Home Safety Checklist

Make yours a sweet, safe home.

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Photo: PAPERCUT

Electrical Cords and Outlets

  • Check for frayed wires.

    Repair or replace loose or frayed wires on electrical devices.

  • Follow the path of cords.

    No cords should run under rugs or across doorways.

  • Baby-proof.

    If you have small children, place plastic safety covers over unused outlets.

  • 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 they are, have an electrician check them.

  • Don't overload the system.

    Follow manufacturers' directions about maximum wattage of lamp bulbs and outlet requirements for plugs.

  • Don't overload any one outlet.

    Ensure you have only one high-wattage appliance plugged into a single outlet.

Home Heating

  • 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.

    For a fireplace or a woodstove, stock up on dry seasoned wood, which burns without producing a lot of creosote (or soot), because creosote buildup in the chimney or flue can cause 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 has a working smoke detector, and children don't use the stove unattended.

  • Inspect water heaters annually.

    To prevent burns, set the temperature no higher than 120 degrees. 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.

    They should be on each floor of the house, covering all sleeping areas.

  • Test alarms monthly.

    Replace any that don't work. In any case, replace alarms every 10 years.

  • Replace batteries annually.

    Or sooner, if the alarm chirps.

  • Clean all detectors.

    Vacuum each grille.

  • Demonstrate the sound of each detector.

    Family members need to know the difference.

Fire Extinguishers

  • 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.

  • Consider installing a sprinkler system.

Escape Plans

  • 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.

  • Choose a meeting place.

    Set a plan for meeting up in case of a local or national disaster.

  • 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's hotline (800-222-1222) with other emergency numbers.

  • Ensure all medicines and vitamins have childproof caps.

    Store them out of children's reach.

  • Stow away sharp knives.

    This goes for scissors and cosmetic tools, too. Matches and plastic bags should also be kept out of children's reach.

  • Lock up any guns.

    Confirm 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.

    Enclose pools with a four-sided fence and childproof gate.

  • Teach children their address and how to dial 911.

    As early as possible, children need to know these fundamentals.

Burglarproofing

  • Install a sturdy deadbolt lock on every door to the outside.

    This includes the door into the house from the garage.

  • In any room with window bars, make sure at least one window 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.

    Consider 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.

  • Insert a metal bar or a solid-wood dowel in the tracking of sliding glass doors.

    This prevents 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.

Miscellaneous

  • Make sure your house number is visible from the street.

    It should be easily spotted, even at night, in case an emergency vehicle needs to find it.

  • Store flammable liquids away from any flame source.

    Preferably, store them outside.

  • Keep flammable objects away from the kitchen stove.
  • Plug a rechargeable flashlight into a socket by your bed.

    It'll light the way through smoke in a fire or provide a 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.

    You'll be less likely to mistake it for the floor.

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