My elderly parents live in a quiet, gated apartment complex in a peaceful suburban community outside of Atlanta – so I was surprised when my mom informed me recently that there were four break-ins in one day at their complex. Safety tends to be something many people take for granted, but there is no such thing as a perfectly safe apartment building or neighborhood. If you haven’t considered your own safety, take some time to think about some possible scenarios and necessary precautions.
Since it was a rash of break-ins that triggered this blog, let’s start with personal safety. First, know your neighbors. It’s not only important to be familiar with those around you, but if something does happen, they will be more likely to alert you or the police if they know you – and your routine. Next, know your apartment complex. Certain areas are safer than others – you should take extra precautions in the laundry room, for example – especially in the evening. In your apartment, be sure to keep your doors locked. If you live on the bottom floor, you might want to install window alarms or take other precautions. Some apartments have a neighborhood watch program – if yours does, get involved. If it doesn’t, perhaps suggest it to your apartment manager.
The other major concern is, of course, fire. Be sure you are testing your smoke alarms regularly every month (a good way to do this is to test it on the same day you pay your rent). If your alarm is battery-operated, change the batteries every year. Also, keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Finally, have an escape plan and practice it – if there is a fire, smoke may obscure your vision, so be very familiar with your escape route.
Some dangers are not as obvious as fire, and some you may not even be aware of. Carbon monoxide, for example, is an invisible threat to your safety. Be sure you have a carbon monoxide detector and check it frequently. Things like lead paint, mold, and asbestos can also be very dangerous – being aware and knowing what to look for can prevent serious health issues later on.
Natural disasters can occur just about anywhere. Coastal states such as Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and South Carolina could experience a hurricane. California is known for its earthquakes, but other areas are vulnerable, as well. And tornadoes may bring to mind Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa, but tornadoes can happen in any state. The safest place to be is in an interior room on the ground floor. If you can’t make it to the ground floor in time, the stairwell is also a good location. If that is too crowded or can’t be reached, stay in the outer hallway, away from windows.
Take some time to consider your safety – even if you never use your escape route, you’ll feel better knowing you have one. And just in case you do have to use it one day, knowing what to do will make a huge difference in how you respond to an emergency.