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Safest cities for families with young children revealed

Study by UL looks at best safety practices for cities and outlines tips to help parents reduce preventable accidents

NORTHBROOK, Ill., Sept. 29, 2010 - News stories about tragic accidents, many that could have been prevented, seem to dominate today's headlines. While accidents can happen anytime or anywhere, UL, the global safety leader, commissioned a study with Sperling's Best Places to determine the cities that stand out in helping prevent needless accidents and improving the safety of their residents, especially families with young children.

The study, "Safest Cities for Families with Young Children," evaluated the 50 largest U.S. cities on specific criteria that contribute to home, community and overall personal safety. The results showed that 10 cities lead the way in helping reduce risk of fire deaths, pedestrian accidents and other mishaps that contribute to the estimated 14 million potentially disabling, unintentional injuries that children sustain each year. 

The 2010 "Safest Cities for Families with Young Children" include:

  • Boston
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Louisville, Ky.
  • Minneapolis, Minn.
  • New York
  • Portland, Ore.
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Tampa, Fla.
  • Virginia Beach, Va.

Each city was measured on 25 criteria encompassing child-focused, safety-oriented behaviors and regulatory best practices. As part of the methodology, the study filtered out cities with the highest crime rates and considered air quality, incidence of child pedestrian accidents, injuries and drowning. The study also focused on accessibility to hospitals; response time for fire and police personnel; and laws, codes and regulations that address smoking, home inspections, smoke and CO alarms, pool safety and bike helmets. The top 10 cities had the highest frequency or values in these categories.

"There is a unique set of safety considerations that goes into developing safe homes, communities and environments for raising young children, and the purpose of the study was to bring awareness to the best practices in those areas," said Gus Schaefer, UL's Public Safety Officer. "We hope that highlighting the importance of these safety practices will help keep more families protected."

Though the study names only the top 10 safest cities for families with young children, UL notes that almost all 50 cities had strong safety regulations in place related to several of the criteria. The study revealed that:

  • All 50 cities have some level of local or state legislation for smoke alarms
  • 47 of the 50 cities have some level of non-smoking legislation
  • 47 of the 50 cities have local or state legislation requiring carbon monoxide alarms
  • All 50 cities require inspections after construction or remodeling
  • 39 of the 50 cities have state or local laws requiring bike helmets for children

"UL was encouraged by many of the results - it's clear that most cities are doing great things to improve safety at home and in the community," said Schaefer. "Just as cities are continually trying to take steps to improve safety and prevent accidents, families should do the same. Even taking a few actions can cut a family's risk of accidents significantly and encourage safety-conscious behaviors that can last a lifetime." 

UL offers the following tips that parents can adopt around the home to help prevent accidents and provide more peace of mind as their children grow from toddlers to kindergarteners and into their teen years:

  • See what your child sees: To avoid preventable hazards, get down on your hands and knees to see what children see both inside and outside the home. Search for objects or situations that may endanger children who will be at your home. Pay attention to sharp corners, dangling cords and any objects that may encourage children to climb or be a tripping hazard.
  • Make sure furniture is stable on its own: Every day, nearly 40 children visit the emergency room with injuries after a heavy piece of furniture - like a TV - falls on them. For added security, anchor to the floor or attach all entertainment units, TV stands, bookcases, shelving and bureaus to the wall using appropriate hardware, such as brackets, screws or toggles.
  • Set your water heater to 120°F or less: To avoid preventable burns and scalds from hot water, make sure your water heater's temperature is set below 120°F or set to "low." Anything above that temperature can cause a child severe burns within seconds. According to national burn statistics, approximately 2.4 million burn injuries are reported every year.
  • Beware of candles: According to the National Fire Protection Association, the small flames of candles cause approximately 15,000 home fires a year. If you have young children and pets, stop using candles or always blow them out before leaving a room.
  • Electrical warning signs: If your home was built more than 50 years ago, be aware of signs that you might need to update the wiring in your home. Potential warning signs that might require an electrician to inspect include wavering TV or computer screens; flickering or dimming lights; frequent shocks from appliances, outlets or wall switches; or receptacles or plugs that are hot to the touch. If you can't touch them for more than five seconds - you may have an overload.
  • Create a fire escape plan: In addition to having a smoke alarm on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area, draw a simple floor plan of your home. On it, mark two exits from every room, including windows, and an outside family assembly point, such as a driveway or parking lot. Write "Call 911" on the escape plan and post it in a central location, such as a refrigerator door.
  • Identify your family's "ICE" - the "in case of emergency" contact: If you have a cell phone, program your emergency contact as "ICE." ICE is recognized by police and first responders across the nation. Also, identify a relative who doesn't live in your home, who in an emergency situation may be in a better position than you to communicate among separated family members.

For additional tips to improve safety in and around your home, visit http://www.safetyathome.com/.

Additionally, if interested in best practices that can make your community safer, Schaefer suggests considering Safe Communities America, a program of the National Safety Council that recognizes communities demonstrating leadership in safety promotion and injury prevention. Overseen by the World Health Organization's Collaborating Center on Community Safety Promotion, U.S. communities currently recognized with a Safe Community designation include Anchorage, Alaska; Hagerstown, Md.; Madison, Wis.; Omaha, Neb.; Springfield, Mo.; Itasca, Ill.; Dallas; Madison County, Ky.; Shawnee, Okla.; New Lenox, Ill.; Lycoming County, Pa.; and the University of Southern California. For more information, go to http://www.safecommunitiesamerica.org/.