A new season can mean a fresh beginning. In fall, it’s time to think about window covering safety. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) mark this month as the fifth annual National Window Covering Safety Month. The national campaign is designed to increase awareness of window cord safety among consumers and to urge parents with young children to replace or retrofit pre-2001 corded blinds, shades and draperies with today’s safer products.
According to information compiled by the CPSC, since 1990 approximately 200 infants and young children have died from accidentally strangling in window cords. Because millions of older corded window coverings still exist in homes, the CPSC, WCSC and window coverings retailers will alert parents to the potential dangers of window cords throughout the month.
KEEP CHILDREN SAFE AT ALL AGES
When it comes time to decorate a child’s room, many parents mistakenly overlook the potential dangers that window cords can pose to older children. Some believe this potential danger only applies to newborns and infants. According to safety experts, however, once a child reaches the age of three or four, it is not uncommon for accidents to occur during active play. Parents need to be diligent in restricting children’s access to window areas.
Curious toddlers may climb onto low-standing furniture or bookcases, either to peek out a window or to use the window cord as a Tarzan-type swing. Some unknowingly spin in circles while holding onto a window cord, inadvertently winding the cord around themselves. Others pretend the cord is a necklace or cowboy lasso, which can tragically become a noose when the child jumps off the furniture or windowsill onto the floor.
Low-standing furniture placed near a window is of particular concern. Safety experts say toy chests, under-the-window couches and bookshelves, beanbag chairs, large cachepots for indoor plants and computer towers all can serve as hidden stepstools that a young child might use to reach a window or window cord. Parents are urged to move all low-standing furniture, cribs, and beds away from windows in any areas of the home where young children spend time.
INFANTS REQUIRE SPECIAL ATTENTION
Where infants are concerned, additional precautions are necessary. Cribs and windows are often the focus of decorating ideas for nurseries. Parents should be particular in selecting these products as they can pose hidden hazards to a baby’s safety.
Always place the crib away from any windows in the room, preferably on another wall. Most reports of accidental window cord strangulations involve window cords within reach of an infant’s crib or playpen.
Both the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) recommend that parents use cordless window coverings in children’s bedrooms, as well as any room where a child regularly sleeps or plays.
New cordless window coverings and decorating solutions to match all budgets and decorating schemes make decorating for safety a breeze—from spring-loaded, no pull cord horizontal blinds and pleated shades to café curtains and roller shades. A simple cordless window covering in a neutral color, with a brightly patterned valence or topper to pick up the room’s decorating scheme and color palette is a popular and practical solution to safely adding style to a nursery or toddler’s room.
If using existing blinds, shades or draperies in a baby’s room, make sure you check and retrofit for safety any corded window covering made before 2001. If you’re not sure of the age of the blinds or draperies, check to make sure horizontal blinds and pleated shades are free from looped pull cords and are equipped with cord stops, and that the pull cords for draperies or vertical blinds are permanently attached to the floor or wall.
Since 1995, WCSC has operated a national window cord safety information and education program. The Council also provides consumers with free retrofit tassels, tie-downs and cord stops for older window coverings. Free retrofit devices can be ordered through WCSC’s Web site at www.windowcoverings.org, or its toll-free phone line at (800) 506-4636.
WCSC is a coalition of major U.S. manufacturers, importers and retailers of window coverings that promote window cord safety and provides free retrofit kits to consumers.
“WCSC is urging parents and caregivers to replace outdated window coverings in their home with today’s safer alternatives, such as cordless designs,” says Peter Rush, executive director of the Window Covering Safety Council. “Each year, with the help of the CPSC, we continue to raise awareness of this important issue.”
QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE TO POTENTIAL WINDOW CORD HAZARDS
Problem: Looped Pull Cord
Type of Window Covering: Horizontal Blinds, Pleated Shades,
When Made: Before 1995
Retrofit Solution: Cut loop; add tassels to ends
Problem: No Cord Stops
Type of Window Covering: Horizontal Blinds, Pleated Shades,
When Made: Before 2001
Retrofit Solution: Install cord stops
Problem: No Tie Downs
Type of Window Covering: Vertical Blinds, Traverse Draperies
When Made: Before 1997
Retrofit Solution: Install permanent tie down
*All listed retrofit devices for these dated window coverings can be ordered free-of-charge from the Window Covering Safety Council’s Web site at www.windowcoverings.org or by phoning its toll-free number: (800) 506-4636.
Tips on Designing, Furnishing a Senior-Friendly Home
The goal is to allow freedom, yet safety.
Given the option, most older Americans want to stay in the their current homes for the rest of their lives—83 percent in fact, according to an AARP housing survey. Not surprisingly, living at home is where seniors say they feel the most comfortable, convenient, secure and independent.
For seniors living at home—on their own or with their families—making the right interior design and furnishing decisions can go a long way towards achieving the friendlier, safer and more enjoyable living environment they’re seeking.
To help create a more senior-friendly home, Furniture.com lead designer Davis Remignanti suggests the following practical home decorating ideas:
• Private sanctuary—For many seniors who live with their families, the bedroom is often their only personal space. Customize furnishings to create a personal sanctuary. Choose a bed that offers easy access (onto and off) along with appropriate support and comfort.
• Clear the path—Clear away items—small home accessories, plants, magazine racks—that clutter pathways or require individuals to walk around to avoid. Accommodate wheelchairs or walkers by allowing at least 36 inches between objects.
• Light it up—Ease eyestrain with plenty of lighting.
• Easy storage—Provide adequate, easily accessible storage that doesn’t require reaching, bending or straining. Many children’s dressers feature easy-rolling guides and built-in safety stops.
• Support at dinner—Consider dining chairs that provide good back support and have strong, sturdy arms. Seat cushioning adds comfort, but should be securely fitted to the chair.
• Color their world—To assist with visibility, consider home furnishings in hues that contrast against their backgrounds.
• Blend and compromise—Respect is the watchword when integrating a person’s home furniture into your home design. Compromise when faced with the question of placing a well-loved but less-than-décor-complementary piece in the living room.
“Remember that the goal in redesigning a living space for senior use is to enable that senior to maintain her freedom within a safe, comfortable and friendly living environment,” advises Remignanti. “Communication is crucial. Share opinions and ideas and create the solution together.”