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Home Safety

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Your home is your haven. So there's nothing better than knowing you're protected and out of harm's way. These home safety tips will help keep your home safe from fire and other common household hazards.

Catch Fires Early - Smoke Detectors

Early fire detection is the key to making sure everyone gets out of the house safely. Relying solely on your sense of smell to alert you to a fire can compromise your family's timely exit from the house. Smoke detectors can detect smoke before you can, giving you and your family the extra time to escape from a fire.

  • Place smoke detectors in or near every sleeping area, near the kitchen and in other living spaces. There should be at least one on every floor of the house, including the basement. Install them according to manufacturer's instructions, usually on the ceiling or on a wall 6-12 inches below the ceiling. Be careful to avoid vents, registers and areas of dead air or heavy airflow.
  • Keep the smoke detector units clean and free of dust, test the batteries monthly, and put in new batteries twice a year. Make battery replacement easy to remember by doing it on the days you adjust the clock for Daylight Saving Time.  You can test some models with a flashlight, so you don't have to use a step-stool to reach the test button.  Other models include a silence button to cut off false alarms easily.
  • When shopping for a smoke detector, look for a unit that senses both smoldering and flaming fires. A built-in escape light will help you find your way out of the house.  A strobe light that flashes when the alarm sounds will alert the hearing-impaired.
  • To make sure your detector is always ready, choose a model that is hard-wired into your house's electrical system. You can connect them so an alarm at one detector will make all of the alarms in the house activate. Make sure hard-wired detectors have back-up batteries in case the power in your house goes out. Some models feature long-life power cells that last up to 10 years without a battery change.
  • For maximum safety, look for a smoke detector/carbon monoxide detector combination unit.

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Put Out Small Fires - Fire Extinguishers

A fire extinguisher should be on every floor of your home. It's a must for your home's kitchen, the place where so many house fires start. There are different extinguishers for different types of fires. You will notice labels on the units marked A, B and C. These letters refer to which types of fires the extinguishers address:

  •  Class A extinguishers handle fires involving paper, wood, textiles and plastics. The material inside smothers the fire, putting it out by cutting off the oxygen that feeds it.
  •  Class B extinguishers tackle fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, oil, gasoline and paint. Two kinds of material deploy: one to smother the fire and one to create a chemical reaction that puts it out.
  •  Class C extinguishers use non-conductive materials to fight fires in live electrical equipment.

Each extinguisher also has a rating number indicating what size fire it can handle. Some units rate for all three types of fires, but they have a larger size rating for one type than for another. Choose a fire extinguisher that is right for the types of fire that might break out in a particular area.

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Plan Your Escape - Fire Escape Ladders

Map out your escape route and identify a family meeting place in case of fire. If you have more than one floor in your home, consider investing in a fire escape ladder. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), you should have an alternate exit out of every room. Also, make sure that all windows and doors can be opened and shut. Fix any windows that have been painted or nailed shut, doors that are stubborn or "stuck," and locks that are difficult to operate. Security bars or grates over windows or doors should have quick-release devices that allow you to open them in an emergency. The NFPA also recommends that you hold a fire drill twice a year.

Breathe Easy - Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas that can kill, produced by common household sources, including wood or gas fireplaces, gas or oil furnaces, wood stoves, gas appliances, a clogged chimney or improper venting in a garage. Today's energy-efficient, airtight homes contribute to the problem by decreasing the exchange of inside and outside air. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic those of the flu so you might not realize you are being poisoned until damage is done. A carbon monoxide detector in your home will alert you when the level of the gas in the air has become dangerous.

  • Look for a carbon monoxide detector with sensors that record the levels of the gas in the air. That information can help determine the source of the problem.
  • Like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors can be battery-operated or hard-wired, and they come with test buttons, silence buttons, visual indicators of the alarm and features to let you know when the battery needs replacing.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors near the ceiling or near the floor, as carbon monoxide is a similar consistency to air.
  • Many states only require one carbon monoxide detector in a single-family home. However, additional units may offer added peace of mind.

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Radon is a naturally occurring, odorless, colorless and tasteless radioactive gas proven to cause cancer. So, it is important for you to test your home for its presence. Radon test kits are easy-to-use and inexpensive, providing complete instructions for where to send your sample for analysis.

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Prevent Slips and Falls

Falls in the home lead to thousands of injuries every year. While the elderly are the most susceptible, all ages are at risk if a house isn't properly arranged for safety. There are some easy things you can do to prevent these kinds of accidents in your home.

  • Make sure that transitions from one flooring material to the other, such as from a carpeted hallway to a tiled bathroom, are smooth and free of obstructions that might cause someone to trip.
  • Use non-slip pads under rugs so they don't slide out from under someone's feet.
  • Place nightlights and lighted switches anywhere someone might need to walk in the dark. Pay special attention to guest rooms, because the people sleeping there might not be familiar with the layout of your house.
  • Make sure major pathways through the house are free of floor clutter.
  • Clean up any spills immediately.

Light the Way

In the event of a power outage, make sure that your home has plenty of flashlights so that you aren't stuck in the dark.

  • Keep flashlights with fresh batteries in convenient places throughout the house.
  • Flashlights are safer than emergency candles, which can start fires.

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