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Home Safety Checklist
CHECK ALL CORDS
Are lamp, extension, telephone, and other cords placed out of the flow of traffic?
Cords stretched across walkways may cause someone to trip. Arrange furniture so that outlets are available for lamps and appliances without the use of extension cords. Extension cords should be used on a temporary basis only. If you must use an extension cord, place it on the floor against a wall where people cannot trip over it. Move the phone so that telephone cords will not lie where people walk.
Are cords out from beneath furniture and rugs or carpeting?
Furniture resting on cords can damage them, creating fire and shock hazards. Electrical cords which run under carpeting may cause a fire. Remove cords from under furniture or carpeting. Replace damaged or frayed cords.
Are electrical outlets overloaded?
Never overload electrical outlets and circuits. Overloaded electrical outlets, or overloaded circuits that supply power to several outlets, are a major cause of residential fires. Overloaded outlets and circuits carry too much electricity, which generates heat in undetectable amounts. The heat causes wear on the internal wiring system and can ignite a fire. All wiring systems should have circuit breakers or fuses that disconnect power when circuits become overloaded. However, an improperly sized fuse or breaker can cancel this built-in safety feature. To prevent overloading, never plug more than two appliances into an outlet at once or “piggy back” extra appliances on extension cords or wall outlets. Use only outlets designed to handle multiple plugs.
CHECK SMOKE DETECTORS
Do you have properly working smoke detectors?
Purchase a smoke detector if you do not have one. Test smoke detectors monthly. Check and replace batteries and bulbs according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Vacuum the grillwork of your smoke detector. Replace any smoke detectors which can not be repaired.
Are smoke detectors properly located?
At least one smoke detector should be placed on every floor of your home. Local codes may require more detectors. Check with your fire marshal or building code official. Read the instructions that come with the smoke detector for advice on the best place to install it. Make sure detectors are placed near bedrooms, either on the ceiling or 6-12 inches below the ceiling on the wall. Locate smoke detectors away from air vents.
Smoke detectors can be purchased that use flashing lights instead of an audible alarm for people who are hearing impaired.
CHECK CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
If a carbon monoxide detector has not been installed, you will need to install one. Carbon monoxide is a gas that cannot be seen, has no odor, and can kill you. Any fuel-burning appliance in your home can produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide detectors can warn you that carbon monoxide is at a dangerous level.
CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENT FOR OTHER
FIRE SAFETY SUGGESTIONS
CHECK ALL RUGS, RUNNERS AND MATS
Are all small rugs and runners slip-resistant?
Each year thousands of people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with rugs and runners. Falls are a common cause of fatal injury. Remove rugs and runners that tend to slide. Apply double-faced adhesive carpet tape or rubber matting to the backs of rugs and runners. Purchase rugs with slip-resistant backing. Check rugs and mats periodically to see if backing needs to be replaced. Place rubber matting under rugs. Rubber matting that can be cut to size is available. Over time, adhesive on tape can wear away. Rugs with slip-resistant backing also become less effective as they are washed. Periodically, check rugs and mats to see if new tape or backing is needed.
Are emergency numbers posted on or near the telephone?
In case of emergency, list telephone numbers for the Police, Fire Department, local Poison control Center, a neighbor’s number and pertinent medical caregivers. Specify what caregiver is for what medical need. Write the numbers in large print and tape them to the phone, or place them near the phone where they can be seen easily.
Do you have access to a telephone if you fall or experience some other emergency which prevents you from standing and reaching a wall phone?
Have at least one telephone located where it would be accessible in the event of an accident which leaves you unable to stand. It would be better to have one in every room located where it would be accessible.
EMERGENCY EXIT PLAN
Do you have an emergency exit plan and an alternate emergency exit plan in case of a fire?
Once a fire starts, it spreads rapidly. Since you may not have much time to get out and there may be a lot of confusion, it is important that everyone knows what to do. Develop an emergency plan. Have two exits in case of emergency. Choose a meeting place outside your home so you can be sure that everyone has escaped. Practice the plan from time to time to make sure everyone is capable of escape quickly and safely. If you have mobility difficulties and live with others, designate who will assist you.
Are exits and passageways kept clear?
Furniture, boxes or other items could be an obstruction or tripping hazard, especially in the event of an emergency or fire. Rearrange furniture to open passageways and walkways. Remove boxes and clutter.
