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Safety Guide for Baby Sitters

Babysitting is fun and a good way to earn extra money, but it takes hard work and preparation. Sitters need to be prepared for all type of situations. The more you know, the better the baby sitter you'll become. A good sitter must know the right thing to do at the right time. We will be discussing some considerations that babysitters need to be aware of as they take on this very important and exciting task.

Know what is expected of you as the sitter. There are certain do's and don'ts that you should know and remember as a sitter.

  • Before the parents leave, get the names and phone numbers you will need. Have this information written down, along with the address and telephone number of where you are sitting, and place the information where you can quickly and easily get it. In an emergency you might not remember this important information.
  • Have the parent(s) show you around the house or apartment and point out where the items you will need are located such as clothing, playthings, etc.
    Be familiar with the house. Learn all of the exits and know how to unlock doors and windows. Know two ways out of each room, especially the bedroom.
  • All families should have a meeting place outside where everyone gathers after escaping from a fire. Have the parent(s) show you the meeting place so as not to confuse children with a different plan.
  • Discuss the plan and meeting place with the children so that everyone knows where to meet.
  • Talk to the parent(s) to learn the location of a neighbor who will be home. In case of a fire, you will need to call the fire department from this house.

Some of the other topics we will be looking at include: keeping a child safe indoors and outside, being prepared in case of a fire, pool safety, basic first aid, and tips on sitting safety.

Getting the Information
When you are babysitting, get all of the information that you will need before the parents leave. If possible, have the children present during these instructions so that there won't be any confusion later, and everyone will know what is expected.

  • Learn of any special concerns that might startle you, such as allergies or behaviors like temper tantrums.
  • Know where the children are allowed to play. Some off-limit areas might not be obvious to you.
  • Have the parents explain the rules for watching television. Find out any restrictions.
  • Find out what can be eaten for snacks and when. Be sure to learn about any allergies to food.
  • Some parents allow the children to have friends visit. Discuss their rules regarding friends.
  • Talk about bedtime arrangements. Find out if there is anything special you need to know about sending the children to bed. Determine if the children have a special book that they like to have read to them. If they don't, this might be an opportunity to develop something special between the children and you.
  • If the children need to receive any medications, get the instructions in writing. These instructions should include the exact amount to be given and the exact time that it should be given. Even if a child asks for any medication, do not give it without first checking with a parent.
  • Check to see that the information listing where a parent can be reached, a neighbor's telephone number, the fire department (ambulance), and any other number or information that the parent thinks is necessary is placed near the telephone.
  • This is your chance to have your questions answered so that you avoid any mix-ups or misunderstandings. Remember, you need to know the right thing to do at the right time. If you aren't certain about what is expected, ask.

Keeping a Child Safe
Parents should "childproof" their homes with safety latches on cabinets, placing items out of reach and sight of the child, etc. Just to be safe, you should go through the house with a parent before you begin babysitting to make yourself aware of any dangers to keep the child away from, as well as any dangers to keep away from the child. Remember to look for hazards before there's a problem.

Keep the Child Away from Danger

  • Plugs and outlets - It's easy for a curious child to receive an electrical shock.
  • Cords and Strings - Long cords from extension cords or furniture can become tangled around the child's neck and cut off breathing. This includes items such as toys, pacifiers, ribbons, etc., tied to cribs or playpens. Try to have electrical cords out of the child's reach so that they cannot pull any objects, such as lamps, onto themselves.
  • Stairs - Use gates, if possible, for any child too young to climb up and down stairs safely. Check to make sure that the child cannot place their heads through any openings in the gate. Also check that the gate cannot collapse or become dislodged if the child leans or pushes against it.
  • Tablecloths - Children love to grab at objects hanging down. Everything on the table can end up on the child's head.
  • Windows - Be sure windows or screens are locked. A fall from a window can result in a serious injury or death. Do not place anything in front of the window that a child can climb on to reach the window.
  • Electrical appliances - All appliances within the child's reach should be unplugged or inaccessible.
  • Guns - Make certain that all guns are securely locked up, with the key in a hidden place.

