Most home-related injuries can be prevented by taking time, on a regular basis, to identify danger points and eradicate them. One of the most disastrous of all home-related dangers is fire. Below are listed some fire hazards to watch out for and other important safety tips regarding what to do in the event of a fire.
Most victims of accidents at home are babies and small children. Therefore, you will also find links below which detail how to make your home safe for little ones.
Child Proofing Your Home
Babies and children are the most likely family members to be injured in a home accident. They are active, creative, and curious, and no place is safe. One way to anticipate dangers for your children is to go through every room in your home on your knees. This puts you at a child’s height and you will readily see hazards you might never notice otherwise. Remember that children have no understanding of the dangers around them and they will climb on, crawl under or over, taste and handle everything in their environment. If something can be done in a dangerous manner, they will do it. So make sure they can grow and explore safely!
Child Safety In The Bathrooms
- Keep your water heater set no higher than 120 degrees. Water hotter than 140 degrees will burn severely within 6 seconds. Use a safety thermometer to check the temperature.
- Put handle covers on faucets to prevent children from turning them on or bumping into them while bathing.
- All bathroom cabinets need safety latches.
- Lock the toilet seat down with a device that prevents children from opening it. They can fall in and drown in an incredibly short time. This will also prevent having interesting items flushed down the toilet.
- Never leave a child unattended in its bath. Tragedies take only seconds.
- Never treat medicine as candy. Children don’t know the difference. Keep all medicines in a locked cabinet.
Child Safety In The Kitchen
- Put a guard over stove controls if they are within a child’s reach. Use the back burners only if possible and keep all pan handles turned to the back of the stove.
- Put safety latches on all cabinet doors. If you have open shelves, move small items and breakables out of them. Be sure that free-standing units are securely fastened to the floor or wall so they will not tip over or fall.
- A switch lock on the garbage disposal will keep fingers and other inappropriate items from being ground up.
- Locks should be put on doors of ovens, dryers, dishwashers, etc.
- Large buckets of water can drown a toddler in minutes.
- Never leave cleaning solutions around where children can spill them or get in them.
Child Safety In The Home
- Socket covers on all the electrical outlets are a must. Removing and replacing the covers is a small inconvenience compared to the possible tragedies that can occur.
- Sharp corners in rooms can be covered by soft corner covers to prevent bumps and bruises.
- Door alarms can be installed which will signal whenever a door is opened.
- Door knob covers should be used. Adults can easily open the doors but toddlers cannot.
- If you use a baby walker, put a two-by-four board across the threshold of rooms to keep babies away from certain areas.
General Child Safety Rules
Children love to help around the house and it’s a great activity. Just remember these basic safety tips. And remember that they are always watching, so be sure you are a model of safety for them.
- Don’t let children use or be exposed to volatile or dangerous chemicals. This includes gasoline, cleaning supplies, etc. Always supervise them if they are helping.
- Keep children safe around power tools, lawn mowers, etc. Teach them to use them safely, with guards and safety gear.
- Teach children how to use knives and scissors safely. Show them how to cut and chop while keeping fingers out of the way. They should always pass such items by holding the blade and extending the handle to the other person. Teach them to say “Thank you” when they have a secure hold. This way the other person will know that the person has the item securely and it will not drop onto someone’s foot.
- Explain that they should always use the proper tool for the job. This means ladders or stepstools instead of chair or tables; a screwdriver and not a knife blade; a hammer and not rock or shoe. Help them build something using the proper tools in the correct manner.
- Older children can attend First Aid classes.
Home Fire Escape Plan
Build a plan of escape to keep you and your loved ones safe if a fire does occur. Know what to do and be sure everyone in the family practices the escape actions. In a fire situation, panic can be as blinding as the flames and smoke.
- Find the exits. Be sure that every room in the home has two exits. If you will have to use a window, be sure it can be opened easily by everyone and try to mark it so that it can be found quickly.
- Make sure all doors are easy to open. Be sure door locks and security systems can be easily disengaged. SOme doors have dead bolt locks taht require a key, so be sure the key is within reach of the door and verify that everyone knows where it is and can reach it. Remember, children will not have time to find a stepstool if the key is too high for them to reach.
