Safe as Houses: 50+ simple tricks to help improve home safety

If there is any place in the world you should feel secure, it’s your home, right? And while accidents are a part of life…we can all do our part to make them as infrequent as possible. Here are a handful of small things you can do to help make your corner of the world a little bit safer of a place to live and play. 

Prevent fall-related injuries

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls account for the largest percentage of home accidents, with more than 30,000 fall-related fatalities occurring each year in the U.S. Falling is the third leading cause of unintentional-injury-related death over all age groups, and is the leading cause of death for those 65 and older, according to the National Safety Council (NSC) (Injury Facts 2017). 

While these statistics about injuries and fatalities are alarming, there are some simple things  you can do in and around your home to help to reduce risk factors for falls.

Removing tripping hazards.

Decluttering and making needed repairs around the home removes potential obstacles. 

Eliminate or move small furniture, electrical cords, pet and children’s toys, throw rugs, and anything else that might cause someone to trip. Keep staircases clear: remove clutter such as piles of magazines or newspaper, shoes, or other items “to go upstairs later.” Keep walkways, hallways, and doorways unobstructed. Tack down/repair loose floorboards and make sure carpet is stretched taut. Outside, repair cracked walks and level or secure pavers, bricks, or patio stones to reduce tripping hazards.

Light up living spaces

Nightlight in bathroomA few small tweaks in your lighting can help make the home safer and help all residents and visitors—regardless of age—navigate better. Place night lights in the kitchen, bathroom, and hallways. Keep walking paths to light switches clear. Always turn on lights before going up and down stairs. Swap out traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches. Enable smart-home features and use a voice-control device or app to turn on lights when entering a room (or have them turn on at set times—like upon arriving home in the evening or getting up in the early morning hours). 

Outside, keep entryways illuminated, as well as the garage, and outdoor areas where garbage and recycling may be accessed (no one wants to take the garbage out on a cold February night in the pitch dark!).

safer with carpet

Safety on the stairs

We’ve talked about keeping stairs well-lit and clear of clutter. What else can we do to hep prevent incidents? 

Provide adequate, sturdy handrails on both sides of the staircase. For small children, place safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs and employ a banister guard to help little ones from slipping through the cracks. 

Adding attached carpeting or a runner to hardwood stairs can provide more traction to prevent sliding. For stairs leading to a basement or garage or outside, consider adding non-skid tread tape or using a no-slip textured paint. 

Practice Fire Safety

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in the U.S., on average, seven people die every day from house fires. In 2015 alone, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 365,500 home structure fires. These fires caused 2,560 deaths, 11,075 civilian injuries, and $7 billion in direct damage.  

In many cases, this damage could have been mitigated—or prevented all together. A fire at home can start for many reasons—candles, cooking, electrical issues, heating, and smoking materials—to name a few. Because the causes are myriad, practicing fire prevention can keep you and your family safe. 

Fire Safety and Prevention Tips:

escape plan First and foremost, install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of your home – including the basement. Three out of five home fire fatalities happen in homes with no or non-working smoke alarms. Check your batteries twice a year—Daylight Savings is a good reminder.
Next, identify potential fire hazards. Do you have frayed or exposed electrical wires? Are space heaters located near curtains or other flammable materials? Fix what you can and know where other potential dangers lie.
Install fire safety windows and doors. If that is not an option, use fire retardant products to fire proof windows and doors. This slows down the fire and helps prevent it from spreading.
Plan and practice an escape route. Determine at least two ways to escape from your home and select a location outside for everyone to meet. Also, plan what to do with family pets and know who to call for emergency assistance.
Many children are not aware of potential fire hazards. Check out these fire prevention tips for kids to ensure proper fire safety and prevention is practiced by the entire family. 

Prevent Poisoning

According the NSC, poison control centers receive more than 2 million calls a year from people seeking medical help for poisoning. It is health issue that knows no age limit. In fact, according to the CDC, poisoning sends more than 300 children (0-19 yrs) to the ER every day, with an average of two fatalities; and more than 47,000 people die every year from accidental poisoning. 

The leading cause of unintentional death (even more than motor vehicle accidents), poisoning “includes any inadvertent ingestion of drugs or chemicals, the excessive use of a drug, and exposure to environmental substances.” Here are some tips from the CDC and the American Association of Poison Control Center that you can follow to help keep you and your loved ones safe.

