Today’s news that IKEA is recalling 36 million dressers in the US and Canada after six children died from tip-over accidents is a sobering reminder that such accidents not only happen, but that they can kill. In fact, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has an on-going campaign to remind people to anchor furniture – including bookcases, dressers, and media centers – to prevent such accidents. According to the agency, on average one child dies every two weeks from a tip-over accident.
I know from personal experience how real this danger is. When I was around 12 years old, I was babysitting two of my younger brothers, ages seven and one. I’m a Bicentennial Baby, so I grew up in the era of not only CRT TVs, but the ones housed in bulky, heavy wooden furniture. My parents had just inherited such a gem and it took two full-grown men to carry it inside our apartment. My mom was still deciding where to put it and it was temporarily sitting on a low table in the living room.
We were watching cartoons when my seven-year-old brother jumped up and started reaching for something on top of the TV. He quickly decided to climb up, pulling himself up by the top lip of the TV. I barely knew what was happening as I watched the giant TV tip forward and crush him on the floor. We lived on the top of a hill surrounded by thick woods on the outskirts of Wasilla, Alaska. (Yes, that Wasilla.) Even if I had called 911, it would have taken at least 20-30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. There were no adults anywhere to run and get.
If you have ever doubted the stories of moms who lift up cars to save their babies underneath, I offer myself as proof. I ran to my brother. And with a surge of adrenaline – and maybe the grace of a merciful God/universe/whathaveyou – I lifted that TV off my brother long enough for him to crawl out. He was bruised and scared, but otherwise okay.
Unfortunately, not all families have that kind of lucky break. Now that I am a mom myself – of a very active six-year-old, no less – I know how quickly a small child can get into trouble. Kids are naturally curious and naturally inclined to explore – including climbing up on just about anything. We can’t be everywhere at once. And we can’t expect kids to know better when they are still young. The smart and safe thing to do is to anchor furniture to the wall. This goes for homes with small children as well as those who frequently have children as guests, such as grandparents, aunts, and family friends. It’s a minor inconvenience for a huge piece of mind.