Tag: Home Safety

Is Your House Safe or an “Accident” Waiting to Happen?

We always refer to incidents as “accidents” when, in actuality, most “accidents” are anything but. With a little care, they could have been prevented. So, what are you doing to make sure your house isn’t an accident waiting to happen?

You ask, “What can you do?” Well, first, you have to know what areas can become problems, and therefore, it might first be a good idea to sit down with your family and make a list. Not only is this good for safety, but it’s also a good way to educate your children, if you have them, and a good time for simple, old fashioned communication – something we seriously lack in this age of technology.

What should the list entail? I would suggest the following areas to discuss and inspect. By all means, this is not an exhaustive list, and feel free to add to it.

Smoke Detectors – Make sure they are operating properly. If they are battery operated, test them and make sure the batteries are replaced regularly. Hard-wired detectors are typically better than battery, but you have to make sure you have a backup in the event the power goes out.

Fire Extinguishers – This is one of the simplest and most cost-effective measures you can take. The extinguishers need to be easily accessible, and you should learn how to operate them before the need arises. I have actually had the occasion to use one in our house when the wire to the propane tank on our grill caught fire. That was a disaster averted. Additionally, you might want to think about stove top extinguishers. These could prevent serious injuries in the event of a stove or oven fire.

Electrical Outlets – We rarely check on these, but in old houses, these can be the cause of major fires. They need to be properly grounded, and if you have any questions, have a licensed electrician come in and evaluate your home. Also, make sure they are not overloaded. In addition, check the wires in your house to all your lamps, appliances, and other electrical items to make sure they are not frayed and fire hazards. You might even consider asking the local fireman to provide you with an inspection.

Light bulbs – They have different watts for a reason. Make sure you have the proper bulbs in your various lamps and lights.

Fire Place – If you have a fireplace and enjoy having fires in your home during winter, make sure you have it inspected and checked out each year. Various chemicals and materials can collect in the flues and chimneys and cause fires, so you want to keep them clean.

Vents/Heaters – If you have ever looked at the tops of your water heaters or the backs of a dryer, you will notice that they begin collecting dust and lent. With gas heaters, fire hazards can be present, and you should clean these regularly to prevent the danger.

Gas Leaks – Another potential problem can arise with these heaters – gas leaks. This can not only lead to fire hazards but also to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you ever smell gas, make sure you have the gas company come out IMMEDIATELY for an inspection. Gas is never anything to play around with.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors – With the above said, it is also a good idea to have carbon monoxide detectors in your home. There has been some controversy over the effectiveness of these detectors, but if you do your research, you can find the best ones for your home. At the very least, it is another level of safety. Make sure you test them regularly, especially if they are battery operated, and just as with smoke detectors, have a backup for them if they are hard wired.

Child Proofing – Make sure you put protection on hard corners of furniture, cover electrical outlets, and put locks on cabinets containing poisonous chemicals. It doesn’t take long for your child to get into trouble, so be prepared. Also, put gates on stairways so they don’t fall down a flight of stairs. A simple gate and locks can avoid trips to the ER.

Heavy Appliances and Furniture – this goes along with child proofing, but make sure your heavy appliances and furniture are not in a place where they can fall over and injure a child, or anyone for that matter. Typically, these types of incidents occur with televisions and shelving.

Stairs – Make sure you keep stairs clear of various items. I am constantly removing my children’s things from the stairways. I can just picture the incident in my mind – step on a golf ball and break my neck, or worse, one of my children doing the same. This is easily avoidable. Also, make sure you check the banister/handrails to ensure they are secure.

Outside Lighting – Make sure the outside of your home has adequate lighting. If bulbs go out, replace them. The last thing you want is family members or visitors tripping and injuring themselves as a result of inadequate lighting.

Outside Maintenance – Walk around your house once or twice a year to make sure there are no dangerous areas. Not only is it good for safety, but it keeps your house maintained for value.

Dead Trees – If you know there is a dead tree on your property, have it removed. Don’t wait for a storm to come by or the wind to blow it over. You don’t want it to damage your neighbor’s home or property or fall and injure someone.

