Playing in the Backyard Safely

Did You Know?

  • Nearly 300 children under the age of 5 drown in residential and public pools and spas each year. (US Consumer Product Safety Commission)
  • Each year about 50,000 children go to emergency rooms in the United States because of injuries on home playground equipment. (US Consumer Product Safety Commission)
  • Seventy percent (70% )of campfire burns are caused by embers rather than flames (American Burn Association)
  • Between 2002 and 2012, there were a total of 1,698 visits to the emergency departments nationwide from swallowing a wire bristle from a grill brush (CNN).
  • An estimated 94,900 of hospital emergency room-treated injuries were associated with trampolines in 2012. (US Consumer Product Safety Commission)

Learn more about backyard safety

Play Sets and Trampolines

Play sets are responsible for 50,000 injuries each year. Swings and falls to the ground result in the most injuries among 5 to 9 year olds. It is important to install and maintain shock absorbing surfaces at least 6 feet in all directions. Adults should check for gaps, worn, loose, or broken parts on the play set before children set out to play. Children should wear closed-toed shoes and shirts without hanging strings to avoid strangulation. Adults should teach their children the basic rules of safe play when they are on a play set: wear closed-toed shoes, no pushing/ horseplay, hold on with both hands when swinging and climbing, and wait for your turn.

Trampolines are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and cause more than 100,000 emergency room visits every year. There were a total of 22 trampoline-related deaths in the 10-year period of 2000 to 2009. Should you decide to have a trampoline in your yard only one person should be jumping at a time, and flips and summersaults should be prohibited. Babies and toddlers should not be allowed to play or jump on trampolines. It is important to place your trampoline clear of hazards such as fences or trees and also on soft, energy-absorbing surfaces like sand or bark. Install a removable ladder so kids can't get in when there are no adults around to supervise. Trampolines should have a safety net that has an enclosure door and safety padding on bars and springs. (Jumping kids should be supervised by an adult at all times.)

Backyard Water Safety

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5. Two hundred and nine drowning incidents associated with inflatable pools were reported to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission from 2001 through 2009; 94% involved children younger than 5 years of age.

Cover your pool and secure all ladders and steps when the pool is not in use. Inflatable pools and buckets should be emptied immediately after use. Keep toys and inflatables out of the pool when adults are not around. All pool fences should be at least 4 feet high. Use pool alarms on gates and pool doors. If a child is missing, check the pool first! Thinking of installing a hot tub instead of a pool? Make sure infants and toddlers do not use hot tubs because young children can overheat very quickly.

Fire Pits and Grills

Total fire pit injuries have nearly tripled in the last 6 years: 1,330 to 3,608 from 2006 to 2010. Did you know that humans cause nine of every ten wildfires? Be aware of weather conditions before starting a fire and contact your local fire department to find out about fire pit rules and regulations. Do not leave fire pits unattended and do not burn treated wood. Always use dry or seasoned wood. Never use accelerants, garbage, or garden clippings to start a fire. Keep children and pets at a safe distance by establishing a “3 foot rule” around the fire. Most burns are caused from embers rather than flame so it is important to keep a safe distance. Always have a fire extinguisher and first-aid kit nearby. Make sure the fire pit is at least 25 feet away from your house and other structures in the yard. After enjoying the fire, it is important to put it out completely. To safely extinguish the fire and coals, pour water, stir, and pour water again until it is cool. Never bury a fire.

July is the peak month for grill fires (17% of grill fires happen in July), including both home structure and outdoor. In 2014, 16,600 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving the grill. Wire bristles from grill brushes can snap off, land on the grate and find their way into grilled meats, tearing up a person's throat and digestive tract if ingested. Be sure to wipe the grill with a wet towel, using tongs and a hand mitt, after using a wire brush, or opt for a different cleaning method. Never leave the grill unattended, and be sure to apply the “3 foot rule” around the grill. If you’re using a gas grill, make sure the lid is open before lighting. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing them in a metal container.

Keep your friends and family safe when preparing and enjoying the backyard with these helpful tips!

Play in the Backyard Safely with These Videos

FEMA provides a few fire safety tips about grill use to help your family stay safe this summer. Tips include only using grills outdoors and never leaving a grill unattended.

Consumer reporter Susan Hogan of the WPRI 12 team talks to David Harrington, MD, from the Rhode Island Burn Center and chief Ken Finlay from the Cumberland Fire Department for tips on how to stay safe around fire pits this summer. Fire pits should only be used in an open area in the middle of the yard, with a garden hose nearby.

Consumer reporter Susan Hogan joins the team at The Rhode Show with important safety information on how to prevent fire pit tragedies in your home in the wake of the death of a Northampton, MA woman who died due to injuries sustained from a fire pit accident. Avoid wearing loose clothing or using blankets near a fire pit.

Safe Kids highlights the importance of water safety for families of children with special needs. Families walk viewers through keeping your child with special needs safe in the water, including proper life jacket selection and staying within arm’s reach of children whenever they are near water.

Guy Colonna, NFPA division manager of industrial & chemical engineering, gives some basic tips on how to prepare your grill before your first cookout of the season. Do a basic inspection for cleanliness if your grill has been sitting around for the past season, and ensure that there are no gas leaks.