That’s right – safety begins in the home – your home. It begins with you.
Everywhere you go there are hazards – home, grocery store, vacation – everywhere.
But let’s focus on your home to help protect you and your family.
When it comes to doing a safety check on your home, there are various factors to consider:
- its age,
- its location,
- the age and condition of the appliances,
- in older homes, the type and condition of the wiring,
- the ages of family members who live in or visit your home,
- and the list goes on.
You should also know how close (or far away) the nearest fire/rescue station is, what type of gas supply lines (pipes) are present in your home, if applicable, and when the fireplace was last cleaned. Again, the list goes on.
This might be a good time to make something very clear:
YOU CANNOT GRANDFATHER SAFETY!
That’s right. Just because something was considered safe 20 years ago doesn’t mean it’s safe now. The fact is, it wasn’t safe back then either, but we didn’t know then what we know now.
In this article I’ll inform you of some false assumptions. Next I’ll list some things or conditions in your home that are or could present safety concerns. I’ll close by covering areas of concern that are generally age-specific (infants and elderly, for example).
As you read through this article and the many others on safetyproductsforthehome.com, it is my goal to have your awareness of potential hazards increase and your desire to create and maintain a safe environment for all who live or visit be an example for others.
3 Myths – Don’t Believe Them!
Myth #1 – My home is new – I don’t need an inspection
“But my home is new (or fairly new). Everything is fine and dandy” you might say. This is not necessarily true.
I inspected many newly built homes that had major issues. On more than one occasion I smelled gas in the attic.
Under one kitchen sink I found exposed wiring, That’s right. It was live, energized, deadly. The buyers were going to close on the house and move in the next day.
When I bought my newly built home in 2013, there was arc fault protection for the bedrooms only. Current safety standards called for it to be, basically, in all rooms where there was not ground fault protection. Was this an oversight? No. At the time my house was built, the city had not yet adopted the latest codes.
Myth #2 – I just had an inspection – the inspector “caught” everything
“I just bought my home and we fixed the major things the home inspector mentioned in his report.” OK, but what about the minor things or the things he didn’t catch? Believe it or not, some inspectors do a one-hour inspection. I don’t know how they do it. My inspections took anywhere from three to four hours – longer on large homes, of course.
Now just because I took longer on my inspections doesn’t mean I never “missed” anything. I was very thorough, so hopefully I didn’t, but I could have. My point here is to be diligent in hiring a reputable home inspector.
I’ve heard some say not to use an inspector that your realtor recommends. The reasoning is that some realtors don’t want an inspector who does a thorough inspection – it could ruin the deal – so they recommend an inspector who is, well, not so thorough. Again, be diligent in your selection of a home inspector.
Myth #3 – You’re being overly cautious
“Oh, nothing’s going to happen. You’re just being too cautious.” Well, maybe so, but I’d rather err on the side of safety. Ask any parent whose child was killed in a car wreck because he wasn’t in a safety seat, and see what they say. In my 32 years as a police officer I saw a lot of casualties. Many could have been prevented.
The man in the image to the right is overreaching and is at risk of falling. Men, we’ve all done it and we’ll probably keep on doing it until something bad happens. I know someone who fell from a ladder. He’s never been the same. What a shame for him and his family.
Where Do I Begin?
Please do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed, especially if you live in an older home. Start with the simple things. Keep in mind that no one can decide for you what you should do first. Your comfort level may be different than mine.
These safety topics are in no particular order of importance. Everything pertaining to your safety and the safety of your family is important.
Smoke alarms: Test monthly and replace batteries yearly. Install one in every sleeping room, outside every sleeping area, and on every floor. Replace outdated detectors – if it looks old, it probably is. Click here for more information.
Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors: Test monthly and replace batteries yearly. Install on every floor. Install in homes with natural or propane gas, a fireplace, or attached garage. Yes, attached garage. I’ve heard too many people, Realtors included, say a CO detector is not needed if the home doesn’t have gas or a fireplace. According to current standards, if the home has an attached garage, it should also have a carbon monoxide alarm.
Fire extinguisher: Thankfully I’ve never had to use mine, but I have one just in case. Knowing I have it not only gives me peace of mind but it makes good sense. If you don’t have one, buy one. You probably don’t need one that costs $100+, but you probably don’t want a $20 one either. You can get a good one for $30 to $40.
Ground fault protection: Generally found in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, garages and on exterior walls. I don’t know of anyone who tests their ground fault receptacles monthly, myself included (I test mine now and then), but we should. It only takes a few minutes. Discipline yourself to do it.
Arc fault protection: Arc fault breakers are generally installed in the main service panel, where all your breakers are. These, too, should be tested monthly. If you don’t have any, or if only the bedrooms are protected, hire a licensed electrician to install them.
Water heater: A temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valve is a safety device on water heaters. You should check it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you are unsure about your model, test it at least four times a year. Know where the drain pipe terminates (should be outside), and be in the habit of visually checking for dripping or trickling every time you pass by.
Fireplace: Hire a qualified chimney sweep to inspect your wood burning fireplace every year (before cold weather arrives). If you’re buying a home, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends having a Level II inspection.
Swimming pool: Please, please, please do not take any shortcuts on safety when it comes to a pool. .
Help Those Who Cannot Help Themselves
Statistics tell us there is room for improvement on our part when it comes to keeping infants, toddlers, children, teenagers, the elderly and those with special needs safe. How many recommendations can you come up with for keeping those dependent on you safe?
Here are just a few areas of concern to get you started:
- infant/child restraint
- electrical shock
- animal bites/attacks
As you can see, there’s much more to caring for those dependent on us than just feeding them. Click here for more information.
A Way of Life
Keeping your home safe should be a way of life. While you may not be able to completely “childproof” your home, you can have peace of mind knowing you’re making it as safe as possible. As you encounter new situations, handle them right away.
And don’t let anyone tell you you’re being “too careful”.
I look forward to hearing from you. Questions and comments are always welcome, and please feel free to share your experiences with us.