Make yours a home sweet, safe home.
Electrical Cords and Outlets
- Check for frayed wires.
Repair or replace any loose or frayed wires on all electrical devices.
- Follow the path of cords.
No cords should run under rugs or across doorways.
If you have any small children in your house, place plastic safety covers over unused outlets.
Related: Childproofing Checklist
- Rethink extension cords.
Consider adding electrical outlets where you currently rely on extension cords.
- Check for a faulty electrical system.
Feel all outlets and plugs to see if any are warm; if so, have an electrician check them.
- Don’t overload the system.
Make sure that you’ve followed manufacturers’ directions about maximum wattage of lamp bulbs and outlet requirements for plugs.
- And don’t overload any one outlet.
Be certain that you have no more than one high-wattage appliance plugged into a single outlet.
- Examine the outside vents.
They should be properly sealed and clear of obstruction to prevent carbon monoxide buildup in the house. Recheck during and after a snowstorm.
- Pick the right wood.
If you use a fireplace or a woodstove, stock up on dry seasoned wood, which burns without producing a lot of creosote. A buildup of creosote—soot—in the chimney or flue can be dangerous, causing chimney fires.
- Hire a chimney sweep.
Have flues and chimneys inspected and cleaned by a professional annually.
- Inspect wood-burning stoves twice monthly.
Make sure the door latch closes properly. The room should have a working smoke detector. And never let a child use the stove unattended.
- Inspect water heaters annually.
The temperature should be set at no higher than 120 degrees to prevent burns. Never leave children alone near a water heater, and keep combustible and flammable materials well away from it.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors generously.
These should be on each floor of the house, covering all sleeping areas.
- Test alarms monthly.
Replace any that don’t work. (In any case, alarms should be replaced every 10 years.)
- Replace batteries annually.
Or sooner, if the alarm chirps.
- Clean all detectors.
Vacuum each grille.
- Post the fire department’s carbon-monoxide-reporting emergency number.
If it differs from 911, keep the number by every phone.
- Demonstrate the sound of each detector.
Family members need to know the difference.
- Place extinguishers strategically.
Keep one in the kitchen and one on every floor. And learn how to use them.
- Replace extinguishers when necessary.
Follow the schedule suggested by the manufacturer, and always replace an extinguisher that appears damaged.
Related: When to Replace a Fire Extinguisher
- Consider installing a sprinkler system.
- Create an escape plan with two exit routes in case of fire.
Practice it twice a year (once at night) with the whole family. For details, see the National Fire Protection Association’s website, nfpa.org.
- Choose a meeting place.
Set a plan for meeting up in case of a local or national disaster. See nfpa.org.
- If you live in a two-story house, buy a rescue ladder.
It should attach to an upper-level window casing to provide an alternate escape route.
In Homes With Small Children
- Lock the cabinets.
Install safety latches and locks.
- Install window guards on every window.
Make sure one window in each room can be used as a fire exit.
- Install safety gates .
Bar the top and bottom of stairs.
- Lock up hazardous materials.
Place any poisonous or hazardous products in locked cabinets. Post the poison-control hotline’s number (800-222-1222) by every phone.
- Make sure all your medicines and vitamins have childproof caps.
Store them out of children’s reach.
- Stow away sharp knives.
Scissors and cosmetic tools, too, as well as matches and plastic bags, should be kept out of children’s reach.
- Lock up any guns.
Be sure they are unloaded and separate from ammunition.
- Install padding on furniture with sharp edges.
And put doorknob covers on entry doors so kids can’t get out unattended.
- If you have a pool, fence it in.
A pool should be enclosed with a four-sided fence and a childproof gate.
- Teach children their address and how to dial 911.
As early as possible, children need to know these fundamentals.
- Install a sturdy deadbolt lock on every door to the outside.
This should include the door into the house from the garage.
- In any room with window bars, make sure at least one has a quick-release mechanism.
Replace or retrofit as needed.
- Install motion-sensing floodlights in the backyard.
- Keep your house looking lived-in when you’re away.
Arrange for the lawn to be mowed, stop mail delivery, install timers for selected lights, leave a car in the driveway, and leave drapes or shades open at least a bit.
- Advertise prominently any home security system you have installed.
You might think about putting up signs even if you don’t have a system.
- Examine your landscaping.
Trim shrubs and trees near windows and doors that provide hiding places for burglars, and prune limbs that serve as ladders to upper windows.
- Purchase a metal bar or a solid-wood dowel to insert in the tracking of sliding glass doors.
This will prevent anyone from opening them.
- Put your street number, not your name, on your mailbox.
- Give a spare key to a trusted neighbor or nearby friend.
Thieves know all about fake rocks and other hide-a-key tricks.
- Make sure your house number is visible from the street.
It should be easily spotted, in case an emergency vehicle needs to look for it.
- Store flammable liquids away from any flame source.
It’s preferable to store them outside the house.
- Keep flammable objects away from the kitchen stove.
- Plug a rechargeable flashlight into a socket by your bed.
You’ll be able to light the way through smoke in a fire or signal to firefighters.
- Install nonslip decals or a nonskid tub mat in your tub.
- Put lights and light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs.
Prevent falls in the dark.
Paint the bottom basement step white so it’s more visible.
* Courtesy of Real Simple