Fences/Dogs – If you own a dog, make sure you abide by all local regulations. It’s a good idea to either have a fence or electrical fence. This is especially true if your dog has a history of aggression or if it is considered a dangerous breed: pit bulls, rottweilers, German shepherds, huskies, Alaskan malamutes, Doberman pinschers, chow chows, presa canarios, boxers, and dalmations are considered the top ten most dangerous breeds based on a study done analyzing the AVMA, CDC, and Humane Society. More importantly, however, is the owner of the dog. Most problem dogs are the ones who are not properly trained.

Evacuation – Have an evacuation plan in the event of a fire or other emergency. Go over it with your family and practice. Make sure children know what to do and where to meet in the event you get separated.

These are just some of the things to think about with respect to home safety. Do some of your own investigation. There are many resources on the internet these days. Don’t leave accidents and injuries to chance. Prevent them by being proactive and not reactive.

-Our colleagues at The Safety Report, Jon Lewis, attorney at Lewis, Feldman & Lehane, LLC

Preventing Burns at Home

The topic of burns in the home is little discussed. However, if you ask any emergency room doctor, you will know how serious & prevalent scalding injuries are. It is important to protect yourself and your family with safeguards that will help reduce the likelihood of suffering a serious burn injury.

Seventy-five percent of scalds and burns happen at home. It only takes one second of contact with water or liquid hotter than 155°F to get a third degree burn, just 15 seconds with water temperature of 133°F or higher. Third degree burns are very serious and require immediate medical attention. Third degree burns create full thickness destruction of the skin; therefore, skin grafts and months of rehabilitation are required. Burns damage the skin, which protects us against infection, and makes us more likely to gain serious infections that could be life threatening.

Children age 14 and younger are at risk for burns at home. Each year 24,000 children are treated in emergency rooms in the United States for burns not associated with fires. That means that one child is seriously enough burned to be taken to the emergency room every 22 minutes. Children do not fully understand their surrounds at these ages yet remain curious about everything around them. They have thinner skin, which gives them less protection against burns. Non-fire related burns are the leading cause of death for children 4 and younger.

Adults over the age of 65 are at great risk as well. Elderly person have weaker immune systems and preexisting medical conditions, which would add to the likelihood of going through more extensive treatment for burns. Their reflexes are slower, their eyesight is poorer, and most of their body systems are compromised, which gives them a diminished judgment. Most of their injuries occur at home and are associated with hot food or water.

While, most people think that the kitchen is the most dangerous place to get a burn, few would think that the bathroom or exposed radiators are just as dangerous. Most people associate the bathroom as a place of comfort and relaxation. However, it is second only to the kitchen as to where the most burns occur. Cases involving parents who unknowingly put their kids in extremely hot bath water without first checking the temperatures are common. The kids in turn get third degree burns over their entire bodies. This leads to medical care in the form of skin grafts and long-term rehabilitation. Other than burns, people could break bones or tear ligaments trying to get out of an extremely hot shower or bath.

These injuries can easily be prevented. Always check the bath and shower water before getting in. You must make sure that your water heater is not set higher than 120°F; this will greatly reduce the likelihood of being burned and spikes in water temperature while you are in the shower. If you rent, notify your landlord via written letter or e-mail if there is a problem with the water being too hot or the water becoming very hot because someone flushed a toilet. Therefore, if a burn does occur because the landlord failed to fix the water heater or pipes than you will be protected. Remind your landlord that the law requires him or her to make the appropriate corrections for a tenant’s safety.

In the winter, people turn the heat up and exposed radiators will become exceptionally hot. Since radiators are not hot all the time children cannot distinguish when they are hot or cold. Even adults could easily fall into them if distracted. Elderly people with preexisting medical problems might become incapacitated in some way (faint, loss of consciousness, etc.) and land on a heated radiator. This is very severe if they live alone, because by the time anyone finds them, they will have significant burns on their body. Therefore, putting a protective screen or barrier around exposed radiators ensures that no one will be burned accidently.

Scalding injuries in the kitchen pose even greater dangers than in the bathroom. Cooking temperatures are frequently close to boiling, which will cause third degree burns in less than a second. Most accidents in the kitchen involve hot liquids being spilled such as coffee or soup. It takes seconds to turn a delicious beef stew into a life changing burn. The dangers arise in two forms: the cooking process and the transporting of hot liquids. Kids, naturally, are going to gravitate to what their parents are doing. A parent must be constantly aware when the kids are in the kitchen and take the precautions to keep them safe. Therefore, using the back burners when possible and keeping the handles of pots faced in will ensure that you will not accidently spill. Also, never leave children alone in the kitchen when you are cooking, and if they are in the kitchen with you, make sure they cannot reach anything that could spill or is hot.

