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10-Point Safety Checklist for Families on the Go
10-Point Safety Checklist for Families on the Go

By Shay Bilchik, president and CEO, Child Welfare League of America

(ARA) - Just about every American family has the same lament: too much to do and too few hours in the day. Parents juggle family and career responsibilities while kids race from school to myriad extracurricular activities. All this running around can make it hard to find time to sit down and assess family safety.

The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is the oldest and largest national nonprofit organization developing and promoting policies and programs to protect America’s children and strengthen America’s families. CWLA, recently selected by Worth magazine as one of the country’s top 100 charities for the second year in a row, has created this list of safety issues to think about, along with some family safety tips.

1. Car Seat Safety

You may think that since you have a child car seat, you’ve done all you can do to ensure your child’s safety while on the road. But proper installation of a car seat is not always as simple as it seems. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instruction manual for proper use and installation guidelines. If you have any questions, call the manufacturer or visit their Web site. Also, many local police stations, fire stations and hospitals will check your car seat for proper installation.

2. Make Sure Smoke Alarms Work

Having smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home is one of the easiest things you can do to protect your family. But they are worthless if the batteries have gone dead. Fire departments recommend changing your batteries once a year. Pick a date you’ll remember -- your birthday, New Year’s day, when you switch to daylight savings time, etc. Also, remember to test your alarms monthly to make sure they’re working and keep them free from dust.

3. Have an Escape Plan

What would your family do if there was a fire in your home? Make sure you have an escape plan and practice it with your family. The best escape plans have two ways to get out of each room. When escaping, stay low to the floor. Smoke rises during a fire and the safest air is down low. Pick a safe and easy-to-remember place for your family to meet up after you get out of the house.

4. Childproof Your Home

The extent to which you need to childproof your house changes with the age of your children. Curious toddlers require the most vigilance, including locks on cabinet doors, safety plugs in electrical outlets and child gates blocking steps. For children of all ages, be sure to keep cleaning supplies and other possible poisons out of reach. Have the number for your local poison control center handy. No matter what the age of your kids, always have a well-stocked first aid kit in your medicine chest. Teach kids how and when to call 911.

5. Car Emergencies

Keep an emergency kit in the trunk of your car. Depending on what part of the country you live in, the kit may include: road flares, a flashlight and extra batteries, jumper cables, a basic first-aid kit, a blanket, candy bars or other non-perishable food, and bottled water.

6. After School Arrangements

In single-parent households or in homes where both parents work, it is important to find after school care for your child. Many schools offer after-hours programs, or check with your local recreation department regarding after school options. Other possibilities include the YMCA or YWCA and boys and girls clubs. If none exist in your community, work with other parents to help start programs or encourage community leaders to address this need. If your child must be home alone after school, make sure she follows certain rules, such as never entering the house if it has been broken in to; never telling anyone, even a friend, that you’re home alone; never opening the door to strangers; never operating the stove or oven. Set up a time to check in with your child.

7. Keep Track of Teens

The teen years can be tough for kids and parents alike. It is important to keep the lines of communication open and active. Be sure you know where your teen is and who he’s with. Make it a point to get to know his friends. You may want to consider giving your teen a cell phone so he can check in periodically. Depending on your child, you may have to regulate the amount of time he spends online and make sure you know what types of sites he’s visiting. Above all, spend time with your teenager doing something he likes to do. It’s the best way to get him to open up and let you know what’s going on.

8. Firearm Savvy

One national study shows that more than 53 percent of all households in the United States possess some type of firearm. This means that even though you may not own a gun, chances are your child will come into contact with them at a friend’s or neighbor’s house. If you have guns in your home, make sure they are locked up. Children should never handle firearms unless in the presence of a responsible adult. When your child visits the home of a new friend, don’t be afraid to ask if there are guns in the house and how they are stored. If you feel uncomfortable with the response, have the playdate at your house instead.

9. Safety Away from Home

When you’re out running errands with children in tow, it is easy to get distracted and stressed. But it is important to keep track of your kids at all time. Never leave a child unattended in a stroller or shopping cart, and make sure that older children are in your sight at all times. And no matter how quick your errand, never leave a child in the car unattended. For those times when your child is out of your supervision, at school or a friend’s house, be sure he understands how to stay safe. Most schools teach about “stranger danger,” but make sure your child knows what to do if approached by someone they don’t know.

10. Sports Safety

According to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, sports activities are the second most frequent cause of injury for adolescents. It is estimated that each year more than 5 million children seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms due to sports injuries. Whether your child participates in organized sports activities or simply plays tag football with friends, they should always play it safe by wearing protective gear, using equipment properly, warming up muscles before playing and following the rules of the game.

For more information, contact CWLA at 202-638-2952 or visit the organization’s Web site,

Courtesy of ARA Content

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