Special Segment: Tipping Point

February 12, 2012 10:00:00 PM PST
Many parents think of the obvious things when "baby-proofing" their home such as locking away poisons or covering outlets. But safety advocates say television and furniture tip-overs -- one of their biggest concerns -- is flying under the radar.

Last March in Barrington Hills, a changing table fell over on Lisa Siefert's 2-year-old son Shane. Paramedics tried to save his life but couldn't.

"It was a nightmare," Siefert told ABC7. "You don't want to find your child underneath a TV, you don't want to find your child underneath a dresser."

Tip-overs are a growing problem with four children killed in the Chicago area since last fall.

Nationally, experts say every day 40 children go to the emergency room because of a furniture tip-over and one child is killed every two weeks in a tip-over incident.

Underwriters Laboratories, or UL, a safety science company based in Northbrook, is trying to raise awareness about the dangers of older and secondary TVs.

"Many of the TVs are being replaced by flat screen TVs and the televisions end up in another place in the house ... into maybe a child's bedroom where a child isn't supervised quite as much," said UL consumer safety director John Drengenberg.

In light of the recent tragedies, Drengenberg demonstrated how many of these incidents happen. UL experts put a heavy older style TV on a variety of unsteady stands to simulate the dangers of putting a heavy TV on furniture that can't support it.

"You can see, if there was a child under this, it could be a catastrophe," said Dregenberg.

UL already tests TV stability with weights and inclined surfaces. They say they're constantly updating their safety standards and, in light of the recent incidents, are working with engineers and national safety experts to make sure their guidelines keep new products safe.

Experts say inexpensive straps and hooks are the easiest way to anchor furniture to walls. They suggest pushing TVs back as far as you can on a solid, wide TV stand. It's also important to remove temptation for curious children to climb.

"Try to make sure you don't store anything on top of the television, something that would attract the child like the remote control, like toys, like candy," Dregenberg said.

Lisa Siefert now is working with children safety groups to try to require anchor straps to be available at all television and furniture stores.

"I just don't want this to happen to another family," she said. "How many does it take? One child every two weeks, is that not enough? "

Advocates are trying to pressure manufacturers into including anchor straps with new TVs and children's furniture.

On Thursday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is leading a social media campaign to raise awareness about tip over incidents. Locally, ABC7 has learned that Attorney General Lisa Madigan plans to create a safe home coalition of children's safety experts. Because of the recent incidents -- in their first meeting later this month -- coalition members will focus on furniture tip-over prevention.

CPSC: How to prevent a TV fall: www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2010/09/prevent-a-tv-fall-in-your-house

CPSC Twitter Chat: www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2012/02/our-first-twitter-chat-tvsafety