Home safety is something that many people take for granted. You spend a lot of money on a mortgage or on rent, so you assume that the landlord or builder is responsible for creating a safe home environment. This isn’t entirely true: There are numerous dangers in the home that you will need to be aware of and take precautions against.
Most homes will have general safety features already. If you don’t have a functioning smoke alarm, you should get one right away! You should check your batteries every six months to make sure that this life-saving device can keep working around the clock. Having a few functioning smoke alarms can help save you a bit of money on home insurance as well. Lighting doesn’t seem like a safety tool until you stub your toe in the middle of the night or take a worse fall over an obstacle. Make sure that you promptly replace burnt-out bulbs, especially ones that are outdoors or by stairways. Consider a motion-detecting light outside both for safety and security. If you have a balcony or a deck, or you plan on installing one, always get a safety inspector or contractor to check professionally for safety codes. If you notice a railing or handrail is starting to become loose, immediately inform others and get it fixed.
If you’re planning on an addition to your family, baby proofing is a very important step. The most common devices that you can buy are electrical socket covers and cabinet locks. Cabinet locks are important to keep an infant from accessing chemicals or from pulling heavy objects down onto themselves. People often overlook electrical cords, but these are an easy way for a baby to pull a lamp or computer down on his or her head. To ensure that you’ve accounted for everything, spend a few minutes in each room crawling on the floor. Try to pull at everything you can. Invest in a couple baby gates: Though someone should always have an eye on your baby, put these up by stairs and other “off limits” areas just in case. Make sure you’ve exhausted all available resources so that you don’t miss anything.
No matter what age a person is, the kitchen can be the site of many accidents. The first rule of knife safety may seem counterintuitive: Keep knives sharp! Dull knives cause more accidents because they are harder to use. Make sure that all of your appliances are in proper working order as well. If something is broken, don’t try to fix it yourself. If you notice that something is jamming a garbage disposal, don’t even think about reaching down there, with your hand or anything else, unless the disposal is unplugged. Even then, watch for sharp blades and consider calling a professional. Make sure that children and family members are aware of stove safety. Many models now have a light that indicates a hot surface even if the stove itself is off. Keep a box of baking soda or a fire extinguisher nearby for oil fires; if you try to put a flaming pan of oil out with water, you’ll just send scalding grease flying in every direction. Teach children not to put metal or non-food objects in the microwave or else you might need another fire extinguisher near the microwave. Start with this checklist to learn more safe habits.
Bathrooms are the top place in the home for slips and falls, and they are especially dangerous for for elderly family members. If you have a particularly deep bathtub, consider installing safety rails. Look at your bathroom with a critical eye: If a person slips, what can they grab on to? Shower curtains, curtain rods and towel rods are all too weak to hold a person’s weight and may make a fall worse. You can also buy non-slip rubber mats for the tub, shower and tile floor.
If you have a pool, you should already be aware of the safety issues. Pool areas should be completely enclosed by a fence. Research government safety regulations. Lock the gate whenever you are not using the pool. Make sure that you have pool safety equipment. You’ll want flotation devices placed around the pool. Make it clear that running is not allowed, but you’ll also want a first aid kit in case of falls. You can invest in rubber mats to make the area less slippery.
Should an emergency occur, at your pool or anywhere else, it helps to know basic first aid. You should try to learn CPR and check frequently for updates on technique. The American Red Cross is the all-inclusive resource for first aid preparation. Post emergency numbers by a telephone or somewhere central. Include the family physician, poison control, a local hospital and emergency contacts. Practice a fire drill with your family yearly. Provide children with safety ladders, but make it clear that they are for an emergency only. Train family members to check doors for heat and to stay low and out of the smoke. Remember that smoke inhalation causes more deaths than the actual fire does.
The most common danger in a household is also the easiest to prevent. Household cleaners and chemicals are found in almost every room in a house but accidental ingestion or application of these products can be extremely harmful and in some cases, even fatal. In fact, household cleaners are the number one cause of child poisoning. A daunting 150 common household chemicals are linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer, and psychological abnormalities. Dangerous chemicals, like antifreeze, drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and windshield wiper fluids are fatal if ingested. Bleach and ammonia will burn skin if it comes in direct contact. Still other cleaning products such as air fresheners, moth balls, and motor oil when inhaled can cause severe nerve damage, blindness, or even coma. These chemicals should be placed well out of reach of children and pets. Store them in secure places to ensure they are not accidentally consumed or spilled.
Home safety is as much about prevention as it is about preparation. You should try to make a schedule to check the stability of rails and fences and keep extra light bulbs, batteries and first aid supplies on hand. Make sure that your family is educated about what to do in an emergency. You can go over this information through drills, reading informational materials or even by acting out skits.
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