At this point in the summer, some parents are still excitedly planning beach trips, waterpark excursions, and other fun kids’ activities, while others are eagerly counting down the days until school starts again. No matter which camp you fall into, we can all agree on the importance of electrical safety in the home. If you’ve got a houseful of small children this summer, you’ll want to make sure your home is as safe as possible. A good place to start? With your electrical outlets!
Curiouser and Curiouser
Children are naturally curious, and unfortunately, that curiosity often leads them to some of the most dangerous items in the room. Outlets are in every room of your home and are often located close to the ground, right around eye level for a small child. Those tiny holes are way too tempting, so keep them off limits!
First, check to see if your home is equipped with Tamper Resistant Receptacles. Chances are, if your home was built in 2008 or later, you’ve already got this safety measure in place. (The National Electrical Code began mandating TRRs around this time after studies showed that most electrical accidents involving children happened in the presence of adults.)
Spring-loaded shutters on TRRs prevent children from inserting coins, keys, and other objects into them. They’re easy enough for adults to manage, though — simultaneous pressure on both springs will open the outlet. Even if your house was built after the mandate, double check your outlets to make sure TRRs were installed. You’ll recognize them by the plastic shutter plate and the “TR” or “Tamper Resistant” inscription on the outlet.
The Perfect Cover-Up
If you don’t have TRRs, outlet covers, easily purchased online or at your local hardware store, are another great option. These plastic pieces easily insert into outlets that aren’t in use. There’s a wide range of options here — some are very easy to remove (perhaps too easy for especially motivated and dexterous children), while some involve a much more complicated locking mechanism or even require a plastic key to remove. Ideally, you’ll find one that keeps your children out, while allowing you easy access when you need it. And remember to always replace outlet covers once that outlet becomes empty again and to store them in a safe place — while they do a great job of protecting your child from electrical shock, they can be choking hazards.
Slide Into Home Plate
For a step up from outlet covers in both price and security, opt for sliding plate covers. They take a little bit more in the way of installation, but it’s still a very easy process. Plate covers render outlets out of sight, out of mind — the spring-loaded cover slides over the outlet when not in use and can be pulled back when you need the outlet. Unlike outlet covers, there are no small parts to keep track of and no way to forget to replace the cover when you unplug something — the cover slides immediately back into place. Most users report that their children completely lost interest in the outlet once they could no longer see it.
If your home’s design allows it, you can also help children resist the temptation outlets (and electrical cords) provide by placing furniture in front of outlets. Help promote safety in your home by covering outlets. And for a full electrical inspection that will check for other potential safety hazards, contact your residential electrician.