Yesterday, as I was heading into my office for a phone call, my daughter came to me in no uncertain terms that I was to remain in the living room. I was to read her a book. At least that is what I think she said. I tried to explain that I would be right back, but I received a wagging finger, a stern face, and a further admonishment. As she headed off to her room, she noticed that I was making my get away, so she shouted one last thing, while I was promising to come back. I heard my wife laughing at this exchange from the other room. I came back to see that she had a book in hand. We sat down in the middle of the living room to read.
After the book, she decided on some music. She found some loose head phones. She put them on, and started singing to herself, while I finished some work. My little one thought the head phones would work better if they were plugged into something, and an outlet looked perfect to her. We had moved a cabinet which usually covers this receptacle, and we had forgotten to place a cover over it. Fortunately, my wife spotted what was happening in time to prevent it.
During my inspections, I look for safety issues, and I like to consider what kind of harm could come to different family members. The idea of reporting on a safety issue has caused me to have disagreements with homeowners over wether such an item should be in a report. I try to explain that it does not always mean something is bad; it is just something the buyer should be aware of. I even had a buyer wonder why I would mention one item on my report. A room that he mentioned that he wanted to use for his child had two concerns to me. This room had a small high window that was protected by burglar bars that were fixed in place. Here are the two things to consider: 1) can you easily fit the child through the window down to the ground in case of a fire; and 2) how could you get through those bars in time? I know that having this window may have been an expense for this man, but I wanted him to realize that a plan had to be in place. Windows should be low enough to pass an infant outside safely, and you should be able to go through them. In the end, he thanked me, but he thought I was trying to prevent him from buying the home. I explained that I never attempt to prevent someone from buying, and I want them to understand their prospective house.
I have come to appreciate rope ladders on the second floor. While inspecting one home, the maid did not realize that I was out on the balcony, so she closed and locked the door. With no one upstairs, I could not get back inside. The family had the forethought to locate a rope ladder in a box on the balcony, so I used it to get down. Even without a balcony, positioning a rope ladder on the second floor for a quick exit is a smart idea.
It is so easy for little ones to find themselves in a trouble that they do not understand. Swimming pools present such a challenge. There is something fascinating about water that attracts so many. My grandmother adopted a dog, because the dog would come every day for a swim in her pool. I never report on fences unless there is something majorly wrong, but when there is a pool, I check carefully that access is prohibited by a fence. You will also want to secure the pool equipment. All of those whirring noises can be intriguing for the curious child.
My wife laughs at me again as I am trying to explain for the umpteenth time to my daughter not to climb up onto the window sill. I find her practicing her mountaineering skills all too often. She was trying to use the cord from the blind to help her swing over to a cabinet. My daughter goes into a lengthy explanation of why climbing Mount Everest is important for her. (or at least that is my interpretation). For most blinds in my home, I use the little tie down device that can be installed on the wall, but I forgot to buy one for the office window. I will buy one today.
Protecting your children (or any loved one) is an ongoing process. When your inspector brings up such points, remember it is not to deter you from the home, but to make you think about the worst that can happen. If you are prepared for the worst, only good things will spring forth from that. Child proofing a home will be a constant task, instead of a one time deal.