The most common type of injury that could lead to severe scalding & a house fire is boiling oil. While it might be your first instinct to through water on oil that catches fire, this is a bad idea. Instead, while you cook, keep a lid or flat cookie sheet within reach. Therefore, if flames appear you can suffocate them.

If in the unfortunate case that you do get burn, there are specific steps that you should take to reduce the effects. First, stop the burning process and then remove any clothing that is burned. If the clothing is attached to your skin, do not attempt to remove it. Once this is done, pour cool water over (not cold or hot) the burned area for 3-5 minutes or until the ambulance arrives. Then cover the area with a clean dressing (it could be gauze, bandage or a sheet). If you have burns to your face, neck, hands, feet or genital areas or if there are blisters and severe burned skin you must seek immediate medical attention. Remember do not apply any aloe or other ointments because it may cause infection. Also, remember not to break any blisters and wear loose fitting clothing while the burns are healing. If you have any doubt, seek medical care.

-Samuel Davis (The Safety Report)

Understanding Pool Safety

It’s the time of year when kid’s cant resist their desire to go in the pool. However, along with the fun comes serious dangers. These dangers include drowning, slips and falls, and risky diving. Drowning is the second-leading cause of injury related deaths among children ages 1 to 14 in the United States. For every child who drowns, four children are injured through submersion. What is most surprising is that most of these injuries occur when the child is under the supervision of an adult!

Diving into pools can be the cause of severe injuries, such as paralysis. 16,000 people under the age of 16 years-old are injured every year due to diving into pools, and 20% of these kids suffer a severe spinal cord injury. Furthermore, reckless sports play around pools also lead many injuries a year, especially if the surface is wet.

Recent attention has been pointed towards the risk of entrapment in pool drains. A report by the Pool Safety Council was established in spring 2011 on these issues. It mandates certain types of drain covers to reduce the risk of entrapment.

What can YOU DO to prevent these types of risks around the pool? A lot of it is common sense, like “don’t jump in shallow water” and “alcohol and diving do not mix well.” Motorized pool covers prevent slip and falls from becoming more severe than they ought to be. You should also make sure to have alerts or alarms for the doors opening up into the pool. This lets the parent know if someone has gone outside into the pool area. For more tips on pool safety, visit www.cdc.gov or www.poolsafely.gov.

Parents: Your Kids and the Internet Age

Some tips from the site include:

  1. Check your child’s friend lists and make sure he/she knows all friends in person.
  2. Teach your child how to set his/her profile to ‘private,’ so people they do not know can’t access their profile.
  3. Have your child delete personal information and any inappropriate content (content that includes any sort of revealing information)
  4. Report any sort of criminal behavior. Most sites have a reporting mechanism for non-criminal behavior. CyberTipline, www.cybertipline.com, is a site where you are able to report criminal behavior on the internet.

The better you are, as a parent, at watching and communicating with your children on the internet, the safer your children will be.

Getting Your Child to be “Home Alone” Ready

With summer break here, many working parents will begin to leave their children home alone over the next couple months. Costs for day-care and babysitters can be a suffering cost for many parents, so they will go with the alternative- leave their children at home on their own. If this is the case with you and your children, you should first check to see if this is legal in your state. If there is no law pertaining to leaving your child at home, then it is important to follow some helpful guidelines.

As a parent, it is up to you to decide whether or not the child is mature enough. Nobody knows more than you! There are not necessarily any concrete rules for determining if your child is ready to take on the challenge. Experts believe that when a child is able to handle difficult situations calmly, then they have reached a necessary level of maturity. In addition, experts advise against leaving a child under the age of 10 at home alone.

Parents, you know your kids more than anybody. The following questions may help you decide if your child is ready:

  • Has he or she been responsible in the past? If so, what type of situations and how often?
  • Is your child physically and mentally ready?
  • Does your child obey rules?
  • Does your child feel comfortable being at home alone?
  • Have you experimented with short “home alone” periods? (If not, try running a quick errand to the grocery store or getting gas)

If you are satisfied with the answers to these questions and feel confident that your child can handle it, it is important to let your child know what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency. Here are some safety considerations:

  • Set rules for your child to follow
  • Make sure your child knows how to contact you at all times.
  • Remove fire hazards and install smoke detectors.
  • Teach your child basic first aid and have a kit available.
  • Make your child memorize his home address and phone number (if they haven’t already)
  • Teach your child how to answer the phone and door. Never tell callers that they are home alone.
  • Keep all doors and windows locked.

