Fall is just around the corner. For those with children starting school, taking a few precautionary steps will help you and your children feel safer when they are home alone or coming and going with friends. To help you prepare, we have developed the following checklist, compiling information from many sources, including The Red Cross, Parent & Child Magazine, and Scholastic.com.
Test your security system. If you have a security system, test it to make sure it is working the way it should be. This a good time to review your security system password information/contact list and consider having your security system updated or monitored.
Have an emergency plan. Develop an emergency plan and talk it through with your child so they know what to do in case of fire, injury, or other emergencies. Review the emergency exits by drawing a map that outlines the best pathways to safety from each room in the house. Write the plan down and keep it in a central location. Make sure everyone in the household knows where it is. Then, hold a drill — sound the security alarm and practice what to do if it goes off. Your child should know to immediately get out of the house and call 911 from the safety of a neighbor’s house.
Post relevant phone numbers. Update your security contact list. This may include adding a new trusted neighbor, taking off students going away to college or moving out of the home. Post this list of emergency contacts in a prominent location. If children have approved access to smartphones or tablets, program this information into their speed dial numbers. You can also download the free Red Cross First Aid App so they’ll have instant access to expert advice for everyday emergencies.
Ensure flashlights are in assessable locations around the house. Make sure your children know where they are and that the batteries are fresh.
Inspect your home thoroughly for any safety risks.
- Make sure that all of the smoke detectors are functioning properly.
- Safely store all dangerous items like guns, knives, hand tools, power tools, razor blades, ammunition and other objects that might cause injury in a securely locked safe or chest.
- Put away and secure any prescription drugs.
- Ensure potential poisons like detergents, polishes, pesticides, lighter fluid and lamp oils are stored in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children.
Always check in. Make it a rule that your child calls a parent (or another adult that you designate) or leaves a message as soon as s/he gets home. This can be the first step in a daily routine that includes exercise, homework, a snack, and some downtime. If your child is older, set ground rules for going places and inviting friends over.
Lock the doors. If the home has a monitored electronic security system, children should learn how to use it to enter and rearm it when home alone for extra protection. Security systems with remote access, like Honeywell Total Connect, allow parents to be notified and view activity in the interior and exterior of their home for extra peace of mind.
Review safe usage of their cell phone and/or the home’s landline. Your child shouldn’t answer the phone for just anyone, so set up guidelines. Tell them not to answer the phone if s/he doesn’t recognize the name or number. If you have a landline that doesn’t have caller ID, tell them to let every call go to voice mail.
Take the same way home. Have them take the same route that you have designated to and from school every day. If your child walks, review each street that s/he uses. If they take a school bus, make sure they take it every day, even if offered a ride from a friend, unless previously agreed upon by you. Knowing the route allows you to predict how long it will take them to arrive home and to trace their steps if there is ever a problem.
- Not to talk about being home alone in public or on social media.
- Never tell someone on the telephone that the parents are not at home. Say something like “He or she is busy right now. Can I take a message?”
- Never open the door to delivery people or service representatives. Either ignore the doorbell or ask them through the door to leave the package on the porch. If you install a Skybell with your security system, the system will alert you so you can see who is at the door.
Keep them busy. Although a child needs some downtime to rest and rejuvenate, your child will be less likely to get into trouble if s/he’s occupied with homework, practicing music, and chores. Review what they have accomplished and give them feedback when you get home. Reinforcement is key to getting things done!
Practice first aid. Keep a first aid kit handy and review how to use the items in it with your child. Consider enrolling older children in an online Red Cross babysitting course so they can learn first aid skills and how to care for younger family members.
We hope you’ve found this checklist helpful and that you and your children will have a safe, enjoyable and active new school year!