Safety is a top priority in our lives. If we remember back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, he puts safety and security as one of the top priorities that we pursue. According to the Home Safety Council, less than one-third of homeowners make any safety improvements. Some aren't sure what actions to take and some state that they don't have enough time to do the necessary improvements.
If you aren't sure what actions to take, or feel that time is at a minimum, let's break up the home safety concept into smaller pieces and tackle them that way. Within seven days, you can have a more safe and secure home.
Day one can be the bathrooms. Move medicines and other potentially dangerous items into a high (or even locked) cabinet so children and grandchildren will not have them close at hand. To avoid scald injuries, set your hot water heater below 120 degrees. Finally, consider installing grab bars in the bathroom to prevent falls. Many of today's grab bars serve other functions, like towel bars, so you aren't transforming your comfy bathroom into an institutional-looking bathroom.
Day two moves us into the kitchen, where we start by moving dangerous items — sharp knives, scissors, appliance cords, etc. — out of the reach of children. Cleaning items should all be kept in one cupboard, and it should be locked it if you have, or expect, young children in your home. Childproof locks can be inconspicuous from the outside so we are not talking about padlocks and chains in your kitchen. Keep a fire extinguisher near the cooking area, as cooking is the No. 1 cause of house fires.
Day three can be spent checking out your hallways and stairs. Make sure you have good lighting in these areas and remove any trip hazards. Install or repair handrails as necessary. Make sure you have working smoke alarms in the hallways, test them monthly and change the batteries annually.
Electrical and heating inspections are on tap for day four. Put safety plugs in electrical outlets if children are expected in the home. Don't overload electrical outlets, and consider ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and/or arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) near water sources. You should avoid using extension cords for permanent wiring and make sure you have a three-foot clearance around heat sources such as furnaces, hot water heaters, fireplaces and portable space heaters.
Day five is bedroom inspection day. Remove any dangling cords around blinds and curtains to prevent strangulation hazards and be sure everyone knows how to operate the windows so they can get out quickly in a fire emergency. Make sure you can escape upper floors onto a lower roof or purchase an escape ladder.
Day six is where you can spend a few minutes looking at your family, living or great rooms for hazards. Make sure shelves and bookcases are secure from tipping over, as kids see them as ladders. Have your fireplace and heating system inspected annually to ensure proper operation.
Finally, the seventh day arrives. Go over your fire escape plan with your family and practice it. Include two ways out of every room, how to use them and a rendezvous at your family meeting place.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.