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General Childproofing Techniques

Some childproofing measures, such as protecting windows or electrical outlets, apply to the entire house. Here we’ll look at these, beginning with electrical outlets since these pose a serious hazard to small children. Then, please see the listing at top right for information on childproofing stairs, doors, and windows.

Home Electrical Devices

GFCI Electrical Receptacle

Since 1984, the Uniform Building Code has required ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in bathrooms; more recently, they’ve been required for kitchens and outdoor circuits, too. The reasoning is that these are the likeliest areas, because of their proximity to water, where serious electrical shock could occur.

GFCI receptacles sense a leak in the current and break the circuit almost instantaneously, thus preventing electrical shock. If wired correctly in line, one unit can serve several receptacles. Or, you can replace ordinary circuit breakers that serve your kitchen, bath, and outdoor receptacles with GFCI breakers. See more about GFCI receptacles.

Electrical Cords

All electrical cords throughout the house must be kept in good repair first and foremost to avoid the potential for fire. Worn, cloth- covered cords are especially dangerous, so replace them with up-to-date rugged plastic cords.

Electrical cords must be kept out of easy access. A baby or toddler can receive severe electrical burns and permanent scars from chewing on one or may topple a heavy appliance by tugging on one.

Eliminate extension cords from view wherever possible by rearranging furniture. If you must use an extension cord, unplug it when not in use. Where practical, affix electrical cord to baseboards with staples or clear masking tape. If two or more cords run to the same location, cover them with a cord sleeve.

childproofing electrical receptacles

Plastic receptacle protectors keep kids away from electrical hazards.

Electrical Outlets

There are three types of safety devices for electrical outlets: outlet caps, offset cover plates, and protective covers. Whichever type you choose, be sure to protect all outlets your child can reach.

Although young children can remove outlet caps, caps do discourage them from inserting objects into unused outlets. Spring-loaded offset cover plates block direct access to outlets. To insert a plug, twist 1/4 turn clockwise until the holes in the plate and the outlet line up. Protective covers prevent accidental shocks. Covers flip out of the way for insertion or removal of a plug.

TIP: Manufacturers of GFCIs recommend checking the devices monthly by triggering the test button.

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About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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