person. This designated adult could be a trusted friend, neighbor or relative—someone to take over if your child is in need or facing a crisis and you can't be there right away to help. Some jobs don't allow parents to take incoming calls, and some workers work far away from phones. That's why it's especially important to have a nearby backup adult for your child home alone.
2 Do a safety check of your house or apartment. You will want to check to see that all the window and door locks are in good working order. Be sure the smoke alarms are operating properly and that your child knows where they are located. Replace batteries at least annually. Store a working flashlight in a place where your child can find it easily, and check its batteries regularly.
Identify and label all dangerous substances in the house and warn your child not to handle them. Keep poisonous household items like bleach, drain cleaners, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning fluid out of children's reach.
Put away all prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and instruct your children not to take them without your permission or supervision.
Make sure that cigarettes, matches, and alcohol are kept in a place where children can't get to them.
Remember that firearms are extremely dangerous, especially in a household where children are home alone. Guns are more of a hazard than a real protection for families where adults are absent. Never keep a loaded gun in the house. Always keep unloaded firearms in a locked place out of a child's reach.
3 Review the rules about what to do in case of a fire. Be sure your child knows to get out of the house immediately, and not to try to put the fire out himself unless it is very small and confined to one place, such as a wastebasket. In your family fire drills, show your child how to make his way to the nearest exit, and practice where these exits are located. Be sure your child knows to crawl along the floor to an exit if the room is filled with heavy smoke. Remind your child to take the stairs, and never an elevator, in the event of a fire. If you have a pet, be sure your child knows to exit the house immediately unless she can find it fast and easily.
Tell your child to call the fire department from a neighbor's house, not from home. Make sure your child knows what a smoke detector sounds like when it goes off.
4 Be sure your child understands the rules about locking the door and using a key. One of the most important safety rules your child will need to remember is to keep her key in a safe and secure place. Does she know where your family keeps a second key, in case she misplaces hers? Is it with a neighbor? Hidden in the garage? Work out a plan for your child to follow if she forgets her key and can't find the extra one. Once your child has let herself in, be sure she knows to lock the door behind her and to put her key back where it belongs.
Practice the routine of getting in and out of the house several times with your child before you leave her home alone for the first time. Is there a burglar-alarm system or a buzzer she will need to become familiar with? Make sure your child knows not to enter the house if the door or window that is supposed to be locked is open. Make sure she knows not to go in alone if she is being followed by a stranger. She should go to a neighbor's, or your backup person, and call the police.
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