Summer’s Here – How Child-Safe Is Your Property?

by Terry Bryant

Warm weather, sun, fun… playing outside, going for a dip in the family pool – everything that makes summer fun. But that could change in an instant, causing a lifetime of regrets, not to mention the possibility of some possibly devastating legal fees and civil judgments.

Backyard Pools

backyard-pool dangerAll that crisp, cool water just inviting you in for a swim. Kids are drawn to pools like politicians to a fundraiser. But mix small children with an unsupervised pool area, and you get a powder keg of potential disaster. You may not realize it, but children as small as three can open up deadbolt locks. If the kids are inside, and all that stands between them and the outdoor pool is that lock – you’re playing with a disaster scenario.

No parent, guardian or babysitter can have their eyes on their charges every single instant. With that sixth sense small kids seem to possess about getting into things – something as simple as a keyed lock on both sides could prevent a very sorry situation from happening in the first place.

Such a system would have helped prevent 19-month-old Shane Gurka from drowning in his family’s outdoor pool in Houston, Texas. Being babysat by their grandmother, Shane’s older siblings opened up the dead-bolted back door while grandma was in the kitchen. In just a few minutes, Shane had drowned.

Lawsuits began, civil compensation paid out, and a family was torn apart.

Just some basic tips to prevent swimming accidents could have turned this around.

  • Have a working alarm when the door opens. (The burglar system’s door beep that was unfortunately shut off that morning would have alerted the grandmother when the door was opened.)
  • Wind chimes that will sound off if the door is opened is a very inexpensive backup plan.
  • A locked pool gate is likewise absolutely necessary – with the emphasis on locked whenever an adult is not present in the pool area.
  • A solar powered gate entry alarm is a cheap but very effective safety measure. If the pool gate is opened, the alarm sounds after a few seconds. The sun powers the rechargeable batteries for 24/7 performance.
  • Pool sensor systems are available that will let you know if someone has jumped into the water.

And please take this to heart – you can tell a small child not to do something until you are blue in the face. Then plan on them doing the exact thing that’s being forbidden.

BBQ’s

barbecue grill dangerHot dogs, hamburgers, chicken… what doesn’t taste great cooked on an outdoor grill? But what cooks the food can just as easily burn a curious finger – especially if you are using the classic charcoal and lighter fluid way to start up those coals.

Fire has a way of attracting children. You would think a kid’s natural instincts would kick in and move them away from the heat. You’d be wrong. Here’s a true story from a verified source named Jack about an incident when he was growing up.

Jack was best friends with the little girl next door, Patty. One day they met outside as usual, and Patty’s father started up the fire in the grill. Going inside for a minute or two, he left his small daughter to look at the flames. Jack remembers it clearly. “Patty asked me what fire felt like. I said I didn’t know, but didn’t want to try finding out.” She was braver than me – and said she was going to see.

She put her finger in the flames. Screams and tears, a panicked father running out and taking her inside as Jack waited for Patty’s return. She eventually came back outside with her finger bandaged up. He asked her what fire felt like. Her answer? “It hurts.”

When grilling, keep the kids inside when the fire is started – or at least never leave them alone with the flames! This is also true after the feast is over. Those coals will stay hot for a long time, and the number of times a kid has tried to fish one out and burn leaves and such are legend – until one day their thumb and a live coal unexpectedly meet. And yes, as Patty said, “It hurts!”

As an aside, here is something you should never, ever try with charcoal. After lighting the fire, never squeeze more fluid onto the flames or the coals in an attempt to relight the briquettes. Flames can and do travel up the lighter stream – causing serious burns for the hapless outdoor chef.

Think it can’t happen to you? 18,000 people a year wind up in hospital emergency rooms across the USA with BBQ grill-related burns and accidents. (Consumer Product Safety Commission – 2009 Study) 

Bicycles

This is something that consistently never ceases to amaze. Parents who wouldn’t think of allowing their child near the bike without a helmet many times don’t seem to notice at all the actual condition of the bike itself!

  • Reflectors – They are there for a reason! Especially in lower lighting conditions, they alert auto drivers something else is on the road as well.
  • Tire Pressure – Just like with a car, low tire pressure can and does cause instability in steering, loss of control and accidents.
  • Balding Tires – You wouldn’t drive a car with bald tires, neither should your kids ride a bike with threadbare wheels. If they’re lucky, all they’ll get is a flat tire. If they’re not so lucky… well you do the math.
  • Wheel Spokes – Yes, they do come loose as well, affecting both the balance and the integrity of the wheel itself.
  • Chain integrity – Here’s one almost no one considers – the integrity of the bicycle chain. If the chain is too loose, it can come out of the sprockets while pedaling. (Jack, the person mentioned above found this out when as a child his bike chain came off while riding along the street. One curb and one tree later, his head sported a lump that lasted for weeks.) If the chain is too tight, it can pop its own rivets and fall off just the same.
  • Seats, Saddles and Handlebars – News flash… Nuts and bolts have a propensity for coming loose. It’s not a good thing when your kid turns right, and the seat he or she is sitting on suddenly makes the opposite choice.

With over 48,000 bicycle injuries reported each year (a fraction of the actual total number of suspected cases) a couple of minutes a week checking up on your child’s bike can keep them and you from being part of these statistics. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

As parents, it seems our kids are growing up in a world gone crazy. But with all the talk of terrorists, mad gunmen, stalkers and the like, your child is infinitely more liable to be injured or worse from common, everyday happenings.

We can’t protect them from everything, nor should we. Each must experience life, and life can be messy. But we can take the basic precautions any responsible parent should know about in order to lessen the more avoidable pitfalls our children will face.

Stay safe!