Safest Cities for Families With Young Children

Being a parent can be tough. We hover, we worry and are constantly on alert for dangers our kids could face at any given moment — from zipping off on their bikes without a helmet to wondering if our homes are safe from any calamity they could encounter. So, it comes with some reassurance there are cities at the forefront for making our kids’ surroundings a bit safer.

Announcing the “10 Safest Cities for Families with Young Children,” which is the result of a study done by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Sperling’s Best Places, who examined the 50 largest cities in the U.S. and measured each against 25 criteria. If you’re curious whether your city made the cut, here’s the list and reasons why they did so well:

  • Boston, MA — Highest number of hospitals per capita.
  • Columbus, OH — Lowest incidence of vehicle-related deaths and child poisonings.
  • Louisville, KY — Low pedestrian accident rates, quick fire response times and high number of hospitals per capita.
  • Minneapolis, MN — Leading combatant of “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide. Minnesota requires all single-family homes have a carbon monoxide alarm.
  • New York, NY — Leader in fire response times. It has the largest fire department-based EMS in the country.
  • Portland, OR — Low rate of poverty among families with children, low drowning rates and low fire and burn rates among children.
  • San Francisco, CA — Leader in residential sprinkler laws, pool safety laws, and bike helmet laws. In 2011, all new homes built must install sprinkler systems.
  • Seattle, WA — Leader in carbon monoxide alarm laws, bike helmet laws, and low fire and burn rates among children.
  • Tampa, FL — Strong smoke alarm regulations and fire response times.
  • Virginia Beach, VA — Low poverty rates among families with children, and low vehicle-related deaths and pedestrian accidents.

What was considered?

The study focused on cities that had “…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.

Other cities are getting there:

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

Tips from the UL:

  • 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.



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