with your family, practicing how to escape. Teach everyone in the family how to “stop, drop, roll, and cool” if clothes catch fire: Drop immediately to the ground, cross hands over your chest and roll back and forth to put out the flames, and cool the burned area with cool water.

Home Safety: Prevent Choking and Suffocation

Choking is the third leading cause of unintentional injury and death in children under age 1. Sixty percent of nonfatal choking episodes that wind up in emergency departments are related to food (and 20% of these are related to candy).

Keep children safe with strategies such as these:

  • Do the “toilet tube” test. Babies and toddlers like to put things in their mouths. Anything that can fit through a toilet tube -- coins, marbles, buttons, jewelry, uninflated balloons -- is a choking risk. Keep items that don’t pass the test away from children.
  • Do house checks often. Look under beds, on top of shelves, and in between sofa cushions for stray bottle caps, nails, safety pins, erasers, refrigerator magnets, broken crayons, and other small items that are choking hazards.
  • Watch your children at mealtime. Teach children to chew and swallow their food before talking, laughing, or getting up to move around. Ideally, children under age 4 should not eat small, round, or firm foods unless they are chopped completely. Foods such as hot dogs, carrot sticks, and grapes should be cut them into very small pieces. Food with seeds or pits, nuts, hard candy, and chewing gum can also be choking hazards.
  • Help baby sleep safely. Baby cribs should hold only one thing besides a mattress and snugly fitted sheet -- baby. No pillows, toys, comforters, or blankets. Always place babies to sleep on their backs. Make sure there are no ribbons or strings dangling above or in the crib. All spaces between the bed frame and the headboard, footboard, or guardrail should be less than 3.5 inches wide. Slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.
  • Keep strings out of sight. Remove drawstrings from children’s clothing. Tie up window cords well out of children’s reach.
  • Be vigilant about plastic bags. Get rid of dry-cleaning and shopping bags immediately. Keep household plastic bags out of reach.
  • Be toy smart. When buying toys, follow the age recommendations on the packaging. Check toys frequently for loose or broken parts. Take squeakers out of squeeze toys because they are also choking hazards.