We love the feeling we get coming home at night, closing the door, and shutting the outside world behind us. Our house is our refuge, a place to feel protected and safe from life's perils, right? Without trying to be a downer, we're obligated to pass along that most accidents happen at home. But the good news is that many troubles can be prevented with a little proactivity. Check out our 10 basic safety tips that should have you sleeping just a little more soundly at night knowing that you've taken some simple steps to keep you and your family protected.
1) Check Your Locks
Even if you live in the safest neighborhood in town, you simply must have secure locks or latches on all doors. Get in the habit of keeping them locked. If you're new to the house, consider changing out your locks as well as installing deadbolts.
2) Windows and Doors
Make an assessment of your home's windows and doors. Do any seem flimsy, old, or hollow? If so, you probably want to invest in a new one. If this isn't within your budget, iron screens with locks are a good alternative for protecting the door. Likewise, check your windows. Do all of the locks work? Are panes missing or easily removed? If you have answered yes, consider upgrading or replacement immediately.
3) Keep It Lit
Motion sensor lights are a superb method for repelling burglars, and with a price tag of $15-and-up, you really have no excuse not to install a few around your home. Plus, they are easily installed, and can be programmed to go on and off at a specific time or when they sense motion or heat. Because they are so handy, easy to mount and inexpensive, motion sensors are also great to put inside the house, such as in the garage or the laundry room.
4) Cause for Alarm
Most homes these days come equipped with smoke detectors, but have you checked yours lately? It's possible that the battery has run down or that the unit is not functioning as it should. Smoke detectors should be checked every month and batteries should be replaced every year. If you have lived in your home longer than ten years, replace all of your smoke detectors, as they have about a decade-long lifespan. Carbon monoxide detectors are rapidly growing in popularity as well, and are something every home should have. Unlike smoke, carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless basically undetectable without a device. If you don't have a carbon monoxide detector on every floor, invest in a few, and remember to check them monthly as well. Also, consider a home-toxin testing kit. They can indicate the levels of radon, carbon monoxide, lead and radiation in your home.
5) Get Your Fireplace Cleaned
Everyone loves to huddle around a warm fire on a cold day, but if your chimney hasn't been cleaned within the last year, you are living with a major fire hazard. Make an annual chimney inspection and cleaning a priority, scheduling it at a regular time every year, such as the week after Labor Day. (The colder the weather, the busier chimney cleaners will be). Also, remember to clean up ash regularly, burn chimney-cleaning logs once in a while and make sure your damper is in proper working order.
6) Take a Hold of Mold
Besides contributing to allergies and skin irritation, certain molds can lead to serious respiratory problems in children and adults. If you are seeing or smelling mold in your home, tackle it right away. Have an inspector determine the source of the mold, such as flooding, a leaky roof etc, and the amount of damage. Clean up and treatment of mold is dependent upon these factors, but don't wait—mold will just continue to grow!
It may seem unnecessary, but wait until you live without one! Peepholes are cheap and easy to install—all you need is a drill and a screwdriver. After you pick up a peephole at your local home improvement center, place it low enough so that all members of the family can use it. A peephole that is too high will not benefit the kids when they are home alone. Using a drill, bore a hole through both sides of the door per the manufacturer's instructions. Insert the peephole and secure with a screwdriver.
8) Put the Fire Out
A basic lifesaving tool overlooked by many is a fire extinguisher. Available at your home improvement store for about $15-and-up, fire extinguishers are a must-have for every home. Place one in the garage, one in the kitchen and a couple upstairs. Make sure all family members know where they are and how to operate them. Fire extinguishers should also be tested frequently and check with the manufacturer's instructions on when they should be replaced or recharged.
9) Furnace Service
If you live in a warm climate, you probably haven't given your furnace much thought, but even the mildest winters call for an annual furnace inspection. While your furnace sits dormant all summer, dust and dirt can gather, releasing harmful particles into the air. It's best to have a professional inspect your entire heating and cooling system for cracks and leaks, just to be on the safe side.
10) Get Kitted Out
Finally, is your family prepared for an emergency? See that your family has first aid and emergency kits. If your area has frequent tornadoes, earthquakes, or hurricanes, it is especially important to get the tools you need to deal with such disasters. This includes enough water and food to survive for three days or more, a battery powered radio and flashlight, and stocked first aid kit. While you are at it, make sure your car has an emergency kit, too! Though the chances of your home being badly damaged by a natural disaster are rare, it never hurts to be safe.
Now that you are in the know, there is no excuse not to get into gear and make your home a safer place to live. Chances are, you probably are employing at least a few of these ideas, so you won't have much work to do! The few hours it takes are well worth the peace of mind you will get in return.