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Babyproofing Your Home

In our lives, we own or build two different kinds of households. One is the building we live in, with its lights, climate controls, and walls that secure us from weather and any potential dangers. The second is in our families, a household of life. There are many challenges we face each and every day but sometimes, despite our watchful eyes, we can’t see everything.

Every year, injuries and deaths are reported for babies playing with electrical outlets and devices. While there are somethings that are common knowledge, you may not be completely aware of all the dangers and how best to prevent them. A child adds a new aspect to life, and that aspect isn’t always easy. So we’re here today to help show you how to protect your family with as little impact on your life as possible.

Protecting Outlets

  • Plastic Outlet Covers
  • Tamper Resistant Receptacles
  • Power Strip Covers

Obviously the most common (and inexpensive) solution are the simple plastic outlet covers that are now a ubiquitous part of childproofing your home. Plastic is an insulator (obviously since it’s used for everything from faceplates to wire insulation), so plastic caps are simple inserted into the receptacle to prevent children from attempting to insert any other metallic device into the outlet. This allows you set and forget the cap and not worry over whether an outlet is exposed. Although, the caps are difficult to grasp (by design) and can be annoying to remove. Remembering to replace them after you’re down with an outlet can also be a problem.

Instead, tamper resistant receptacles are designed as a more permanent solution for outlets that you use regularly. These come in two varieties, a standard TRR which consists of paired plastic slot covers built into the outlet, or a separate outlet cover you install over your traditional outlet. In the former case, a TRR (identified by plastic covers inside the sockets and a TR between the two sockets) protects against a child inserting any conductor into the socket with a spring-loaded plastic cover. Unless both sides of the of the socket are pressed, the cover will not move and nothing can be inserted into the outlet.

In the case of the tamper-proof cover, a slide is usually used which requires the slot to be slid into place first, before a plug can enter an electrical socket. This added motion is enough to prevent most children from gaining access to an outlet. Both of these are extremely useful (if a bit pricier) for outlets which see regular use. They’re instantly accessible and there’s no risk of forgetting to cover them once again when you’re through using the outlet.

We use power strips and surge protectors for so many devices that we often forget they are also electrical sockets. And just having a plug inserted into an outlet isn’t always the best way to ensure that an outlet is safe. For power strips, a power strip cover is essential. These covers are designed to allow the largest diameter cable to pass through so it may benefit you to cover the remaining gap with tape to ensure curious fingers don’t find their way into the power strip cover.

Cable Problems

  • Pulling plugs
  • Extension Cords
  • Covering Cables

Parents are often quick to cover electrical outlets and lock cabinets, but we forget that the cables running to the outlet can be as dangerous as anything else in the home. It’s easy to do, especially as more and more power cords appear in the home. One of the most ignored are permanent cables plugged into outlets. We forget just how strong babies can be – strong enough to pull plugs from their sockets – and so we forget that, even though the TV is always plugged into that outlet, a plug is not protection for the electrical outlet.

Instead, permanent plugs should be covered with an outlet cover. Many of these are attached the faceplate cover and make it impossible for a child to remove the plug from the socket. Fortunately, these covers come in a whole host of types and uses so there’s always a cover that will fit your space and design (also your budget, since I imagine there are many outlets you need to protect).

Cables are another matter entirely. It’s best to simply not use extension cords around children in the first place. They’re a trip hazard, anything they’re connected to is now easily pulled by a child, teething children might chew on them, and anything plugged into an extension cord can be unplugged and played with. But sometimes you need just a couple more feet of cord, or the cable you’re using is longer by design. So what can you do?

To start with, use a cord shortener to reduce the overall length of the cables in your home. This is especially useful for permanent items that need to be plugged in and have cables that are longer than necessary.

Cover all of the cable runs in your home. Electrical conduit and duct cord covers cost a little bit, but they’re safe by design and make it much more difficult for kids to trip on or grab and yank cords. If you’re looking for a low-budget option and are willing to put a little bit of extra work in, you can also take advantage of some other tricks.

Running cables under carpet or behind baseboards will require a little more work than simple using a duct cord cover, but then the cables are safely out of the way. As an added bonus, this often gives your home a much nicer look since there are no cables running throughout the home. For temporary cable runs (powering a computer for an afternoon or the weekend), try gaffing the cables with tape. Gaff tape is used for temporary setups in the lighting and audio industry for temporary events. It keeps the cables from being moved around and protects people from tripping over the cables. Taping cables down is simple and perfect for temporary situations. Do not use heavy adhesive tapes such as duct tape or gorilla tape. Gaffer’s tape is best but it can be expensive. For homes, a temporary setup with masking or painters tape will be enough for a few hour’s safety.

Follow these rules for securing your home and you won’t have any worries about electrical burns or cable trips for your baby or toddler. The CPSC also has an extensive electrical safety checklist which is well worth reviewing and following at home.

CPSC Electrical Safety Checklist: