In every family there comes a day when children are old enough to be left home alone. For parents with responsible kids, that age may be nine or ten. Or if a child is particularly wild (or parents are particularly protective), staying home alone may not be an option until a child reaches twelve or thirteen years of age. Whatever the case, the parents worried about leaving kids home alone can give themselves some peace of mind and ensure the safety of their offspring by imparting a number of home safety and security tips before the fateful day arrives. Here are a few that every kid should know.

  1. Have emergency numbers handy. If something happens while the parents are away, every child in the household needs to know how to contact the authorities or another adult for help. In the event of an emergency, kids should be taught to dial 911 without hesitation. But you might want to teach them what types of events count as emergencies, such as a fire, a home invasion, or a severe illness or injury. Of course, if they’re unsure they could call you or a trusted family member or friend first. But most kids understand what constitutes an emergency and what qualifies for a call to mom or dad. You might also want to put numbers like the fire station, the sheriff, and poison control near the phone just in case.
  2. CPR. It’s not a good idea to leave children near open water, but if you have a pool in the backyard it may be unavoidable (even a locked gate won’t stop kids determined to go swimming while you’re at work during the summer). Kids that know CPR could perform this life-saving procedure even as help is on the way.
  3. Fire safety. Children not only need to know where fire extinguishers are and how to use them; they should also have a safe exit strategy in mind in the event of a fire (something that can be ingrained through regular fire drills). And they should understand basic safety precautions like touching a door with the back of the hand to see if it’s safe to open or putting wet towels over their faces to reduce smoke inhalation.
  4. Hunter’s safety. You probably don’t want kids handling firearms, but if you’re going to keep them in the house you should not hesitate to teach your children how to handle them properly. There are too many instances every year of kids breaking into a parent’s gun safe, loading a weapon, and having an accident that ends in injury or death because they were showing off or playing around. Impressing upon your kids the dangers associated with these deadly weapons may not be enough, but teaching them to handle firearms responsibly is a step in the right direction. And of course, keeping guns and ammo locked up separately is never a bad idea.
  5. Lock doors and windows, set the alarm, and don’t open the door for strangers. The safety tools you install in your home will only work if kids use them. So while it’s well and good to get referrals for locksmith resources in order to install deadbolts or hire a security company to hook up and monitor an alarm system, you have to make sure that your kids know to keep windows and doors locked, that they are taught how to arm the alarm (and conditioned to do it each time they enter the house), and that they know to talk to strangers through the door rather than opening it.