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Safety Archive

Tomorrow’s Drivers, Yesterday

IMG_0342Recently I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time watching instructional videos from the 1940s and 1950s. I’ve learned skills such as how to settle conflicts, how to be popular, and how to ask someone out on a date (which I can’t do, since I’m not male). Videos like these rank high on the nostalgia scale, but by today’s standards most of them are quaint and a bit silly, and sometimes even offensive.

This video, though, is truly awesome in terms of both content and throwback value.

Apparently in the 1950s, elementary schools in Phoenix decided to start driver’s education early. Really early. This video shows kindergarteners playing a musical-chairs-type game while holding cardboard steering wheels. As the years progress, they receive more instruction until they’re able to drive Power Wheels-esque (but way cooler) vehicles in a little “town,” and get traffic citations for breaking the rules.

Today there are bike rodeos and “safety towns” that teach similar concepts for cycling, but parents usually have to pursue these on their own, and they’re typically a one-time thing, not a curriculum that’s reinforced throughout several years of school.

The best part of this video is the “Attitude Court” that teens had to attend to earn back a suspended license. In addition to covering citizenship issues, the Attitude School held scientific demonstrations explaining aspects of safe driving. The attendees had to pass written tests and participate in a ride-along with a police officer before their licenses would be returned.

Yes, there is the standard cringe-inducing lack of seatbelts, but such was the era. We can’t expect them to have gotten everything right. But did I mention the film is narrated by Jimmy Stewart?

Take a few minutes and watch this, then go teach your kids hand signals if they don’t already know them.

The More You Know…

Abe's NoseA couple weeks ago my family and I took a trip to Springfield, Illinois. Before we left, I made reservations for two nights at a hotel that I chose based on room occupancy allowances (we have five people), TripAdvisor reviews, price, and a history of good luck with that particular chain.

When we checked in they told us that the hotel was undergoing renovation, but we didn’t think much of it. It was already well past our little ones’ bedtimes, and as long as there was no overnight construction, we didn’t mind if some rooms weren’t complete. We were looking forward to settling in for the night, but when we stepped off the elevator on our floor, we were met with chaos. Doors were open, exposing half-redecorated rooms, and drywall dust covered the hallway. When we opened our door, there was no countertop in the “kitchenette” area, there was drywall dust on the carpet, and cardboard left sitting in the bathroom.

My husband went down to complain, and they gave us a new room but not before warning that none of the rooms had the kitchenette countertops. Our second room was at least dust- and cardboard-free, and it was too late to change hotels so we decided to make the best of it.IMG_0236

After we had gotten the kids settled into bed, we realized the new deadbolt wasn’t properly aligned so it wouldn’t lock. But again, we decided to just deal.

I heard my husband get up a few times in the middle of the night but I ignored it and went back to sleep. In the morning, though, he told me what he had been doing.

As a former fireman, he couldn’t sleep. The open room doors bothered him because they’re supposed to be closed at night for fire-containment purposes. (If a fire starts in one room, a closed door can keep it from spreading to others.) He walked the entire hotel and found 34 doors left open. He always walks the exit routes so he knows where they are in case we need them. When he did, he found equipment (including ladders) stored in the stairwells, which is not allowed per fire code. In an emergency, people could trip over the equipment or even knock it over, blocking other people’s escape.

IMG_0248He apologized to me, but said he couldn’t stay there another night and we needed to find a new hotel. He said, “I really wish I could be ignorant about the hazards here, but I know too much and this isn’t safe. I wish I didn’t know or didn’t care, but I do, and we can’t stay here.”

He thought I’d be annoyed by his “pickiness,” but I understood. It’s the same way I am with car seat safety. In a way, I wish I didn’t know or didn’t care about the importance of car seats. In a way, I wish I could just go ahead and let my kids ride without seats when they’re “just going around the corner” because the risk of something happening is so small. But I know that a small risk (of a car crash or a hotel fire) is still a risk I’m not willing to take.