Take the time to carefully discuss these issues with your kids. Each child is unique, and what may work for one child may not work for another. Imagine various situations in which you think each of your kids would respond, and then teach accordingly. These discussions will help the child feel more comfortable and reassure you that they are capable of being left at home. Enjoy a safe summer!

Frontovers and Backovers

With summer finally here, children are beginning to play in their neighborhood streets and driveways, which increases the risk children face with frontover and backover accidents. In 2010, there were 70 frontover fatalities and 60 backover fatalities because children cannot be seen around vehicles. Toddlers 12-23 months represent 70% of these victims. These young children are most at risk because they are unable to realize and comprehend the dangers associated with moving vehicles.

According to Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org, “Children often don’t want to be left behind when a beloved relative is leaving; they impulsively follow them out and put themselves in a dangerous position near the vehicle where they can’t be seen.” The same thing happens when parents come home from work, and their children come running out to greet them. All vehicles have some sort of blind spots in the rear, front and corners, and even with proper use of the mirror, accidents can happen. Furthermore, inclines can increase the blind zones of these vehicles and increase the risk of a frontover or backover.

As for backover prevention, rear camera units are now being installed in newer model vehicles, which will decrease the risk of backover accidents. However, preventing frontovers continues to be a serious concern. Fennell advises, “KidsAndCars.org will continue to raise awareness and work to find solutions to eliminate these tragedies.”

Dehumidifiers: Keeping Homes Clean & Healthy

Families around the country have been using dehumidifiers for years in their homes to make them more comfortable. These devices are used to draw excess humidity from the air. In addition to making the homes more airy, dehumidifiers help to keep the general appearance of a room dry, clean, and well kept. Excess moisture can cause mildew growth and damage to furniture of all types, photos, carpets, and other valuables, so using a dehumidifier can help preserve your family’s treasures.

Dehumidifiers are used for health reasons also. Mold and mildew have been linked to a number of lung diseases, including asthma. If mold and mildew begin showing up in your house, you should consider purchasing a dehumidifier.

If you decide to buy one, place it in a location where the moisture problem is the greatest, where mold, mildew, and musty odors are evident. This may be the basement, or a room where the ventilation is poor. It is important to keep the moisture level low if you store anything valuable there, or if you use your basement as a living space. Unlike the rest of your home, the parts of your foundation that are below ground level are constantly in contact with moisture from the earth outside. Though some homes have adequate vapor and water barriers installed outside their foundations, many older homes have none.
You may need more than one dehumidifier if moisture problems are in several areas of your home. If you put the device in a room with running water, be sure to keep it away from the water supply to avoid electrocution. It is also wise to place the dehumidifier away from the thermostat, since the fans blow warm air and could compromise the thermostat’s effectiveness.

It’s also important to allow plenty of open space around the dehumidifier so it can work properly. After you purchase the appliance, read the owner’s manual and follow the instructions. Typically, dehumidifiers won’t operate to their full capacities at temperatures below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you modify the device to drain the collected water into a sink or floor drain, be sure to locate it above the drain so it functions properly. You can adjust your dehumidifier so it turns on and off as needed.

Dehumidifiers help homes to stay clean and healthy. However, there have been recent recalls of dehumidifiers due to a potential fire hazard. Be cautious when you purchase the device; if you’ve already purchased one, check to see if it is on the recall list.

After four reports of fires, 98,000 portable dehumidifiers manufactured by Goldstar and Comfort-Aire were recently voluntarily recalled due to a potential fire hazard caused by shorting power connectors. Models recalled include No. GHD30Y7, sold at Home Depot, No. DH305Y7, sold at Wal-Mart, and Comfort-Aire BHD-301-C, sold at Heat Controller, Inc. The dehumidifiers were sold from January 2007 through June 2008. Consumers are advised to discontinue use of the dehumidifiers and to schedule a free repair service at an LG service center. Visitwww.cpsc.gov/ for more information on consumer product recalls. (The Safety Report)