Not unlike home inventories, many people don’t think about creating and maintaining a home safety checklist. Fortunately, most of us feel safe in our homes, and we don’t spend much time thinking about the many things that can go wrong—until they do. Take a few minutes to create a home safety checklist that can keep you and your family safe through both prevention and planning.
Electrical Cords and Outlets
Electrical systems and appliances can pose a fire hazard without proper maintenance. Use these tips to reduce your chances of a home fire from an electrical malfunction.
- Keep cords clear. Make sure cords aren’t hidden under rugs or running across doorways. The first situation can create a fire hazard by rubbing against and possibly damaging the cord; the second presents a trip hazard.
- Check cords for damage.Examine cords and cables—including phone chargers and the like—on a regular basis for loose or frayed wire. Repair or replace wires that show signs of damage.
- Evaluate extension cords. If you’re using extension cords on a regular basis, you probably need more outlets. These tools are meant as temporary solutions, not permanent wiring.
- Cover unused outlets. If you have small children at home, use plastic safety covers to prevent tiny fingers from exploring outlets.
- Check the electrical system. Are you finding outlets and plugs that are warm to the touch? Have an electrician check them out.
Slips and Falls
According to the National Safety Council, falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries and one of the leading causes of death, particularly for older adults.
- Keep floors clear. Remove any clutter, such as clothes and objects, from foot-traffic pathways to eliminate tripping hazards. (See above tips regarding electrical and extension cords.)
- Put rugs and carpets in their place. If you use area rugs, use a non-slip backing or double-sided tape to prevent the rugs from sliding. For stairs with runners or carpet, inspect the covering to make sure it’s firmly attached.
- Inspect handrails on stairs. Ensure that handrails are attached securely to the walls or floors. Support rails should extend to the bottom of the stairs, and both sides of the stairs should have protective railing.
- Light stairways. Is there only one light switch for the stairs, either at the top or the bottom? If so, install a second switch at the other end. These switches should connect to overhead lights at both the top and bottom of the stairs
Having small children at home creates special safety challenges as adults need to consider the environment from a different perspective. Consider the childproofing strategies below.
- Latch cabinet doors. Consider installing safety latches and locks on cabinets to prevent a curious child from getting into hazardous materials, such as medicines and cleaning products.
- Secure firearms, controlled substances.Lock up all guns, for obvious reasons, as well as any controlled substances. The increased availability of medical and recreational marijuana have led to a surge in calls to poison control centers for children inadvertently eating marijuana edibles, which look like candy.
- Keep sharp objects out of reach. Inventory anything sharp and figure out how to keep young children away from these items. Stow away knives, of course, but also consider installing padding on any furniture with sharp corners.
- Remove small objects. Any tiny object, such as a coin or a small toy or collectible, can present a choking hazard. Keep an eye out for anything that a child can put in his mouth, and stow it safely out of reach.
- Attach furniture to walls.Use wall anchors to prevent shelving and other furniture from falling on a child. Small children may clutch at the furniture for support or try to climb it for fun.
House fires represent one of the most common, and devastating, perils faced by homeowners, with cooking-related fires as the leading cause.
- Watch those pots. Unattended equipment counts for roughly one-third of home cooking fires. Never leave the kitchen when grilling, broiling or frying.
- Stow matches and lighters. Keep these dangerous objects beyond the reach of children.
- Use the back burners.Cooking on the rear of the stove makes it harder for children to grab hot handles. In general, turn handles to the back of the stove; not only is it harder for a child to reach the handles, but you’re also less likely to bump into them by accident.
- Keep flammable materials from heat sources.This applies to cooking appliances, space heaters, candles, etc. In the kitchen, don’t leave dish towels, napkins or pizza boxes near the stove. Place candles and other heat-generating décor at least four feet away from combustible materials, such as curtains or bedding.
- Smother pan fires. Never use water on a potential grease fire. Keep a pot lid handy to cover the fire and shut off the heat. Do not pick up the pot or pan.
- Extinguish danger. Fire extinguishers are an inexpensive way to protect your property and your family. Keep one in the kitchen and on every floor and learn how to use them. Replace extinguishers on a schedule suggested by the manufacturer or when an extinguisher appears damaged.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) reports that a break-in occurs in the United States every 26 seconds. According to Alarms.org, the official site of the National Council for Home Safety and Security, homes that don’t have a security system are 300% more likely to experience a break-in or burglary.
- Install a security system. Today’s homeowners have many security systems to choose from, ranging from centrally monitored services to app-controlled systems that record video and alert owners of visitors. Place signs and window stickers in prominent places to make burglars think twice. That’s often all it takes to make a would-be thief look elsewhere.
- Use motion detectors. Bright motion-detecting lights that illuminate yards can deter thieves and also make it safer for non-nefarious visitors to get to your house.
- Install deadbolts. Put deadlocks on all doors that open to the outside, which makes it very hard for burglars to break in.
- Protect all structures. Make sure locks protect garages and any outbuildings on your property.
Sometimes home emergencies require leaving the home. Plan ahead so you’ll have what you need, when you need it.
- Plan an exit strategy. Sometimes home security means getting out of your home quickly rather than keeping others from coming in. Create an escape plan for the whole family with at least two routes out during a fire (consider a rescue ladder for two-story homes). Practice the plan so family members can react quickly during a fire emergency.
- Stock up on supplies. If you’ll need to be away for a few days, have emergency supplies on hand. Be sure your emergency kit includes one gallon of water per person per day, three days’ worth of nonperishable food, and other necessary items, such as batteries, a first-aid kit, flashlights, money and garbage bags.