Here are some handy home safety tips that will help to ensure that you, your family, and your property are better projected from fire, theft, or accidents that can cause damage or serious injury.
Although it may shocking to realize it, about 80 percent of all structural fires start in the home, and fire departments in the USA respond to an alarm about every 15 seconds. The first step in preventing your house from becoming one of those unfortunate statistics is, of course, to install smoke alarms and test them periodically to make sure they are working properly. A good way to ensure timely inspections of your alarms is to schedule the checks to coincide with “springing forward” and “falling backward” with daylight savings time. When you’re resetting the clocks just also check the smoke detectors to make sure they are working.
Keep fire extinguishers handy, on every floor of the house, and make sure that they are properly rated for the kinds of fires you might anticipate. Having an extinguisher that is rated for trash, wood, and paper is a good idea if you have a garage full of newspapers you plan to recycle. But unless it is also rated for electrical fires it might not be appropriate for a fire that ignites in the garage due to faulty wiring in the circuit box. You should also use carbon monoxide detectors to avoid illness or death due to such things as a faulty furnace, a running car enclosed in the garage, or a fireplace that leaks dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
To know where to place smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms, and fire extinguishers – and which kinds are best for your home – just ask your local fire department. Firefighters are eager to help you practice home safety because it is much easier and safer to prevent fires than it is to fight them once they have already started.
Meanwhile one of the biggest sources of house fires is electrical appliances. The majority of fires that start in the home occur because of faulty cords, overloaded circuits, or improperly used electrical space heaters or other potentially dangerous gadgets. But many of these fires can be avoided if you are careful to visually inspect appliance cords and plugs for wear and tear.
Check for any frayed or crimped spots on the cord, any wires coming loose from plugs, or bent or otherwise damaged prongs. Don’t overload circuits by plugging lots of cords into one plug – which is easy to do if you use outlet strips or adapters that allow you to plug several gadgets through a single wall socket. Also make sure that when using a 3-pronged plug in an outlet that the electrical connection is actually wired for all three prongs. Sometimes the faceplate has three holes in it, for example, but the actually wiring connection behind the faceplate lacks a ground wire connection – which is needed for safe use of 3-pronged appliances.
It is worth the investment to hire an electrician or qualified building inspector to go through the house and check for this kind of discrepancy. It’s a simple process that will give you lots of peace of mind – and otherwise your home’s electrical system could be a tragedy just waiting to happen.
Of course another area of safety is locks, because although no lock can completely stop a determined burglar most criminals prefer the path of least resistance. The more you can do to make your house a difficult target for break-ins the safer it will be.
It is possible to buy relatively inexpensive and secure door and window locks and have them professionally installed. Use a deadbolt system, and also be careful not to place window panes within reach of your doorknobs. That’s because even if you have a fancy deadbolt lock it is easy to break into the house if a window pane is nearby. Just smash the window, reach inside, and unlock the door from the inside of the house. So if you have a back door and the whole upper half of the door design is comprised of window panes, for example, consider replacing it with a solid door that instead has a peephole.
Avoid leaving a “hide-a-key” in a fake rock in the flower bed or under the doormat. Even if you disguise it well you can’t prevent a crook from watching the house and seeing someone retrieve the key – which gives them an open invitation to mischief.
Follow these tips, use common sense, and also set up procedures like fire drills to train your children how to respond in the event of a 9-1-1 emergency. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to protecting your property, your belongings, your pets, and your loved ones.