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