So that morning, my husband called the local fire department, who said they would send an inspector out. We also talked to the manager, who was shocked that doors had been left open, and agreed that the hotel really should have shut down during construction. (The parent company had insisted on keeping it open.) She cancelled our reservation for that night and refunded all of our money for the previous night.

I don’t know what happened as a result of the fire inspection, but I do know that I’ll happily indulge my husband’s fire-safety obsessions as long as he continues to indulge my car-seat ones. We’re a little crazy like that.

Monkey proofing your baby proofing.

Babyproofing. We are all familiar with it. The first child rolls over and it’s a mad dash to Babies R Us to buy every lock/corner cover/fireplace bumper/outlet cover, etc known to man. The second kid comes and it’s like, “Meh, put away the matches and knives and don’t dump your change on the floor and we’re good”.

But there is one thing that we should remember to do, no matter how many kids are in your home. And regrettably, I slacked on this one. I’m going to tell you what happened last week, and I’m going to feel very guilty and like an awful parent but it needs to be said: Please anchor your dressers/TVs/furniture to the walls. I’ve actually been very good about this and I will admit it’s probably only because Ikea (gotta love those safety focused Swedes!) includes anchor straps with all their furniture. When we moved in here, I dutifully anchored all dressers, TV stands, and bookshelves to the wall. All but one. I meant to do it. But I slacked because I was in a whirlwind of Declan being born within 2 weeks of moving into the house and unpacking and life in general. Plus the dresser is a beast. I can’t even move it by myself, so I wasn’t worried about a 3 year old lightweight pulling it over. Kid doesn’t eat his spinach; he ain’t pullin’ anything over.

And I was right. Until I wasn’t.

He’s opened those drawers a million times. A drawer in our dresser I keep out of season stuff in. I had my back turned to close the blinds while he pulled open the drawer to get out a pair of summer pajamas, and I heard a whoosh and a crashing sound a foot behind me. Oddly enough, despite me never in a million years thinking he would ever pull the dresser on to himself, the second I heard that sound I knew what it was before I even saw him. There it was, the Beast laying on top of my skinny little guy, his sad little face crying over the top of the dresser. I must have grown muscles in those split seconds because the weight of my heart in my feet surely should have kept me from moving. Despite always whining and making my husband help me to move the dresser over when I needed to get something behind it, I managed to lift the dresser and fling it to the side. When I lifted it, the drawers flew out and whacked the poor kid again. I remember cussing at myself in my head for being so stupid. I left him laying there while I started to check him over, but he immediately popped up, kicked the dresser and screamed “STUPID!!!” at it and flung himself into my arms. I choked back tears as I thanked Whoever for my son not being another statistic. Miraculously, despite the Beast nailing him to the floor, he only had a minor goose egg on his forehead and a bruised cut on his arm. He’s totally forgotten about it but I still continue to play it over and over in my head, thinking how easily the outcome could have been different.

According to the CPSC, 25,400 kids are injured every year from falling furniture/appliances and 1 child dies every 2 weeks. Every 2 weeks! From something totally cheap and preventable. Many of these incidents involve televisions, which most people don’t think to anchor. But think about it, how many times are you telling your kids they are standing too close to the TV? How many times do you tell them to stop climbing on drawers? It could happen to you; I know this because it happened to me. I honestly don’t even think Liam was climbing on a drawer. It was too fast, and it happened with me standing right there!

dresser1

Since then I’ve started taking more precautions despite all the furniture being anchored now. The most reached for items are now in bottom drawers, as well as the heaviest items so the dressers aren’t top heavy. Lamps with the switches on the cords now have the switch easily accessible  from the side of the dresser so there is no climbing to reach it. When something is taken away, it is never placed on top of a dresser, bookshelf, or refrigerator to prevent the temptation to climb up to get it back when I’m not looking.

So please listen and do something simple today: buy some anchor straps and attach your furniture to the walls. They’re about $7 for two on Amazon. Even if you’re a renter, I guarantee your child’s life is worth more than the hassle of patching up some holes when you move. If Amaya could tell you to do it, she would. So would Meghan, Charlie, and Katie . And I’m sure Brooke‘s mom could write an even more passionate post than I ever could.

