We spend a lot of time in our homes — probably more than usual during these winter months. And many injuries occur at home. Play it safe with a home safety plan. Here are some ways to protect your loved ones from dangers big and small.
Fight Fires Before They Start
Fires can be especially dangerous. On average, someone in the United States dies every three hours from a fire. Cooking causes the most fires, while fires started by smoking lead to the most deaths.
Many fires occur at night while people are asleep. It’s important to learn ways to prevent a fire and teach everyone in your family what to do if your home is on fire.
The U.S. Fire Administration offers videos with ideas for preventing fires. Start with these tips:
- Install smoke alarms.
- Place smoke alarms on every floor and near all bedrooms.
- Test smoke alarms monthly.
- Change smoke alarm batteries twice a year. One way to remember is to do this when you change your clocks for daylight saving time.
- Replace smoke alarms at least every 10 years.
- Have a working fire extinguisher.
Protect Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Place carbon monoxide alarms near bedrooms.
- Have gas appliances and furnaces checked yearly by a professional.
- Never use a gas range or oven for heating.
- Don’t burn charcoal or use a portable gas camp stove indoors.
- Never use a generator inside your home or garage. Don’t use them outdoors near a door, window or vent.
Keep Kids in Mind
More than 3 million kids get hurt at home each year, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit injury prevention group. Young children spend a lot of time indoors, so a safe home environment is important.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development points out these special concerns about children:
- Children's bodies are still growing.
- For their size, children eat more food, drink more water and breathe more air than adults.
- Children play and crawl on the ground and put things in their mouths.
Guard Against Bath Time Burns. A bathtub is more than just a drowning hazard. Children are easily burned by hot water, so always test it yourself. A baby or toddler can be scalded in seconds. Safety experts recommend water heaters be set at 120 degrees F.
Watch Your Windows. Children can easily fall out of a window. To prevent that, consider installing window guards, rows of bars that screw into the sides of window frames but can be opened by an adult.
Another option is window stops, which keep windows from opening more than four inches. Keep cribs and furniture away from windows and use cordless window blinds.
Don’t Take a Fall. Anyone can take a tumble, but falls are a leading cause of injury for kids ages 14 and under. One easy way to avoid falls is to clean up clutter.
To safeguard toddlers learning how to walk and older kids racing through the house, it’s best to set up barriers. Wall-mounted baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs can help. Cover sharp corners of fireplaces and tables with padding or special safety corners.
Avoid Breathing Hazards
The air quality in your home can affect your health.
- Be wary of indoor environmental pollutants.
- Don’t let anyone smoke indoors.
- Control humidity levels by using exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.
- Use dehumidifiers to prevent mold growth in basements.
- Open doors and windows when painting or using cleaning products.
Homes Linked to Health Concerns
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a checklist for healthy homes. Some recommendations:
- Keep it dry by preventing water from entering your home. Look for leaks in the roof and check interior plumbing.
- Keep it clean by controlling the source of dust and contaminants. Use effective wet-cleaning methods.
- Keep it safe by storing poisons out of the reach of children and use proper labels.
- Keep it pest-free. Seal cracks and openings throughout the home. Store food in pest-resistant containers.
- Keep it contaminant-free. Houses built before 1978 could have lead paint, so test for that. Also test your home for radon, a naturally occurring dangerous gas that enters homes through soil, crawlspaces and foundation cracks.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Keep a list of emergency phone numbers for local police and fire departments, hospitals and poison control helplines. Also be prepared in case of disaster. Create a kit for use if you need to shelter in place. Remember to plan fire escape routes.
Sources: Healthy Homes, 2014, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, 2015, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Make Your Home Healthier: 10 Ways to Make Your House Healthy and Safe, Parents magazine, 2016, Making Homes Healthier for Families, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2014; U.S. Fire Administration, 2016; Older Adults, Health and Safety Tips, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014; Seniors, Ready.gov, 2014; Home Fitness for Specific Needs, AARP, 2014