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