- Create a house floorplan, marking all exits. Draw out a simple floor plan and post it in every room, marking the exits for that room on the plan. Show the escape route from each room to the outdoor area you have designated as the meeting place. Be sure all levels of the house aer mapped.
- Designate a meeting location safely away from the house. Everyone should know where they will gather after escaping. This way you will know if anyone is still trapped in the house.
- Be sure you have ladder escapes for upper level rooms.. The best form of ladder for upper level rooms is the foldable chain escape ladder. It can be kept by the designated escape window. Have regular drills, letting people open the window and hook the ladder over the sill. This practice could save their lives in a panic situation.
- Teach everyone that they must not re-enter the building. Pets and possessions left behind could tempt family members back into the building. Explain that such an attempt could result in the death of both rescuer and rescued.
- Teach “Stop, drop, and roll”. Everyone should be taught what to do if they catch fire. “Stop” means not to run or flail, which feeds the fire. “Drop” means fall to the ground, thus preventing the motion that would fan the flames. “Roll” means to roll back and forth, smothering the flames. If they see someone else in flames, they must do the same for them – get them on the ground and smother the flames with a coat or blanket.
Home Fire Prevention
Fire is the most devastating thing that can happen to your home. You can minimize the risk of fire by using the following tips. Use the information to build a plan of escape to keep you and your loved ones safe if a fire does occur.
Prevention Around the House
- Check your wiring, especially if your house is an older one. Older wiring may crack, exposing the live wires and causing shorts, which can ignite building materials. If you have mice or squirrels, they may chew the wiring. Have an exterminator get rid of them, then check the wiring for damage.
- Evaluate the electrical load in your home. Modern homes use many more electrical appliances than in the past and your wiring may not be able to handle the larger load. This can cause wires to overheat, creating a fire hazard in the walls. A qualified electrician can tell you about your wiring capacity. Have him check the circuits at the same time, to be sure there are enough of them of the proper size to handle appliances such as dryers and window air conditioners.
- Inspect gas appliances yearly. Natural gas appliances such as furnaces and water heaters require proper venting to allow fumes to escape safely. You should have furnaces checked yearly to assure they are burning cleanly and correctly. Have gas water heaters checked regularly for leaks or bad burners.
- Keep flammable objects away from heat sources. Everybody stores things like boxes, packing materials, and papers, as well as flammable liquids and aerosols. These should be kept in a well-ventilated area, away from any heat sources like pilot lights or light bulbs. Ideally, do not keep such items in the basement. Remember, fires tend to move up, so a fire in the basement is a greater danger than one in the attic.
Prevention in the Kitchen
- Get a fire extinguisher. Be sure you get one that is rated for the kinds of fires you may encounter in the kitchen. One labeled ABC will handle all fires, including electrical, so it is a good one for the kitchen. Be sure it is large enough to handle a moderate fire but be careful not to get one too heavy for easy use. And be sure everyone knows how to use it! An extinguisher that no one can use won’t help. Keep it out in plain view and service it regularly. The instruction book will give information as to how often it should be inspected.
- Be prepared for fires on and in the stove. Grease fires can happen very suddenly and be very frightening. Cutting off air to the fire is the way to put it out. Keep a large box of BAKING SODA near the stove and use it to smother the flames. Other substances like flour may burn or explode, making the fire much worse. Turn off the burner to remove it as a heat source. A large lid can be placed on top of a pan of burning grease. If the fire is in the oven, turn it off, as well as any vent to the oven, and leave the door shut until the fire stops. This will prevent extra air from entering to fan the flames.
- Use common sense when working around any heat source. Don’t wear clothing which can dangle and catch fire or become entangled in pot handles. Always use protection when picking up utensils or pans on the stove. Assume everything is hot! Be careful not to leave pot holders, cook books, etc., close to stove burners where they might catch fire.
