It’s safe to say we all love the space we live in. Whether you own or rent, our homes are a sacred space for most of us. After all, they don’t say “home sweet home” for nothing. Our homes are our comfort spots and where we long to spend time relaxing. That’s why it’s important to take care of the place we call home.
Beyond organizing our homes or decorating our space, caring for our homes also means ensuring the place where we live and sleep is safe. Though we cannot guarantee that emergencies will never happen, we can certainly prepare for them and do our best to help avoid certain scenarios. Read on to find a thorough safety assessment checklist you can use to keep your home and family safe.
Review Electrical Cords and Outlets
It’s essential to check anything electrical for potential fire hazards. These reminders will help you look for damaged cables, wires, or outlets.
- Check for frayed wires. Repair or replace loose or frayed wires on electrical devices.
- Follow the path of cords. No cords should run under rugs or across doorways.
- Baby-proof. If you have small children, place plastic safety covers over unused outlets.
- Rethink extension cords. Consider adding electrical outlets where you currently rely on extension cords.
- Check for a faulty electrical system. Feel all outlets and plugs to see if any are warm. If they are, have an electrician check them.
- Don’t overload the system. Follow manufacturers’ directions about the maximum wattage of lamp bulbs and outlet requirements for plugs.
- Don’t overload any one outlet. Ensure you have only one high-wattage appliance plugged into a single outlet.
Inspect Home Heating
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, potential fires, or heat burns, it’s important to review your home’s heating systems. These are various items to inspect.
- Examine the outside vents. They should be adequately sealed and clear of obstruction to prevent carbon monoxide buildup in the house. Recheck during and after a snowstorm.
- Pick the correct wood. For a fireplace or a woodstove, stock up on dry seasoned wood—which burns without producing a lot of creosote (or soot)—because creosote buildup in the chimney or flue can cause fires.
- Hire a chimney sweep. Have flues and chimneys inspected and cleaned by a professional annually.
- Inspect wood-burning stoves twice monthly. Make sure the door latch closes correctly, the room has a working smoke detector, and children don’t use the stove unattended.
- Inspect water heaters annually. To prevent burns, set the temperature no higher than 120 degrees. Never leave children alone near a water heater, and keep combustible and flammable materials well away from it.
Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Having detectors installed is not enough. Follow this advice so your home and family are protected in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide emergency.
- Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors generously. They should be on each floor of the house, covering all sleeping areas.
- Test alarms monthly. Replace any that don’t work. In any case, replace alarms every 10 years.
- Replace batteries annually. Or sooner if the alarm chirps.
- Clean all detectors. Vacuum each grille.
- Demonstrate the sound of each detector. Family members need to know the difference.
Use Fire Extinguishers
Extinguishers are a must-have in your home. They’re inexpensive and a possible life-saving tool all families should own.
- Place extinguishers strategically. Keep one in the kitchen and one on every floor.
- Learn how to use extinguishers. Read the instructions and be sure the whole family knows how to use them.
- Replace extinguishers when necessary. Follow the schedule suggested by the manufacturer, and always replace an extinguisher that appears damaged.
- Consider installing a fire sprinkler system. Your family, home, and valuables may be saved.
Develop an Escape Plan
Your family should be familiar with a pre-determined escape plan. This will help everyone be prepared to act in case of an emergency.
- Create an escape plan with two exit routes in case of fire. Practice it twice a year with the whole family (once at night). For details, see the National Fire Protection Association’s website.
- Choose a meeting place. Set a plan for meeting up in case of a local or national disaster.
- If you live in a two-story house, buy a rescue ladder. It should attach to an upper-level window casing to provide an alternate escape route.
Protect Small Children
Families with small children should take extra safety precautions. These items are crucial for protecting young ones and keeping families safe.
- Lock the cabinets. Install safety latches and locks.
- Install window guards on every window. Make sure one window in each room can be used as a fire exit.
- Install safety gates. Bar the top and bottom of stairs.
- Lock up hazardous materials. Place any poisonous or unsafe products in locked cabinets. Post the Poison Control hotline (800-222-1222) with other emergency numbers.
- Ensure all medicines and vitamins have childproof caps. Store them up and away out of children’s reach.
- Stow away sharp knives. This goes for scissors and cosmetic tools, too. Matches and plastic bags should also be kept out of children’s reach.
- Lock up any guns. Confirm they are unloaded and separate from ammunition.
- Install padding on furniture with sharp edges. And put doorknob covers on entry doors so kids can’t get out unattended.
- If you have a pool, fence it in. Enclose pools with a four-sided fence and childproof gate.
- Teach children their addresses and how to dial 911. As early as possible, children need to know these fundamentals.
Take steps to prevent a break-in or home invasion. These ideas will help deter thieves from getting easy access to your home.
- Install a sturdy deadbolt lock on every door to the outside. This includes the door into the house from the garage.
- In any room with window bars, make sure at least one window has a quick-release mechanism. Replace or retrofit as needed.
- Install motion-sensing floodlights in the backyard. The lights turn on whenever motion is detected, a great deterrent for thieves or anyone entering your property in the dark.
- Keep your house looking lived-in when you’re away. Arrange for the lawn to be mowed, stop mail delivery, install timers for selected lights, leave a car in the driveway, and leave drapes or shades open at least a bit.
- Advertise prominently any home security system you have installed. Consider putting up signs even if you don’t have a system.
- Examine your landscaping. Trim shrubs and trees near windows and doors that provide hiding places for burglars, and prune limbs that serve as ladders to upper windows.
- Insert a metal bar or a solid-wood dowel in the tracking of sliding glass doors. This prevents anyone from opening them.
- Put your street number, not your name, on your mailbox. Displaying your name is not necessary for mail to be delivered and will only increase the risk of identity theft.
- Give a spare key to a trusted neighbor or nearby friend. Thieves know all about fake rocks and other hide-a-key tricks.
Take Extra Precautions
These extra home safety tips are worth incorporating into your checklist. From advice for yourself to steps to take for the house itself, your family and home will be protected.
- Make sure your house number is visible from the street. It should be easily spotted (even at night) in case an emergency vehicle needs to find it.
- Store flammable liquids away from any flame source. Preferably, store them outside.
- Keep flammable objects away from the kitchen stove. This will help avoid kitchen fires.
- Plug a rechargeable flashlight into a socket by your bed. It’ll light the way through smoke in a fire or provide a signal to firefighters.
- Install nonslip decals or a nonskid tub mat in your tub. By preventing falls in the tub, you’ll avoid injuries.
- Put lights and light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs. This prevents falls in the dark.
- Paint the bottom basement step white so it’s more visible. You’ll be less likely to mistake it for the floor.
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