As a CPST, safety advocate, and healthcare provider, I feel like we are constantly warning parents of the obvious dangers: cars, pools, guns. We never stop to think about the unobtrusive ones. So no, I don’t cap the corners of my counters or lovingly pad the edge of the coffee table. But you can bet your sweet buns I’m anchoring the heck out of my house.

And being thankful that the only thing that came out of all this was a blog post.

dresser2

Merritt Chest Clip Guard & Buckle Guard Review- the end of the line for the carseat escape artist!

I just have to preface this review by saying how thrilled I am that these two products are now available and that they’re made by a trusted and reputable manufacturer of special needs carseats and related products. Merritt Manufacturing produces many of the most widely used carseats for children with special healthcare needs including the Hope Car Bed, The Churchill Booster and the Roosevelt 5-point harness seat. The innovative Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard were originally designed as “escapism prevention” accessories for the Roosevelt. Recently Merritt made them available for purchase separately and for use with conventional carseats. For families with children who continuously escape from their 5-point harness, this is VERY good news.

  

The “Carseat Houdini” presents a huge challenge to safety-minded parents and also to the CPS Techs trying to help these families. I’ve seen parents do some pretty crazy (and creative!) things to try to keep their kid in his or her carseat over the years. I’ve also seen a lot of questionable aftermarket products that target desperate parents who are willing to buy anything when discipline and the usual parenting strategies don’t stop the behavior.

This review covers both of the accessories available from Merritt.

For younger kids who don’t have the thumb strength to actually unbuckle the buckle but rather escape from their seat by pushing the chest clip down and wiggling their arms and shoulders free – the Chest Clip Guard is probably all that is needed. You can use this product if you have a carseat that allows you to detach the harness from the splitter plate. If you just need the Chest Clip Guard – it should work with most current seats including the Diono Radian models, Evenflo Mastro, Evenflo Secure Kid, Graco Nautilus, etc. It won’t work with seats like the Evenflo Symphony, Evenflo Triumph or Chicco NextFit because those carseats either don’t have a splitter plate or it’s inaccessible.

Merritt Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard  Merritt Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard

For Britax seats with rubber HUGS pads – the HUGS will have to be removed. I know that’s a conflict with the instruction manual but in these cases the parent has to decide if the benefits of using the Chest Clip Guard outweigh any potential risks of using the seat without the HUGS pads. I think it’s important to point out that most kids riding in a Britax convertible with HUGS are not anywhere near the maximum weight limit of 65-70 lbs. and that the Roundabout 55 (rated to 55 lbs.) does not have HUGS. Along the same lines, the Britax Pioneer 70 harness-2-booster combination seat is rated to 70 lbs. and doesn’t have HUGS pads either.

The Chest Clip Guard $49.95

Merritt Chest Clip Guard  Merritt Chest Clip Guard

The Chest Clip Guard is truly a brilliant concept. The idea is so simple and yet so effective. I’m just mad that I didn’t think of it first. It’s an attachment to the harness with height-adjustable harness pads that hold a lockable chest clip in a fixed position. The harness pads are attached to each other via a piece of webbing that goes behind the child’s neck. The chest clip can also be locked by using the “key” tool that comes with product. If you lose the key, it’s not a big deal because it’s not really a key and you can insert a variety of different things (including a regular house key or car key) to operate the locking mechanism inside the chest clip. A buckle tongue from the buckle on the carseat harness will do the trick too.

Plastic "key" to lock Chest Clip Guard

Plastic “key” to lock Chest Clip Guard

This video explains how the Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard function.

 

The Buckle Guard $29.95

    

IMMI buckleAs I explained in the video – the Buckle Guard can ONLY be used with the IMMI buckle (pictured right). FYI – the buckles used on the current Diono Radian models look similar to the IMMI buckle because it also has a square release button but upon close inspection you’ll see that it’s not the same buckle. This guard will NOT work with the current Diono buckle.

