The endless curiosity of children can land their sticky little fingers in dangerous situations. As your child grows into a toddler and becomes more mobile, it is increasingly essential to protect them from themselves, particularly when it comes to the outlets in your home. The National Fire Protection Agency notes over 2,400 children are injured stuffing items into electrical outlets annually, resulting in 6-12 deaths per year. How can you safely childproof outlets?
Electrical Outlet Childproofing 101
Because outlets are found in every room, it’s only a matter of time before your curious little child tries to stick something into an outlet. Luckily, there are a host of options for childproofing outlets…
- Tamper Resistant Receptacles (TRR)
Because the majority of incidents involving children and electricity happen in the presence of adults, National Electrical Code has mandated tamper resistant receptacles in new and renovated homes since 2008. Also called childproof outlets, these receptacles are designed to prevent little fingers from jamming objects into receptacles, featuring spring-loaded shutters that close receptacle slots when they are not in use. With these outlets, even pressure on both springs simultaneously is required to open shutters and allow for the flow of electricity. Newer or updated home? Don’t assume you have TRR – check. Unfortunately, some contractors cut corners. Ensure your little one is safe by verifying each of the outlets in your home bears the letters “TR” or the words “tamper-resistant” on the receptacle surface. You’ll also see the plastic shutter plate behind the outlet slots.
- Outlet Covers
Cheap and common, plastic outlet covers are a good option if replacing outlets is not possible. The trick, however, is remembering to put outlet covers back in after your done charging devices or using appliances – a common mistake. Abandoned outlet covers not only leave outlets exposed, but are a choking hazard. Toddlers with strong fingers outsmart your covers? Try a keyed outlet cover option.
- Sliding Plate Covers
A slightly pricier, but safer option, are sliding plate covers, also called self-closing outlet covers. Simply unscrew your existing outlet cover, replacing it with these little beauties, which feature a spring-loaded piece of plastic that keeps outlet slots covered when they are not in-use. Use the outlet, and the cover automatically snaps back into place when items are unplugged. No tiny little plastic outlet covers to keep track of.
Other Tips for Keeping Toddlers Safe from Electrical Dangers
- Avoid extension cables unless absolutely necessary (children love to chew these, especially teethers). If they must be used, hold them down securely with gaffers tape.
- Block off access to outlets with furniture, hiding outlets out of sight as best you can.
- Consider the addition of whole outlet covers that prevent children from yanking cords out of the wall, such as Lectralock for receptacles and power strip covers for surge protectors and power bars.
- Have older children help you keep an eye out on cords and outlets, helping your keep cords out-of-sight and outlets protected from little fingers.