Keep Dangerous Things Away From the Child

  • Knives - Should be stored out of reach.
  • Plastic Bags and Films - These can quickly could off a child's breathing. Be sure that they are kept where a child cannot reach them.
  • Buttons and Other Small Objects - Can easily choke a child. Watch to see what the child is playing with.
  • Toys - Some toy dangers include small parts, sharp edges, and sharp points. Propelled objects, such as guided missiles and similar flying toys, can be turned into weapons and injure eyes in particular. Check to see that the toy is age appropriate for the child.
  • Aerosols (Sprays) and Detergents - These and other household cleaners are often poisonous. Be sure that the child cannot reach them. Remember that they are not only found under the kitchen sink - check other places in the house. Should the child take any of these items, be sure to call for an ambulance and be prepared to tell the paramedics what and how much of the material was ingested.
  • Medicines - Should be locked up. If this is not possible, be sure they are in a safe place, out of the reach of the child. Remember this also applies to any medications that you may need to give to the child.

Be extra careful with:

  • Matches and lighters - Never smoke while babysitting. Carelessness with these items is the single largest cause of fires in the home. If you find matches, lighters, or other smoking materials, put them up high where children can't see or reach them. Never let children play with matches or lighters. These items should be thought of as tools, not toys.
  • Cooking - If a parent asks you to cook, use the stove carefully. Clean up any spills as soon as they occur. Keep the pot handles turned to the side or use the back burners so that the handles cannot be grabbed. Never hold a child while cooking. Turn off the stove or oven as soon as you are done. Never leave a burner unattended. Set a timer to remind you to turn everything off. Never put anything into a microwave unless you are absolutely sure that it is safe. Paper, glass, and microwave-proof earthenware are safe. Metals, including aluminum foil, are not. Keep children away from the microwave. Be careful when removing covers from microwave containers; escaping steam can cause burns. Cool all foods sufficiently before serving them to children.
  • Space heater, wood stove, or fireplace - Don't use these devices unless a parent gives you permission and instructs you on its use. Be sure that anything that can burn - clothes, furniture, draperies, towels, newspapers, etc. - is at least three feet from a heat source. Don't let a child play too near a heater, as it is often hot enough to cause a serious burn.

Know exactly what to do in case a fire occurs.

  • Locate the windows and doors so that you know at least two exits from every room. Check to see that the exits aren't blocked and that they open easily. Be certain that everyone knows the family's special meeting place.
  • Know where the smoke detectors are and what they sound like. Have a parent test them while you're there.
  • If you smell smoke, hear a smoke detector, or see flames, stay calm. Get everybody out of the house immediately. Don't wait for any reason. Crawl low under the smoke if necessary. Remember that heat and smoke rise, so the cleaner, cooler air is near the floor. Go first, making sure that the children follow you through the exit. Follow the home fire escape plan, getting everyone quickly outside. Go directly to the special meeting place and count heads to make sure that everyone has escaped.
  • Once the entire group is accounted for, go to a neighbor's house and call the fire department from there. Give the fire department your name, the complete address of the fire, and information about where you're calling from. Stay on the phone until you're told to hang up. Then call the children's parents.
  • Watch the children carefully while you're waiting for the fire department. Make certain that no one goes back into the house for any reason. Once you are out, stay out. Keep everyone a safe distance from the fire and out of the firefighter's way.
  • If flames and smoke are blocking the way to the children's rooms, go straight to the neighbor's and call the fire department. Tell them that the children are trapped in the house and where they are located.
  • If your clothing catches fire, Stop, Drop, and Roll. Smother the flames with a heavy blanket or coat or have the person roll on the ground until the fire is extinguished. Babysitters may have to help children do this. Pull the child to the ground, and roll him or her over and over to smother the flames. When you babysit, you are in charge. During an emergency, you must act on your own and right away.

Also, in case of an emergency, be sure to check out the First Aid Safety Tips section

If you have questions or are looking for other information, contact the Winfield Fire Protection District (630) 653-5050.