How to Keep Your Family Safe in Any Situation

Nothing matters more than keeping your family safe. When you’ve got a full house, the number of safety considerations can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.

We’ve simplified how to keep your family safe by breaking it down into age groups and categories—from basic home safety to online safety. Plus, we’ve packed this guide full of extra resources and expert insights that make it easy for you and your family to be safe at home.



Meet our expert

To give you the best family safety tips, we share insights from our family safety expert throughout this guide.

sally-russell

Sally Russell

MN, CMSRN, CNE, Health Expert and Educator

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family sitting in living room preparing emergency plan

Safety tips for the whole family

Families evolve a lot over the years, but there are some family safety tips that apply to everyone. These tips stay relevant from the first day home with a newborn to your first day as an empty nester.

How to keep things safe at home

  • Be ready to administer first aid. First aid kits are essential for all households. Stock up on everything from bandages and antiseptic to pain relievers and tweezers. Keep your kit in a central location, and check it every few months to make sure it’s stocked and that nothing has expired.
  • Prevent household poisonings. Anything from a household cleaner to a prescription medication can lead to accidental poisoning. Use our poison-proofing guide to protect your home.
  • Know what to do if there is a poisoning. Make sure everyone in your home knows where the number for poison control is and when to call 911. Most importantly, call for help immediately and don’t induce vomiting unless directed to do so. Get more details in our Local Poison Control Resources
  • Get rid of tripping hazards. Falls are common for family members of any age, but they can be avoided with a little preparation. Protect pets and youngsters from stairs with a baby gate. Secure cords and wires that cross over walkways. Use rug pads to keep rugs in place.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a home fire, your family has a better chance of getting out unscathed if you plan in advance. Make a family emergency plan, create a fire escape plan, and run drills so everyone knows what to do in an emergency.
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Call the Poison Control Center

No matter where you live, you only need to know one number for poison control. Keep this number posted on the fridge or family message center so everyone knows where to look in case of emergency.

+1-800-222-1222 or  text POISON to 797979

How to keep things safe online

  • Secure your home Wi-Fi network. Your Wi-Fi network is the gateway to every device that’s connected to the internet in your home. Make sure you secure your network with strong passwords, keep firmware updated, and turn on firewalls and encryption.
  • Always run the update. Updating our devices and apps can feel like a pain, but updates are our best protection against new viruses and malware. Updates include security patches that help keep hackers out of your home.
  • Lock down security cams. We’ve all seen the scary headlines about strangers talking to kids through a baby monitor or other wireless camera. Check out our security camera safety video to learn how to protect your cams from hackers.

How to keep things safe outside

  • Set boundaries. We’re talking rules for outdoor play and literal boundaries. Make sure pets and kiddos won’t run into any hazards like a pool, pond, trench, or other potential problem area. If you don’t have a full fence, look into moveable “pens” that you can set up as needed for younger children and pets.
  • Protect the pool. If you have a pool, make sure kids can’t access it on their own. Add a gate, a lock, or a motion sensor that will let you know if someone’s trying to sneak in a swim. Get more pool safety resources in our complete guide.
  • Lock up tools and chemicals. Pesticides, fertilizer, and garden tools can be dangerous for anyone. Always put them away after use in a locked shed or storage container where they can’t be accidentally discovered.
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Make the backyard a safety sanctuary

Backyards offer kids some freedom and their caregivers a break. But make sure it doesn’t turn into a literal broken bone or other trouble. To help you out, we’ve got 9 ways to make your backyard a safer place to play.

More ways to keep safe at home

best baby gates

Safety tips for babies and toddlers

It can seem like the first few years of our childrens’ lives are about little more than keeping them safe, intact, and alive. To help make this big job a little bit easier, we’ve got safety tips to help keep those little ones from harm, both at home and out and about.

