In 2010, my husband and I learned that we were expecting triplets. I will not tell you exactly what I said when the doctor did the ultrasound, but “Oh wow!” is a polite paraphrase. For the first time, we began implementing the safety advice I had been giving as an injury researcher for more than a decade – this time making our own house safer for our children.
For example, we wanted to mount a baby gate at the top of our stairs, using brackets, screws and a drill. That’s what I recommend to parents of young children. We tried, but the walls in our old house didn’t line up the right way and we had wrought-iron railing, which isn’t really something you can drill into.
I had the willingness to make my house safer, and the knowledge to do it. I’d been researching ways to prevent injuries in and around the home for years and gave interviews about it, so how was this still so hard? How hard must it have been for all those parents I was advising?
My research associate, Kristi Roberts, was expecting her first child around the same time and asked the same questions. We were also both using apps for breastfeeding (it’s possible with triplets, but not at the same time). So, we had another question: why wasn’t there an app with all the safety tips and recommendations that parents need?
My phone is the one item I always have with me – it has photos and videos of my kids, grocery lists, to-do lists, and more. It would just be so much easier if everything were right there on my phone. And so, the idea for a home safety app was born.
We began working on the app inside the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s. Then we learned that Nationwide, the Columbus-based insurance company and long-time supporter of our Center’s work, was interested in creating a program focused on preventing injuries in children.
It was a perfect fit. Nationwide’s program became known as Make Safe Happen, and the Make Safe Happen app was funded by a grant from Nationwide Foundation, with additional support from Nationwide.
The Make Safe Happen app is now available for free on iOS and Android systems. It’s designed so parents and caregivers can learn as they go with room-by-room safety checklists and links to purchase safety products that are best-suited for their homes.
Using the Make Safe Happen app, you can also set monthly reminders to test your smoke alarms and set annual reminders to replace your smoke alarm batteries. You can track your progress in making your home as safe as possible – because who doesn’t want to be reminded of what a great job they’re doing as a parent?
Yes, your home can be safer, even if it has misaligned walls and a wrought iron railing. Since not all homes are the same, the Make Safe Happen app offers different solutions for different situations. In my own home, we ended up blocking off all of the rooms that led to our stairs, since there was no easy way to block off the stairs themselves.
My triplets are now three years old, and stair gates aren’t an issue anymore. Now, my children are really into cleaning, and as much as I love this, it also means we have to make sure the household products we use to clean with are locked up, out of sight, and out of reach. We don’t want our little helpers assisting without our supervision. The Make Safe Happen app addresses that concern by suggesting tips for what should be locked up or stored out of reach, how to secure it, and what safety products you might need for your cabinets, drawers, and closets.
It’s fair to say that the triplets don’t care a whole lot about safety themselves. And my husband still likes to joke that injury researchers like me “ruin all the fun, one activity at a time.” But they’ve pushed me to think about it in a different way. And I hope that the tool that my triplets inspired can help you.
Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, is a principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine and the Division of Epidemiology, College of Public Health at The Ohio State University.
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