NORTHBROOK, Ill., May 18, 2009 — This summer many families will be trying to beat the heat — and recession — by swapping traditional vacations for trips to the backyard play set or pool and restricting dining out to outdoor grilling. But while your backyard might provide financially sound alternatives, it can also increase the potential for unnecessary accidents.

With nearly half of all unintentional child injury-related deaths occurring in June, July and August, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent product safety testing organization, is reminding families how to stay safe and out of the emergency room during their summer "staycations."

"Each year about 2.7 million children make emergency room visits in the summer months due to injuries around the pool or backyard," says John Drengenberg, director of Consumer Safety at Underwriters Laboratories. "Nothing is more tragic when avoidable accidents suddenly overshadow rest and recreation. By making safety part of their daily routine, parents can protect their children from hazards in and around the home."

Parents can make safety a regular part of their summer routine by following these safety tips from UL:

  • Supervision is a must — and is the key to preventing accidents at the pool. Follow the 10/20 rule, which means the supervising adult can scan the pool within 10 seconds and reach the water within 20 seconds. Each year about 300 children drown in residential swimming pools, so it’s imperative to designate an adult to watch swimming children.
  • Keep grills at least 10 feet from the house or any building. According to the National Fire Protection Association, gas and charcoal grills cause about 8,300 home fires each year, which includes 3,400 structure fires and 4,900 outside fires. In addition to keeping the grill a safe distance from your home, be sure to:
    • Never use gasoline or kerosene to light a charcoal fire.
    • Never attempt to restart a flame by adding additional lighting fluid to an already-lit grill, as this can cause a flare-up.
  • Dispose of charcoal away from kids and pets and cool it down with a hose. Coals get very hot — in some cases up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. When grilling use insulated, flame-retardant mitts or long-handled barbecue tongs and utensils.

Finally, because seventy percent of all playground-related deaths occur on home playground equipment, Drengenberg recommends that parents carefully inspect backyard swing sets and jungle gyms before inviting neighborhood kids over. Make sure equipment is anchored safely in the ground, all equipment pieces are in good working order, S-hooks are entirely closed and bolts are not protruding.

"Whether your family is splashing in the pool, preparing a family barbeque or taking part in a neighborhood summertime bash, paying attention to a few often overlooked safety precautions can help avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room," said Drengenberg.