How to prevent unstable furniture, appliances and electronics from killing children

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Four years ago in November, a 2-year-old Kansas City boy was killed when a dresser fell onto him. His name was Charlie Horn and the dresser was only 30 inches tall.

Charlie's parents had no idea a dresser that tall could pose a threat. The Horn family is not alone in their loss. The Consumer Product Safety Commission released new data showing a child dies at a rate of one every two weeks from falling furniture, televisions or appliances.

The CPSC estimates 25,300 children were treated in emergency rooms from 2008 to 2010 from tipping furniture, televisions or appliances.

More than 19,000 of those injuries involved tipping furniture, either the furniture itself or a piece of furniture with a television on top of it.

In the past 10 years, the CPSC says 245 children are known to have died from tipping furniture. Sixty percent of them were killed in an accident involving a television set (either the set itself fell, or the TV and the furniture). More than 30 percent were killed by tipping furniture, and 9 percent by a tipping appliance.

More than half of those deaths involved a child being crushed, suffering fatal blows to the head, the torso or both simultaneously.



Source: CPSC databases, including NEISS (National Electronic Injury Surveillance System), IPII (Injury and Potential Injury Incidents), DTHS (Deaths), and INDP (In-depth Investigations).


In the majority of these incidents, parents find their child still trapped under the product.

Because of these numbers, the CPSC is trying to raise awareness by sharing the same message Charlie's parents have been sharing for four years now. It released the following YouTube public service announcement


Charlie Horn is included in the above statistics. His family says these numbers take their breath away. They have worked nonstop since Charlie's death to raise awareness about dangers in and around the home. Their goal? To help other parents prevent tragedies like Charlie's.


Charlie's House

Charlie's parents helped start a Kansas City non-profit in Charlie's honor. It's called Charlie's House. The mission of the organization is to prevent injuries to children in and around the home. So far, it's been educational outreach at community events and through the organization's website. Eventually it will be a safety demonstration home in the heart of the city.

The family and the organization has had a glimpse lately of what their demonstration home will look like. James Engle Custom Homes  allowed Charlie's House to child proof an Overland Park model home this year near 151st and Quivira. In every room of the house, there are posters sharing what parents would need to be aware of in that particular room. There are also sample products displayed. Everyone who walks through can learn about different ways to childproof different rooms.

Maureen Huffer is a Horn family friend and is the spokesperson for Charlie's House.

"There are hidden dangers in the home," says Huffer, "and that's not a fault of a parent for not knowing that. It is just educating."

In the four years since we first told you about the Horn family tragedy, Charlie's House has secured a lease for land right by Truman Medical Center and Children's Mercy Hospital.

They also have plans and an artist's rendering of the home.

The family told NBC Action News they are very near the reality of the demonstration home being built. It will be named Charlie's House, but will be a home to help educate all Kansas City area families in hopes of saving young lives.

How to prevent further injuries, deaths

As part of our continued effort here at NBC Action News to help raise awareness of this unknown threat in homes, we have partnered with a handful of organizations to get furniture straps into the hands of Kansas City residents.

Charlie's House, Nebraska Furniture Mart, and Mommy's Helper (a business in Wichita which distributes a number of safety home products) have all donated furniture straps to hand out to Kansas City area families. Combined, we have 1,500 straps to hand out to anyone who needs them. We'll also be distributing a checklist to walk through your home and familiarize yourself with hidden dangers. The checklist is called "Charlie's Checklist" and is also available online at

The straps will be available while supplies last at our NBC Action News studio at 4720 Oak from 8 5 p.m., and at Nebraska Furniture Mart at 1601 Village West Pkwy in Kansas City, Kansas where Charlie's House volunteers will be distributing them during business hours Friday. Nebraska Furniture Mart is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

It is because the Horn's are willing to share their story, because you choose to listen and share this story, and because this community cares about its children that tragedy is being prevented.

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