Household chemicals

Children are naturally curious…and they often explore their world with their hands—and their mouths. To a child, brightly colored packages of cleaners or detergents may look like toys, teething rings, or candy.

child with chemicalsLiving with household chemicals and products is unavoidable—but there are things you can do to help prevent accidents. The NSC and CDC offer the following recommendations:

• Scrutinize common household products such as: laundry packets, floor and furniture polish, cosmetics, paints, markers, glue, drain and toilet cleaners, oven solvents, glass, wood, metal, and all purpose cleaners and polishes. Be aware of what is in them, the possible reactions, and have a safe, secure, out of sight storage area for them.
• Keep chemicals in their original packaging. Do not use food containers such as cups, bottles, or jars to store chemical products (including beauty products).
• Never mix household products together. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia can result in toxic gases.
• Do not leave the cleaning cabinet/closet open, unlocked, or unattended. Children can move quickly and quietly when something catches their eye.
• Understand the warning label, terms, and definitions found on product labels:
o "Caution" indicates the lowest level of potential harm   
o "Warning" indicates a higher level of potential harm, meaning you could become seriously ill or injured  
o "Danger" indicates the highest level of potential harm: tissue damage to skin, blindness, death or damage to the mouth, throat or stomach if swallowed 
• Periodically clean out storage cabinets and carefully follow disposal instructions indicated on product labels.
• Put the poison help number, 1-800-222-1222, on all of your phones. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


• Only take prescription medications that are prescribed TO YOU, by a healthcare professional, for the reason they were intended, in the dosage prescribed.
• Keep all prescription medicines (especially prescription painkillers, such as those containing methadone, hydrocodone, or oxycodone), over-the-counter medicines (including pain or fever relievers and cough and cold medicines), vitamins, and herbals in a safe place that can only be reached by people who take or give them.
• Follow directions on the label when you give or take medicines. Read all warning labels. Some medicines cannot be taken safely when you take other medicines or drink alcohol.
• Do not leave your next dose on the counter or table where children can reach them. If you have to do something else while taking medicine, such as answer the phone, take any young children with you. It only takes seconds for a child to get them.
• After using medications, lock the child safety cap completely, and store properly.
• Turn on a light when you give or take medicines at night so that you know you have the correct amount of the right medicine.
• Keep medicines in their original bottles or containers, and securely store them children cannot access them.
• Put the poison help number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every home telephone and save it on your cell phone. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Knowing what to do in case of possible poisoning is critical, says the CDC. What should you do? 

• Remain calm.
• Call 911 if you have a poison emergency and the victim has collapsed or is not breathing. If the victim is awake and alert, dial 1-800-222-1222. Try to have this information ready:
o the victim’s age and weight
o the container or bottle of the poison if available
o the time of the poison exposure
o the address where the poisoning occurred
• Stay on the phone and follow the instructions from the emergency operator or poison control center.

Carbon monoxide

Exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) can result in permanent neurological damage or death, and anyone can be at risk. It is an odorless gas and symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. 

change smoke alarmThe NSC recommends you install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home near the bedrooms. Check or replace the battery the same time as your smoke detector’s (ideally Spring/Fall time changes).  A few additional tips courtesy of the CDC:

• Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
• Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
• Never use a generator inside your home, basement or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent; fatal levels of carbon monoxide can be produced in just minutes.
• Have your chimney checked and cleaned every year, and make sure your fireplace damper is open before lighting a fire and well after the fire is extinguished.
• Make sure your gas appliances are vented properl.y
• Never use a gas oven for heating your home.
• Never let a car idle in the garage.
• Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Says the NSC: if your CO alarm sounds, do not ignore it and do not try to find the source of the gas. Instead, follow these steps: 

• Immediately move outside to fresh air.
• Call emergency services, fire department or 911
• Do a head count to check that all persons are accounted for.
• Do not reenter the premises until emergency responders have given you permission to do so.

Look out for kids

Windows let in light and fresh air, and can provide breathtaking views, but they also are vital to safety. It's important to understand what you can do to observe window safety, especially when young children are in the home. It’s summertime: homeowners naturally want to open the windows and bask in the warmer weather—which brings associated hazards. Children see the world’s wonder before they may see its dangers. By following basic window safety tips, you can help prevent injuries related to windows and doors. You can also learn more at our Look Out for Kids™ page.

Close and lock windows.
Position beds and other furniture away from windows.
Keep blinds, cords, drapes, etc. out of children’s reach.
Consider installing window opening control devices or window guards.
Keep patio doors, storm doors and entrance doors locked.
Consider window placement when landscaping your home. Plant shrubs under windows.
Don't leave young children unsupervised.
Don't depend on insect screens to keep children from falling out of windows.
Don't apply energy-efficient films and coverings to windows designated in your family emergency plan as escape or rescue windows.
Don't paint, nail or weatherstrip windows shut.
Don't forget about window and door safety when making repairs to the interior or exterior of your home.




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