Once the Buckle Guard is attached, it cannot be removed without carefully prying it off with a flat head screwdriver. Once the Buckle Guard has been removed it must be discarded. Therefore this is a product that is intended to remain on the buckle until it is no longer needed.

If you need the Buckle Guard for a seat you already own or if you’re in the market for a new carseat that can accommodate the Buckle Guard – below is a list of higher-weight harness carseats that are currently sold with an IMMI buckle:

Manufacturer Models with IMMI buckle
Britax All convertible seats: Roundabout/Marathon/Boulevard/Pavilion/Advocate
Britax All Harness-2-Booster Combination Seats: Pioneer 70/Frontier 90/Pinnacle 90
Chicco NextFit convertible (NOT suitable for Chest Clip Guard)
Clek Foonf convertible
Evenflo Symphony convertible (NOT suitable for Chest Clip Guard)
Graco New MyRide and Size4Me/My Size/Head Wise convertibles
Graco New Nautilus and Argos combination seats
Maxi-Cosi Pria convertibles
Orbit Baby Toddler Seat convertible
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio convertible
Recaro ProRIDE and Performance Ride convertibles
Recaro Performance Sport combination
The First Years All True Fit convertible models

 

Chest Clip Guard & Buckle Guard Combo $79.90

If you need both the Chest Clip Guard and the Buckle Guard accessories for your talented escape artist, that will narrow down the choices since you need a carseat with an IMMI buckle that also gives you access to the splitter plate so you can remove the existing chest clip and attach the guard in its place. Again, I’m only going to list model with a higher-weight harness because Houdini kids benefit from staying in a 5-point harness beyond 40 lbs.

For children with special needs who will likely benefit from the Chest Clip Guard and the Buckle Guard for an extended period of time, the Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 offer the highest weight and height limits of any conventional carseats currently on the market. However, both the Frontier and the Pinnacle come with HUGS pads on the harness and technically Britax requires their usage. Use of the chest clip guard necessitates the removal of the HUGS pads so that will have to be a “parental decision”. My personal feeling is that having an older child with special needs who continuously escapes from the carseat while the car is moving presents a much greater risk than the potential risk of using a Britax seat without the HUGS pads. However, as a CPS Technician I cannot recommend that a parent go against the carseat manufacturer’s instructions. The updated Britax Pioneer 70 (no HUGS pads; rated to 70 lbs. and now with 19.5″ top harness slots) would be a reasonable compromise if the child is slender and likely to outgrow the harness by height before hitting the 70 lbs. weight limit.

CRs that can accommodate both Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard 
Manufacturer Model
Britax All convertible seats: Roundabout/Marathon/Boulevard/Pavilion/Advocate
Britax All Harness-2-Booster Combination Seats: Pioneer 70/Frontier 90/Pinnacle 90
Clek Foonf convertible
Graco MyRide and Size4Me/MySize/Head Wise convertibles
Graco Nautilus and Argos combination seats
Maxi-Cosi Pria convertibles
Orbit Baby Toddler Seat convertible
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio convertible
Recaro ProRIDE and Performance Ride convertibles
Recaro Performance Sport combination
The First Years All True Fit convertible models

 

The Bottom Line

The Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard products can be a lifesaver (literally!) for parents with children who are persistent escape artists that do not respond to typical parenting tips and tricks. These accessory products are well-designed and come from a reputable carseat manufacturer that knows how to think outside of the box – safely. That doesn’t mean that the other CR manufacturers are going to give their blessing to using these accessories with their products – that’s probably asking too much. However, these niche products fill a serious hole in the market and the reasonable prices make them a realistic option for most families. I’m beyond thrilled that there are legitimate products on the market now that I can feel comfortable recommending for children with special needs and also occasionally for the very stubborn and determined 2 year old who just doesn’t respond to the usual suggestions that we tend to give parents in these situations.

For more information on the Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard see the manufacturer’s website:  http://www.escapeproof.net

 

Thank you Merritt Manufacturing for supplying the Chest Clip Guard and Buckle Guard samples for this review. No other compensation was received and the comments and opinions are entirely my own.