Keep babies and toddlers safe at home

  • Baby proof it. The house, the yard, the car—anywhere your baby will be can use a baby proofing once-over. Use our room-by-room baby proofing guide to help you see hazards from a baby’s-eye view and shore up safety inside and out.
  • Anchor furniture and appliances. Everything from TVs to refrigerators can topple over. Make sure heavy items stay firmly in place with wall anchors (especially if the item looks like something that would be fun to climb).
  • Clear out cribs. Blankets, bumpers, and stuffed animals can all be suffocation hazards for sleeping bambinos. Keep these items out of cribs until your child is at least 12 months old and can roll away or move objects like blankies and teddy bears away from their face.
  • Lock down the stove. Kids are better at turning on the stovetop than we think. Add child-proof covers to the knobs on the stove and oven. If you have a stove with a touchscreen, find out if it has a child-lock setting and use it. And, while you’re in the kitchen, add cabinet locks to keep tiny fingers out of the knife drawer.
  • Watch out for walkers. Babies start moving around faster than we realize. Make sure your home is ready for safe exploration with baby gates on stairs and around other hazards like fireplaces and pools or hot tubs. Secure rugs and carpets to prevent tripping. Add bumpers or padding to tables and other furniture with sharp corners.
  • Carefully screen caregivers. If you need to use a daycare or nanny, use due diligence when selecting a caregiver for your wee one. Conduct a background check, follow up with references, check for CPR and first aid certification, and follow your gut. Both you and your baby need to feel good around the people watching out for them when you can’t be there. Get more tips in our 6-Step Guide to Hiring a Safe Nanny.
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Expert tip: Rule out rollovers

“Infants learn to roll over faster than you think, so never leave them on the bed without something to prevent them from rolling off (often happens when mom doesn't realize the baby knows how to do that!).”

—Sally Russell, health expert and educator

Keep babies and toddlers safe away from home

  • Buckle up. Whether it’s heading out to the park in the stroller or driving across town in a car seat, make sure infants and toddlers are secured properly with all relevant safety restraints. If it’s cold out, be sure to take off their coat before buckling up to ensure a proper, snug fit.
  • Find a safe daycare. Feel confident dropping your littles off at a care facility you can trust. Verify the daycare’s license, find out child-to-caregiver ratios, and learn about disciplinary and other policies. If you want to check in on your child regularly, look for a daycare that offers remote observation via a camera with live video feed.
  • Keep playdates fun. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, right? Whether your child is going to a friend’s house or you’re the one hosting, make sure everyone’s safe during playtime. Look for a designated safe play space—inside or outside—for younger children. That way, no one will wander off or accidentally get into dangerous items like tools or chemicals.
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Expert tip: Stay safe in the kitchen

“With toddlers, always turn the handles of pots and pans toward the back of the stove to keep them from pulling them off the stove and getting burned. Cover every electrical outlet, as they are really attractive to stick things into.”

—Sally Russell, health expert and educator

Baby and toddler safety resources

Brother and sister run hand in hand outside

Safety tips for kids

Kids grow out of more than clothes. Every new phase brings with it new safety concerns. Older kids get more independence, go to school, and start venturing out on their own. That means they’re out of our sight more than ever before, but there’s no need to panic. We’ve got tips to help keep your kids safe at school, on the playground, and even online.

Keep kids safe at school

  • Know the rules. Review school rules and policies with your child. Make sure they understand both their responsibility to follow the rules and what they can do if others are violating policies and your child feels unsafe (e.g. bullying).
  • Be a familiar face. Get to know the people your kid interacts with everyday, from the principal to the crossing guard that helps them get to school safely. Establishing friendly relationships with teachers, volunteers, and other school personnel gives you more eyes on your child—and it’s easier to talk about tough things if anything prickly comes up.
  • Check in regularly. Touch base with your child every day. Find out what they like about going to school every day and if they’re struggling anywhere. Regular conversations give you a baseline so you can quickly spot red flags like changes in attitude about school.
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Turn dinner time into bonding time

It’s easy to gauge how your kiddo’s doing with a quick game of “High-Low” during dinner. Ask each family member to share their high and low points of the day (including the grownups). This gives insight into what’s important in your child’s day while reinforcing family bonding and safe communication.

Keep kids safe online

  • Know what you’re up against. Understanding the threats that lurk on the world wide web is the first weapon in your parental arsenal. Learn about cyberbullying, identity theft, online predators, and how to limit exposure to inappropriate content.
  • Keep private info private. This isn’t always as easy as it seems. If your child is online for school or social interaction, make sure that information like full names, birthdays, addresses, and even the city you live in aren’t made public. Check the privacy settings in platforms like Zoom, and restrict your child’s access to only people you know and have approved.
  • Be picky about photos and video. If you allow photos of your child online, make sure you’re not accidentally giving away too much. Things like after-school sports team shirts, park names, and school buildings can all be clues to help a predator figure out where your child is. If your child needs to be on camera for class, make sure there are no flyers, activity schedules, or team photos in the background.
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Video chat safety checklist

With COVID-19 still hanging around, a lot of us are still using video chat regularly for school, work, or to say hi to Grandpa. To help keep everyone out of online trouble, we put together a downloadable Video Chat Safety Checklist with tips you can apply in whatever app or platform you use.

