Safe Home, Happy Home in 2019

The beginning of the year is a good time to take inventory of your home and just how safe it is. There are many home security devices and systems on the market, ranging from a simple lock to a full-blown “safe room.” Choices exist for every particular need and budget. New door camera devices like Ring, Remo DoorCam, and Z Modo can alert you to who is at your door whether or not you are home. You can also integrate your home security apps with Alexa, Nest and even your Apple watch. There are also many security services that can monitor your home for a monthly fee.

The recent fires in California have made us more aware of how important having a fire safety plan can be. Does your family know what to do and where to meet in the event a fire drives you from your home? If not, the National Fire Protection Association has free escape plans online. Your home should have a smoke alarm on every floor, at the top of every staircase and outside of bedrooms. Make sure your alarms are tested monthly and have their batteries changed at the same time each year. Do you have emergency egress from upstairs bedrooms? If not, check into emergency fire escape ladders.

If you have gas burning appliances (hot water heater, stove, dryer or fireplace) having a carbon monoxide detector could save your life. You may also want to consider a radon detector or test if you live in a high-risk area. Radon is a radioactive gas that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless and is impossible to detect without the use of sensitive testing equipment. It can rise through the soil and seep through cracks and holes in your foundation or basement. Exposure to radon can cause lung cancer. The average level of radon in Oregon homes is above hazardous levels in 26 zip codes. Check with the Environmental Protection Agency for more specific information.

For general safety in your home you should have items that would be useful in case of a power outage or, worse yet, an earthquake – a first aid kit, a flashlight and batteries, tools, food, water, gloves, cash, extra clothing and blankets. Have your medications and your pets’ foods available, too. Record emergency medical information about each member of your household – doctor’s names, medications they are taking, blood type, allergies, immunizations, etc.

Home safety also includes reducing your risk of falling within your home. Accidental falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injury in almost all age groups according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Remove clutter, cords, and excess furniture (see accompanying article about clutter). The bathroom is the most dangerous room in your home for falls. Install balance bars in your tub/shower and toilet areas to assist people of all ages. Only use bath mats that are non-slip with rubberized backing. Another area of concern is tall, top-heavy furniture. Children climbing tall pieces of furniture can cause them to tip over and crush them. There are inexpensive anchor straps sold for hot water heaters, bookcases, dressers, and entertainment cabinets that hold these items upright. These are also useful in case of an earthquake.

Last, but not least are all the hazardous chemicals in your home, garage and garden shed. Make sure these are stored properly and locked away from children or people with dementia. Something as seemingly innocuous as laundry detergent pods sent 5,800 children to the emergency room last year. Take a look around your home and consider possible hazards and remedy them. Let’s keep our homes and families safe in 2019.