- Buy them and use them. Since studies show that most fatal fires occur at night, it is imperative that you have smoke detectors to wake you and your family in time to reach safety. Buy smoke detectors that are approved by independent agencies. At a minimum, get one for each floor of your home as well as the basement. One should also be placed outside each bedroom. Keep them away from doors, windows, and vents since drafts can keep them from working properly.
- Keep them working properly. The best smoke detector you can buy will only be able to save you if it is operating properly. Change the batteries twice a year. Write it into your daily planner to remind yourself. A good memory aid is to put in new batteries each time Daylight Savings Time changes. Test the detectors regularly, once a month. Replace any faulty detector immediately. Never paint your detectors and keep the covers clean. Covers filled with dust cannot function properly. Replace detectors after 10 years since the sensor can lose their effectiveness.
- Don’t forget about carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is emitted in any fire, including fireplaces and gas furnaces. Detectors constantly monitor the air and will signal when a build-up of the deadly gas is occurring, long before you are aware of the symptoms of fatigue, headache, and nausea. Since the gas can travel through heating ducts, place one near or in each bedroom.
The Hazards of Smoking
Smoking causes thousands of house fires every year. Cigarettes which fall into furniture can cause fabric to smolder for hours, even after the cigarette is removed. The smoldering will eventually flame and the piece of furniture can be engulfed in fire in a matter of seconds. A few common-sense rules can keep you and your family safe from such a disaster.
- Never smoke in bed. It is amazing how many people ignore this simple basic rule. If you fall asleep before the cigarette is extinguished it will fall into the bedclothes or onto the carpet. Such fabrics emit smoke which will cause unconsciousness before flames ever begin.
- Never smoke near anything flammable. Smoking around trash, papers, or boxes can allow hot ash to fall and ignite such objects. And flammable liquids emit fumes which will ignite readily. Never ever smoke near gasoline or any other volatile flammable fluid.
- Be sure the cigarette is out when you discard it. A lighted cigarette thrown into the garbage may smolder for hours, then ignite into a large fire. Be sure you use ashtrays and never empty them unless the contents are completely cold.
Safety For Babies
- Babies spend a lot of time in their cribs. The crib should have a label showing that its construction is safe and approved. Check that the slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and that there is a tight fit where the mattress and the crib wall meet. Be sure the mechanism operating the side-drop has safety catches and is difficult for children to operate. A kick-and-lift mechanism is best because it requires operation that most children are unable to accomplish. The drop side should never go down lower than 9 inches above the mattress and the crib sides should be at least 26 inches above the mattress when raised.
- Keep cribs away from windows that may have curtain or blind cords within reach.
- Pillows and stuffed animals could be a hazard for very small babies. If their face is buried in the soft pillow or animal, they may be unable to get enough air.
- Any furniture used for changing the baby should have a top rail at least 6 inches high and have doors instead of open shelves to keep supplies out of the way. Put safety latches on the doors to keep crawling babies from opening them.
- Be sure furniture is sturdy and does not have small bits that can break off or be chewed off, such as wicker. Furniture should be secured so it cannot fall over when a child tries to crawl or climb on it.
- Use baby gates to keep crawlers and toddlers from entering unsafe rooms or stairs. Mesh gates are safest and accordion gates should be avoided. A child can fall and catch its head in the V. Mesh gates should have a small mesh to prevent children tangling arms or legs in it. Gates held in place by pressure will work on a level surface but stair gates should fasten securely.
- Playpens are great for allowing babies to play safely, but be sure the mesh is too fine to allow fingers or buttons to become entangled.
- Never leave babies who can roll over or crawl with dropped sides on cribs or playpens. They can fall from cribs or climb into pockets created by the mesh of playpens.
- Once children can climb, keep pillows and toys out of playpens that they might stand on.
- Never tie toys or anything else with long cords. They can choke or strangle a baby.
- Pacifiers are a great comfort to babies, but be sure that they meet safety standards. They should be strong enough not to come apart or break into small pieces. The mouth guard should be firm and large enough to prevent it from being drawn into the baby’s mouth and should have ventilation holes in it. Never use a string or ribbon on a pacifier. Check the pacifier regularly for deterioration and replace it if it shows signs of tears, holes, or weakening texture.