CHECK BATHTUB AND SHOWER AREAS
Are bathtubs and showers equipped with non-skid mats, abrasive strips or surfaces that are not slippery?
Wet, soapy tile or porcelain surfaces are especially slippery and may contribute to falls. Apply textured strips or appliqués on the floors of tubs and showers. Use non-skid mats in the tub or shower, and on the bathroom floor. If you are unsteady on your feet use a stool with non-skid tips as a seat while showering or bathing,
Do bathtubs and showers have at least 1 (preferably 2) grab bars?
Grab bars can help you get into and out of your tub or shower, and can help prevent falls. Check existing bars for strength and stability, and repair if necessary. Attach grab bars, through the tile, to structural supports in the wall, or install bars specifically designed to attach to the sides of the bathtub. If you are not sure how it is done, get someone who is qualified to help you.
If you are in a wheelchair, can you reach light switches and temperature controls?
Switches and controls can be moved to the right height for your needs. Always use a qualified electrician to make changes in electrical systems.
Are light switches located near the entrance to all rooms?
A light switch near the door will protect you from moving through a dark area. Dual light switches can be installed so you can turn the light on or off from either door if there is more than one entrance to a room. Inexpensive night lights that plug into outlets are available. Consider replacing the existing switch with a “glow switch” that can be seen in the dark.
Are lamps or light switches within reach of each bed?
Lamps or switches located close to each bed will enable people getting up at night to see where they are going. Rearrange furniture closer to switches or move lamps closer to beds or again, install night lights.
Are light bulbs the appropriate size and type for the lamp or fixture?
A bulb of too high wattage or the wrong type may lead to fire through overheating. Ceiling fixtures, recessed lights, and “hooded” lamps will trap heat. Replace with a bulb of the correct type and wattage. If you do not know the correct wattage, use a bulb no larger than 60 watts.
Are stairs well lighted?
Stairs should be lighted so that each step, particularly the step edges, can be clearly seen while going up and down stairs. The lighting should not produce glare or shadows along the stairway. Use the maximum wattage bulb allowed by the light fixture. If you do not know the correct wattage, use a bulb no larger than 60 watts. Reduce glare by using frosted bulbs, indirect light, shades or globes on light fixtures, or partially closing blinds and curtains. Have a qualified electrician add additional light fixtures.
Are light switches located at both the top and bottom of inside stairs?
Even if you are very familiar with the stairs, lighting is an important factor in preventing falls. You should be able to turn on the lights before you use the stairway from either end. Keep an operating flashlight in a convenient location at the top and bottom of the stairs, if no other light is available. Install night lights at nearby outlets. Have a qualified electrician install switches at the top and bottom of the stairs.
CHECK THE HANDRAILS
Are sturdy handrails fastened securely on both sides of the stairway?
The handrail should provide a comfortable grip and should always be used when climbing up or going down the steps. Repair broken handrails. Tighten fixtures that hold handrails to the wall.
Do the handrails run continuously from the top to the bottom of the entire flight of stairs?
If the handrail doesn’t extend the full length of the stairs, people who are not aware of this might think they have come to the last step when the handrail stops. Misjudging the last step may cause a fall. A handgrip should be available for even one step. Replace a shorter handrail with a longer one.
CHECK THE CONDITION OF THE STEPS
Do the steps allow secure footing?
Worn treads or worn or loose carpeting can lead to insecure footing, resulting in slips or falls. Avoid wearing only socks or smooth-soled shoes or slippers when using stairs. Make certain the carpet is firmly attached to the steps all along the stairs. Consider refinishing or replacing worn treads, or replacing worn carpeting. Paint outside steps with paint that has a rough texture, or use abrasive strips.
Are the steps even and of the same size and height?
Even a small difference in step surfaces or riser heights can lead to falls. Mark any steps which are especially narrow or have risers that are higher or lower than the others. Be especially careful of these steps when using the stairs.
Can you clearly see the edges of the steps?
Falls may occur if the edges of the steps are blurred or hard to see. Paint edges of outdoor steps white to see them better at night. Add extra lighting. Avoid deep pile carpeting, patterned or dark colored carpeting that can make it difficult to see the edges of the steps clearly, if you plan to carpet your stairs.
Are stairs free of objects?
People can trip over objects left on stairs, particularly in the event of an emergency or fire. Keep stairway free of all objects.
REMEMBER TO PERIODICALLY RECHECK YOUR HOME
This article was adapted from the Home Safety Checklist written by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission