What hazards are lurking in your home? Learn how to fix them.
- More than half of all injury-causing accidents occur at home, whether inside or outside, says the National Safety Council.
- Identify these eight hazards in your home, including fires, weather damage, fall hazards, theft and more
- Learn ways you can mitigate each of these 8 home safety hazards.
More than half of all injury-causing accidents occur at home, whether inside or outside, says the National Safety Council. Below we’ve listed 8 common home safety hazards, and what you can do to mitigate these hazards before an injury takes place.
In every case, be sure you have these three things covered:
- Your homeowners, condo or renters insurance is up to date.
- You have a recently completed home inventory that includes video or photos, descriptions and receipts.
- Your house numbers are clearly visible from the street for emergency vehicles.
On average, 385,000 house fires occur every year, says the National Fire Protection Association. That means a home structure fire is reported every 88 seconds in the U.S. With an average of 2,620 American lives claimed each year from fire hazards, this is the third biggest killer as far as home safety hazards are concerned. It could be caused by candle left burning, a hot iron touching fabric while you answer the phone, a hot pad touching a hot burner on the stove, blocked dryer vents or an electrical short. How can you lessen your chances of a home fire?
- Install smoke detectors on all levels of your home, particularly in the kitchen, inside and outside bedrooms and in the basement; check and change the batteries at least annually for better fire safety. Some smart smoke detectors use Wi-Fi to provide real-time updates that you can access via remote monitoring right on your smartphone or other mobile device.
- Buy a fire extinguisher and carefully read the instructions right away so that you’re clear on how to use it in the heat of the moment (pun intended). Check it annually to make sure it’s in good working order.
- Check all appliances around the home to ensure they’re in good working order and no wires are frayed. And don’t overload electrical outlets, either.
- Consider a home alarm system that detects smoke. It not only sets off an alarm but also contacts the local fire department.
- Never leave your stove unattended while cooking. It takes just seconds for a fire to ignite a dish towel or hot pad.
- Never leave a space heater unattended.
- During the holidays, faulty Christmas lights are a hazard. Never leave home or go to bed with these lights still on.
- Smokers, take care to extinguish all cigarettes carefully and never smoke in bed or when sleepy.
- Create a fire safety plan that includes how to exit the house from each room and where to meet up outside. Ensure everyone in your home knows the plan.
3. WATER DAMAGE AND FREEZING
While many homeowners may think of water damage as being the result of heavy rains or hurricanes, it’s more likely to result from regular appliance issues, clogged drains or broken pipes.
Some areas of the country have already seen more rainfall in the first two months of the year than they typically receive all year. And some have experienced freezes, that typically don’t see temperatures dip that low for that long. Your home plumbing is susceptible to damage from both of these, along with accidental flooding like a loose pipe fitting or an overflowing bathtub or toilet. Here are steps you can take to minimize these home safety hazards.
- Know your flood zone by viewing the FEMA Flood Map. In addition to identifying zones, these flood maps include various zone markings that indicate the flood risk of an area and its closest structures such as bridges, dams and levees.
- If you live in a flood zone, raise your appliances and electrical outlets above your home’s potential flood level. You can use bricks or concrete blocks to raise your water heater, washing machine, dryer and more.
- Keep a close eye on older appliances for leaks or cracks and replace them as needed. Key culprits are loose washing machine hoses, toilet issues, leaks in showers and bathtubs, water lines to refrigerators and hot water tanks.
- If you live in an area prone to long, cold winters, it’s a good idea to consider taking steps to winter-proof your pipes to help avoid freezing. Unhook outdoor hoses and close off those spigots. Open cabinet doors and consider leaving faucets dripping at night if their pipes are in exterior walls. If you have plumbing that seems to freeze up on a regular basis, consider wrapping pipes with heat tape.
This isn’t something many homeowners like to think about, but the truth is theft generally makes the top of the list of home safety hazards and property loss claims.
- A home security system lets burglars know they’re more likely to get caught. If you can’t afford a home security system, have a sign shop make a small sign and window stickers of a dummy security company, and place these outside your home as you would if your home security company provided the signs. Place these decals on the windows that face the side and rear of your home, as well as in the front, because most burglars enter through windows and doors in unoccupied break-ins.
