By Katherine Hutka, Child Safety Link
A Close Call
It’s been more than 10 years since our close call – but my memory of that day is still crystal clear. My 18-month old son had only been alone in his room that morning for a minute or two when we heard the giant crash that shook the house.
As my husband and I raced to the bedroom, we both already knew what had happened. Only one thing in Rohan’s bedroom was large and heavy enough to make that sound: an average sized dresser with a small bookcase on top of it.
The next 30 seconds were the longest of my life. Sure enough, when we entered Rohan’s room, the two pieces of furniture lay strewn across the room. The bookcase, which had displayed photos and mementos, had hit the opposite wall and made a large dent in the wall, the force was so great.
My son was nowhere to be seen. We immediately realized that he was underneath the pile of rubble that was his dresser. All four drawers had all come out of their sliders when it toppled and he was under it all. Rohan didn’t make a sound as we tossed each drawer off of the stack of drawers he was buried under.
Then we saw that he was curled up underneath it all with his hands over his head. Luckily, the change table across from the dresser had broken the fall of the heavy furniture and had created a small space that had miraculously protected him from being crushed. He was stunned into silence but otherwise uninjured.
I know how incredibly lucky we were that day, because I have since heard stories from other families whose children were severely injured or killed in this exact scenario.
As new parents, it wasn’t that we didn’t know about furniture anchors: it was on our to-do list of things we just hadn’t gotten to yet. We had been in the process of transitioning Rohan from a crib in our bedroom into a room of his own. He hadn’t ever tried to climb the dresser before and up until this point, had never expressed interest in the decorative things on top of the dresser. Until that day, he had only played with the basket of toys and and books on the floor of his new room.
When I looked at the pile of stuff thrown onto the floor of his room, I saw a toy he wasn’t yet old enough to safely play with, and remembered I had placed this on top of the dresser – out of his reach or so I thought. He had obviously tried to climb the dresser to reach it.
A Widespread Injury Risk for Children
Toppling furniture, TVs and appliances have been featured in studies around the world as a deadly threat hiding in your home, in plain sight. The facts are startling: a child dies every 2 weeks in North America from a toppling scenario like the one described. In Canada, over 200 children are injured every year from a tip-over incident.
The IWK Health Centre has compiled the following statistics for local context:
- 58% of children injured in tip-overs are between 2 and 4 years old;
- 39% of injuries are from falling dressers;
- 46% of toppling injuries happen in the bedroom;
- 40% result in head or neck injuries
These statistics make sense. Ages 2-4 years is when children start climbing and exploring, and they don’t yet have a sense of danger or consequence.
So What You Can Do To Keep Your Children Safe?
There are several things you can do to help make sure your heavy furniture, televisions and appliances stay safely upright:
- Use anchors or safety straps for all dressers, shelving units, bookcases, entertainment units, TV stands, bookcases, shelving and bureaus. Secure these pieces to a wall or to the floor using hardware like brackets, screws, and toggles. Your local hardware store should be able to provide advice on your options for securing furniture, and tips for installation.
- Verify that all furniture in your home is stable.For storage units like dressers and cabinets, place heavier items in lower drawers or compartments so that the unit is bottom-heavy, and therefore more stable. Avoid putting heavy, older model picture tube TVs in rooms where children play.
- Make sure that your television set is placed on stable furniture with a low, wide base, and that the set is pushed back as far as it can go. Never place TVs on bureaus or shelves that aren’t designed for top-heavy weight. If your television is mounted on the wall, make sure that all cords and wires are kept out of the reach of little hands.
- Keep remote controls, toys or anything else a child might want, off of televisions or other high surfaces. Many children have toppled furniture and TVs trying to reach these things.
- Supervise children in the home and where they play. Teach them while they play in the home and teach them not to climb on the furniture.
Thankfully, my family was lucky and able to learn from our close call. We now have furniture anchors or safety straps securing anything large in our home that could pose a toppling risk.
Please pass this information on to your friends and family! For more information on children’s injury prevention for all ages and stages, visit the CSL website at www.childsafetylink.ca .