Home Safety Hazards

It's safe to say we all love the space we live in. Whether you own or rent, our homes are a sacred space where you and your family feel safe and protected. After all, they don't say "home sweet home" for nothing.  That's why it's important to know what to do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Though we cannot guarantee that emergencies will never happen, we can certainly prepare for them and do our best to help avoid certain scenarios.  

Every year, millions of people seek medical attention after they’re injured at home, many leading to death. Many of these accidents are preventable and dealing with a serious accident that could have been avoided can lead to a lifetime of guilt. It is not just children and seniors that can come to harm potential safety hazards in the home with things like chemicals and choke hazards. We have put together this safety resource page to alert you to the hazards in your home so that you and your family can remain as safe as possible.

Check Electrical Cords and Outlets

It's essential to check anything electrical for potential fire hazards. These reminders will help you look for damaged cables, wires, or 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 the 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.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide is not visible and has no smell or taste, but it kills more than 50 people each year and sends hundreds to hospitals. Only with the use of carbon monoxide detectors can we detect this presence. A carbon monoxide detector must be mounted within six feet of any appliance that creates carbon monoxide such as a gas stove or water heater. Functional carbon dioxide detectors are inexpensive and are effective at protecting you against unnecessary costs. Having detectors installed is not enough. Follow this advice so your home and family are protected in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide emergency. 

  • 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.
  • Ensure your heaters are checked annually to prevent danger from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Some home security systems have carbon monoxide detection and will alert you early to unsafe levels in your home.

Fire Extinguishers

Extinguishers are a must-have in your home. They're inexpensive and a possible life-saving tool all families should own.

  • Place extinguishers strategically. Keep one in the kitchen and one on every floor.
  • Learn how to use extinguishers. Read the instructions and be sure the whole family knows 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 fire sprinkler system. Your family, home, and valuables may be saved.

Develop an Emergency Communication Plan

Your family should be familiar with a pre-determined emergency plan. This will help everyone in your household be prepared to act.

  • Make an Emergency Communications Plan Create an emergency communication plan, you may not be with your loved ones when a disaster strikes.
  • Emergency Supply Checklist Assemble a disaster supply kit by collecting basic items your household may need to survive during an emergency. 
  • Create an escape plan with two exit routes in case of fire. Practice it twice a year with the whole family (once at night). 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.

Learn First Aid

When an injury happens at home, it’s important to know what to do and have items on hand to help you understand how to react to injuries, stay safe, prevent further injury, and control pain in the injured individual.

  • Minor and life-threatening emergencies can happen fast, and emergency responders aren’t always nearby. You may be able to save a life by taking simple actions immediately. Take the free FEMA You Are the Help Until Help Arrives, a web-based training to learn how you can provide first care to potentially save a life.
  • First aid is a skill, so it’s important to be properly trained in the techniques used to prevent further injury, relieve pain, and maybe even save a life. Beyond knowing how to perform basic first aid, skills like Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), automated external defibrillator (AED), and how to administer Naloxone are important.
  • You can take a first aid class through organizations like the American Red Cross, local government groups, or places like the YMCA. Some programs are more expensive than others, so make sure you read course information carefully.

Protect Children

Families with small children should take extra safety precautions. These items are crucial for protecting young ones and keeping families safe.

  • 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 unsafe products in locked cabinets. Post the Poison Control hotline (800-222-1222) with other emergency numbers.
  • Ensure all medicines and vitamins have childproof caps. Store them up and away 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 addresses and how to dial 911. As early as possible, children need to know these fundamentals.

Take Extra Precautions

These extra home safety tips are worth incorporating into your checklist. From advice for yourself to steps to take for the house itself, your family and home will be protected.

  • 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. This will help avoid kitchen fires.
  • 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. By preventing falls in the tub, you'll avoid injuries.
  • Put lights and light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs. This prevents 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.