- Residential burglaries account for over 60 percent of all break-ins in America. Safewise.com says, “If you can see valuables inside your home from the street, so can a burglar. Burglars are notorious for ‘window shopping’ so we encourage you to keep valuables, like cash, jewelry, electronics and guns, out of view.”
- Remove any hiding spots that burglars may use, such as overgrown shrubs or outdoor art. Install exterior perimeter lighting, especially around pathways and at entrances. Motion sensor lighting is a good choice as well, not only on doors to your home but also to your garage and any outdoor sheds.
- Reinforce your entrances with a peephole or doorbell camera that lets you view who’s there. Safewise says nearly a third of burglars enter through the front door. Consider upgrading all exterior doors with a solid wood or metal clad door. Install keyed deadbolts on all exterior doors as well. Consider adding extra security with a door jammer or security bar.
- Lamps or stereos on timers are a good idea, especially during winter when you don’t arrive home until after dark, or when you leave for vacation. Many home security companies offer apps that let you turn lights on and off right from your smartphone.
- Safewise says windows account for a quarter of all burglar entry points, because they’re often left unlocked or have easily breakable locks. Install secondary locks or heavy dowel rods in window tracks to make them harder to break into. Also keep sliders locked and consider a second lock or dowel rod in the door track.
4. STORM, WIND AND HAIL DAMAGE
Mother Nature and her power are strong, but there still are a few things you can do to minimize damage:
- If strong wind is forecast, secure any outside lawn furniture, toys, pool equipment and more.
- Keep tree limbs and shrubs trimmed away from the house and especially the roof.
- Ensure your roof is in good shape.
- Secure all vehicles in your garage.
- Ensure awnings and patio covers are securely fastened.
5. BODILY INJURY
Here we mean any injuries either to someone in your household or a visitor or worker.
- Repair any sidewalk cracks that may be a trip hazard.
- Keep your gates securely locked, particularly pool gates.
- Keep pool safety equipment handy at all times, like a drowning hook and a life buoy. Fence the pool completely, lock it securely, and monitor it with gate, motion, and water break alarms.
- Never leave lawn equipment or motorized bikes or toys in front of your house where a child could injure themselves.
6. CARBON MONOXIDE
Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Unlike gas, it cannot be detected by smell. Keep your family safe by installing carbon monoxide detectors that sound an alarm if carbon monoxide reaches dangerous levels in your home.
- Once a year, have a professional service your HVAC system, water heater and other appliances that use gas, oil, or coal.
- Some home security systems have carbon monoxide detection and will alert you early to unsafe levels in your home.
- Be sure fireplace dampers are open when you light a fire.
7. SLIPS, TRIPS AND FALLS
Most homes have multiple fall hazards. Here are a few to check:
- Ensure exterior steps are safe. Repair any crumbling concrete or loose, warped or soft boards.
- Make sure railings are securely bolted down and don’t wobble. If railings are wooden, check for splintering or rotting wood.
- Keep outdoor steps and walkways clear of ice and snow. Consider installing safety treads, since even light rain can make steps slippery.
- Inside the home, make sure stair handrails are security attached to and don’t jiggle when you pull them.
- If stairs are carpeted, check to see that carpeting isn’t loose or sagging.
- Keep clutter off of stairs.
- Secure loose rugs and unstable furniture.
- Don’t allow extension cords to be stretched across walkways or clutter to gather in walkways.
- Consider upgrading interior lighting, as poor lighting can hide any number of home safety hazards.
8. ELECTRIC SHOCKS
- Keep electrical appliances away from water in the kitchen and bathroom.
- If small children are in the home, install safety outlet covers and don’t use extension cords.
- Regularly inspect cords of appliances, both large and small, for fraying cord covers or bare wires.
There are many more home safety hazards than we could list here, such as choking, cuts, burns and more, but this is a great list for homeowners to use to minimize hazards and maximize safety at home.
Agents, take a look at our Homeowners Program to add to your portfolio of insurance solutions.
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