Leaving Kids Safe at Home Alone.
Busy parents often find they must leave children home alone for extended periods of time. Assuming the kids are of legal age where they may be left unattended, there are many precautions a parent can take to ensure the safety of the kids in the parents’ absence.
Always Have An Emergency Plan
First of all, the kids must always know where their parents are in case of emergency. Make sure the kids have your phone number at work. If you go out somewhere for the evening, write down the number of the place you will be going and place it next to the phone. Today, with cell phones, communicating is easier. If you leave kids home alone, make sure your cell phone ringer is activated so you can hear them wherever you are if they call. If you are attending the theater or an important meeting, set your cell phone to vibrate so that an incoming call won’t disturb others but you won’t miss it if it’s an emergency.
The next thing to do is secure the house. All doors and windows must be lockable from the inside. Doors should have a deadbolt. Teach your kids to keep the front and back doors locked at all times when they are home alone. Never leave a key under the mat for kids to retrieve when they get home. Either find a secure hiding place for keys away from view of the street , or, ideally, each kids should have their own key, tied to their belt-loop, their wrist or on a string around their neck. Never attach a house key to a school backpack – the key should be kept securely on one’s person. A neighbor or relative should also have a spare front-door key in case of emergency.
The lock is the key (excuse the pun) to easy entry. A weak lock can easily be broken and entry gained. A broken lock will make it even easier for an intruder to gain entry. And a lock that works fine but isn’t locked is of no use to you and is the intruder’s best friend.
Never cut corners when it comes to locks. Locks are cheaper and simpler than video surveillance systems and alarm systems. Make sure you have good locks and they all work. Check every lock in the house and fix the ones that are faulty, defective or worn out. And always keep doors and windows locked. Never leave the house or go to sleep without checking that all locks have been locked. Make it a habit to check the locks every time.
Secure Locks are Necessary in These Places:
Your Front Door, Rear Door, Garage Door/s, Service Door/s, Patio Doors, all Sliding Glass Door, the gate (front and rear) to your property. If you have a swimming pool or a guest house, make sure those too have secure locks. And keep them locked.
The policy for admitting someone who comes to the front door should be clear. Kids should know that they are not to admit anyone into the home while the parents are away, unless they know the individual personally. There are several devices you can use to assist you. At the very minimum, every front and back door should be fitted with a peephole to see the caller. Make sure the area immediately around the door is well lit so the caller may be seen. The simplest security device on the door is a chain, which enables you to open the door slightly to see and hear a visitor while preventing the caller from easy entry. A simple audio intercom system is the next step up, enabling the caller to be heard and spoken to. Install a single camera above the door and .attach it to a monitor by the door or in any room, and your kids can see who is at the door.
The next level up is to install video surveillance cameras throughout the house. This way, you can keep an eye on the kids over the Internet from any computer. If you attach a microphone to your cameras, you will be able to have two-way conversations with your kids: you can see and hear them and they can see and hear you. Some parents are using such cameras as tools to help their kids with homework and solve other problems even though the parents are away from the house.
It’s All About Vigilance.
The bottom line in home safety where kids are concerned is vigilance and planning. The kids should know what they should be doing at home when they are alone. Kids home alone should avoid lighting stoves, using an iron, or making a fire in the fireplace. Microwaves and toaster ovens with a timer should be used for heating and cooking. Gas stoves should not be used without adult supervision. If you have a fire going in the fireplace when you have to leave the house, best to put it out, or place a screen in front of the fire and make sure the kids know there is a fire going. If everyone leaves the house, the fire must be extinguished before the last person leaves: never leave a fire or candles burning in a house while no-one is home. Always keep a working fire extinguisher on every floor, make sure smoke alarms are working, and keep several flashlights around in case the power goes out.
If possible, have a relative or neighbor drop by to check on the kids. These visits don’t have to occur at a specific time — in fact, random visits are better for both parties: the relative/neighbor does not have to worry about sticking to a schedule, and the kids never know when they will be visited, so it keeps everyone on their toes. Know when the kids are due to be coming home, and make periodic check-up calls to see that everything is OK. Don’t worry about looking like an over-concerned parent: you need to be concerned and your kids need to know you are concerned. With cell phones and cameras it is very easy to stay in touch today. Show your concern: your kids will love you for it.
Links: U.S. Department of State/Home Security: http://www.state.gov/m/ds/rls/rpt/19773.htm