What are the biggest threats to kids?

Our family safety advisor shares what leads to the highest numbers of fatalities for kids from kindergarten through middle school.

“For both school-age (K–5) and middle school (6–8) kids, the most frequent cause of death is impulsive suicide, followed by motor vehicle accidents, and then childhood cancer.”

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Suicide prevention resources

If you or someone you know is struggling or in danger of self-harm, get help immediately.

National Institute of Mental Health resources

Regarding impulsive suicide, Sally recommends the following:

  • Be alert to changes in mood or behavior—acting out is probably the first sign.
  • Understand that kids experience stressors in daily life too.
  • Be open to working with child mental health professionals.
  • Keep guns secure at all times. Sally says kids find guns attractive when they see them in TV, movies, and other pop culture media.

To help prevent motor vehicle accidents, Sally says to “make sure kids are following seat belt rules even when they’re not with Mom and Dad.”

More kid safety resources

Safety tips for teens

For some of us, the mere thought of our kids becoming teenagers is enough to make us shout, “danger!” around every new milestone. But now is the ideal time to teach them how to spot and navigate the dangers of life for themselves. That doesn’t mean we leave them on their own—we walk beside them and help them prepare for life as adults.

Keep teens safe on the road

  • Set a good example. You’re going to be the number one influence on your kid’s driving habits. Go beyond following the rules of the road and stay off your phone (no texting!), buckle up, and keep the tunes at a reasonable volume.
  • Give them a lot of practice. There’s probably a minimum number of hours your kid needs to drive to get their license, but you don’t have to stop teaching when they meet that threshold. And if you don’t want to feel overbearing by accompanying them every time, use a vehicle GPS tracker that gives you alerts and reports about things like speed, hard braking, and rapid acceleration.
  • Talk it out. Communication is key to just about everything in parenting, and driving is no exception. Talk about how to be a responsible driver, the dangers of the road, and even how to keep the car in tip-top condition. Ask about their worries and concerns, and offer understanding along with tips from your years of experience.

Keep teens safe online

  • Instill good habits. Whether or not your teen was online as a youngster, there’s no avoiding it now. Teach them how to set secure passwords, how to spot online scams, and what to do if they feel uneasy about any online interaction.
  • Talk about cyberbullying. Life is hard enough in high school halls, but now kids can reach out to each other 24/7 thanks to social media, email, and texting. By talking with your teen about cyberbullying, you teach them what to look out for, what to do if it happens, and—most importantly—that you’re there for them.
  • Add some extra protection. They’re not adults yet, and that’s why we recommend using parental control software throughout the teen years. We don’t recommend spying on your kids—but these tools help you spot threats like cyberbullying and grooming.

What are the biggest threats to teens?

Our family safety advisor shares what leads to the highest numbers of fatalities for teenagers.

“Accidents (unintentional injuries) are the cause of half of the deaths in this age group, followed by suicide and then homicide—the last two often with guns.”

Regarding unintentional injuries, Sally says, “Brains, we now know, don’t really grasp the fact that mortality can happen to me. This age group can’t think about dying being permanent.”

When it comes to suicide and homicide, Sally stresses gun safety. “Keeping guns locked up and away is true of kids of all ages, but this group is particularly at risk, as they think they know what they’re doing.”

Gun safety tips:

  • If you have guns in the home, talk to your kids about the risks.
  • Keep guns stored securely, unloaded, in a locked safe or storage box.
  • Store bullets separately from firearms.
  • If you use guns for recreation, teach your teen safe gun-handling rules.
  • Always assume a gun is loaded.
  • Never point a gun at a person, even if you think it’s unloaded.
  • If your child shows signs of depression or self-harm, consider removing guns from the home, and seek help immediately.
Notepad
Suicide prevention resources

If you or someone you know is struggling or in danger of self-harm, get help immediately.

More teen safety resources

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past eight. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime reports and spotting trends. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, NPR, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips.

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