Tragedy drives family to help protect others with first-of-its-kind safety demonstration home

As you start to plan for your holiday gatherings, you need to think about safety -- especially for young children.

Every year tens of thousands of children are injured by products and appliances in and around the house, many of which could be easily prevented. Now there’s a new, hands-on way for parents to spot those hidden dangers with a first-of-its-kind house created by a family that turned a tragedy into a way to protect others.

On Nov. 1, 2007, Brett Horn’s life changed forever: His two-and-a-half-year-old son Charlie was killed while attempting to climb on a small dresser in his bedroom.

Turning tragedy into a mission, Brett and his wife, Jenny, created Charlie’s House, the nation’s first safety demonstration home -- designed from the ground up -- and dedicated to reducing at-home accidents and injuries. It opened in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2021.

From furniture prone to tipping over in the bedroom and living room to poisonous items and choking hazards in the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry area, Charlie's House helps parents spot potential at-home accidents. (WJXT)

“It’s a place where parents and caregivers can come and they can learn how to properly childproof their home,” Brett said.

Whether it’s unsafe sleep practices in a nursery, furniture prone to tipping over in the bedroom and living room, poisonous items and choking hazards in the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry area -- or fire hazards and how to avoid them.

“There are so many hidden hazards that exist within the home, and this house is a place that parents and caregivers can visit to learn about various hazards that exist, and learn what they can do to prevent risks,” explained Gabe Knight, a policy analyst for Consumer Reports’ safety policy team.

For years, Consumer Reports has worked alongside parents like Brett, Jenny, and other safety advocates demanding tougher standards for furniture.

Charlie Horn died in a tragic at-home accident. (WJXT)

The recently enacted STURDY Act does just that, establishing a mandatory safety standard for clothing storage furniture like the dresser that killed Charlie. The Consumer Product Safety Commission will enforce the law.

“It means that consumers are going to have a safer offering when they go to buy new dressers. And consumers can also expect an agency, the CPSC, to come forward with enforcement actions where appropriate, where we see noncompliance in the marketplace,” explained CPSC Commissioner Peter Feldman.

Sometimes as new products hit the market, new risks can come up. So, it’s important to keep up to date on guidance, for example, on safe sleeping habits and on products like water beads that are dangerous for children if they ingest them. It’s a never-ending battle that advocates like Brett Horn and many others are embracing.

Charlie’s House offers virtual tours. Here’s the link to check it out:

And you can help other families too. If you’ve experienced unstable furniture or any other product safety issue, report it to the CPSC at