Your home is your castle…your safe place. While it is difficult to imagine anything bad happening in your cozy nest, you are more likely to be injured at home than anywhere else. According to the National Safety Council, an estimated 245 people a day die of unintentional injuries in the United States. And while most of these deaths occur as the result of motor vehicle crashes, other leading causes of accidental death include poisonings, falls, choking, drowning, and fire.
So, what can you do to keep your home safe for your family as well as yourself?
First, make sure your home has working smoke detectors. If you don’t already have them, submit a request to property management for them to be installed. You may want to inquire about carbon monoxide detectors, too. Place these detectors near where you sleep so you are alerted if there is a presence of smoke or carbon monoxide. Check the batteries regularly and replace smoke alarms every ten years (or according to manufacturer’s instructions).
Keep all hazardous solutions, including medications, household cleaners and chemicals, in upper cabinets and out of your children’s reach. Things that could be dangerous may seem innocent enough – vitamins, lotions, perfume, mouthwash, topical anesthetics, air fragrance, spray cleaners, dish soap, detergents, furniture polish, moth balls, fingernail polish remover, and paint all pose a hazard to children. If these items must be kept in a floor-level cabinet, install a child safety lock on all doors.
When working in a yard or green space, be careful and observant of poisonous plants such as poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac. The itchy rash may not seem like a big deal, but reactions can become severe. Burning these plants can also pose a risk to your health, especially if it enters the lungs. The body should be covered when doing yard work; wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves and boots for protection. And when you come inside, don’t just toss those items in with regular laundry – wash separately in hot water.
It isn’t just the elderly that have to worry about falls. According to the CDC, nearly 8 million people every year are injured by falls, and for people ages 25 to 54, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries. To prevent falls, make sure carpets are tacked down properly to prevent tripping. Use non-slip mats or decals in the shower, place a non-slip mat outside the shower where you step, and consider installing a grab bar. Pets can also cause falls – they tend to get underfoot and choose odd places to sleep – often in the middle of the floor or on the top of the staircase. Look where you step if you have a pet; this too applies to renters with children. Toys and other clutter can also cause you or someone else to fall, so have a basket or bin nearby and scoop up the toys when play time is over.
Prevent choking by taking precautions when eating bony fish, hot dogs, nuts, grapes, popcorn and anything else that could get lodged in the throat. Keep small items that could be swallowed away from small children, and consider learning the Heimlich maneuver. When eating, take small bites and chew food completely. Don’t rush eating either because you could choke. Avoid giving hard foods such as popcorn, candy, and nuts to children under the age of five; these can be considered a choking hazard.
Nearly 1,000 kids tragically die every year by drowning, and most of these occur in backyard swimming pools. According to the CDC, drowning is the seventh leading cause of death for children between one and 14 years old. Don’t leave young children alone near water – that includes wading pools, ponds, bathtubs, swimming pools and hot tubs. Young children can drown in less than two inches of water, so they need to be watched around buckets of water, sinks, toilets, fountains, drainage ditches and puddles. Remove pool toys, floats and other objects from the pool so they don’t attract young children. Even if your child knows how to swim, don’t assume he is safe – always supervise children when playing in the water. This is a golden rule at apartment community pools, so please follow them. Many skilled swimmers can drown if they swim too far out, get cramps or panic.
Since it only takes minutes for a drowning to occur, take preventative measures: install a fence, lock the gate, get a pool cover and alarm, and don’t ever swim alone or allow a child to swim unsupervised. Make your family follow the pool rules to ensure a safe and fun day of swimming. On lakes and in the ocean, rafts can be carried away by a strong current, so be careful not to stray too far from shore, and remember to always wear a life vest when out in the water.
According to the US Fire Administration, 3,500 Americans die in fires every year and another 18,300 are injured – and an overwhelming number of those deaths are caused by house fires. Make sure you have a properly working smoke alarm throughout the apartment and test it monthly in addition to replacing the batteries every year. Use a space heater during the winter months? Keep blankets and anything combustible at least three feet away from it. Chimneys should be swept regularly to prevent creosote buildup. Prevent electrical fires by making sure you don’t overload circuits or extension cords, and don’t place cords and wires under rags or over nails. When not using appliances, unplug them. If you have young kids in the apartment, use safety caps on exposed outlets. Locate the fire extinguisher in your apartment and learn to use it. Plan an escape route in case of an emergency and practice with your family.
If you keep a gun in the home, make sure it is unloaded. Keep gun and ammo in locked, safe locations separate from each other so kids can’t gain access to them. Keep the keys out of reach of children. Talk to your children about gun safety and what to do if they ever come into contact with a gun. They should stop what they are doing, never touch the gun, leave the area, and tell an adult immediately. It is very important to stress leaving the area to keep them from being harmed by someone else who doesn’t know how to handle a gun properly. Also, gun-cleaning supplies can be poisonous, so keep those out of reach of children, as well. Never leave a gun unattended — even for just a second.
The CDC found that of the 10 leading causes of death, unintentional injury ranked number one for everyone from age one to 44. But while the statistics are alarming, you can keep your home a safe place with just a few adjustments and some planning ahead.