10 Home Safety Mistakes to Stop Making Now
From taking the battery out of your smoke alarm to leaving detergent pods within your kids’ reach, chances are you’re guilty of one of these safety fails
Have you ever left the room “just for a minute” when a candle is burning? Ripped out the battery in a smoke detector that wouldn’t stop beeping? No one’s perfect. But common mistakes people make have caused countless accidents and injuries — tragedies and ER trips — that are entirely preventable.
Home safety experts want us to change our ways. Here are some of the most important do’s and don’ts from the experts that will help keep you — and your family — out of trouble.
Mistake 1: Failing to prep for emergency
Many people don’t make an emergency plan or kit, says Tim Reinhold, senior vice-president of research and chief engineer for the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. “By definition, an emergency may pop up without much warning,” he says. You can enter your zip code at DisasterSafety.org to see what types of disasters are most likely to happen where you live.
Fix: Create an emergency plan with your family. And make an emergency kit that includes enough food and drinking water for several days, medicines, first aid supplies, batteries, flashlights and cash in case ATMs are down, Reinhold says. If you have a safe place in your home, stash the kit there rather than out in the garage, he says.
Mistake 2: Taking the batteries out of your smoke alarm
Have you ever yanked batteries out of a smoke alarm to try to stop the beeping? Big mistake. Working smoke alarms can cut your risk of dying in a fire by half, says Debra Holtzman, a national child safety and health expert and author of“The Safe Baby: a Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety and Healthy Living.”
Fix: Place smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. Test smoke alarms monthly and swap out batteries twice a year. “Smoke alarms will absolutely save your life,” Holtzman says. “They’re critical for safety.”
Mistake 3: Throwing knives in the sink
Over 1,000 people a day get cut badly enough by a knife to go to the ER, a study published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine shows. One mistake that can easily lead to getting sliced by a knife: tossing your knives into a sink full of sudsy water, says Amy Artuso, program manager at the National Safety Council.
Fix: Place your knives on the counter beside the sink until you’re ready to wash them, Artuso says. And use sharp knives for cutting, never dull ones.
Mistake 4: Keeping poisons within reach of kids
Be especially careful with “look-alike products” — dangerous items that resemble food, drinks, candy, a juice pouch or a toy, Holtzman says. One example: laundry detergent pods. “They’re squishy and bright-colored,” she says. “If you leave one out for even a second, young kids might see it, grab it and put it in their mouth.”
Fix: Keep hazardous stuff, including prescription and over-the-counter meds, household cleaners and “look-alike products,” locked up, high up, out of reach of kids. And consider using traditional laundry detergent instead of laundry pods if you have kids under 5, Holtzman recommends. Don’t forget to secure the antifreeze and other hazardous liquids in your garage, too.
Mistake 5: Being lax about checking recalls
You need to know right away if salmonella lurks in your ice cream or if a piece could pop off a toy and make your child choke. So don’t count on your Facebook friends or the TV news for product recall information. You might not learn about every recall — or you might get word too late, Holtzman says.
Fix: Go to Recalls.gov and click on the “sign up for emails” button. It’ll take you just a few seconds to enter your email address to get recall alerts, and you can choose which ones you want to get. Each alert will have instructions on what to do. Also, if you have a safety problem with a product or want to check for incident reports, go to SaferProducts.gov. “You need to keep up to date,” Holtzman insists. “It’s just so easy.”
Mistake 6: Marinating meat on the counter
It’s easy to throw some marinade on chicken breasts, fish or shrimp and leave it sitting out on the counter while you slice and dice the veggies for the meal. But that’s a big food safety no-no, Artuso says. According to FoodSafety.gov, dangerous germs can grow very quickly at room temperature.
Fix: Always marinate meat and seafood in the fridge, taking it out when you’re ready to cook. And make sure you know how to thaw meat safely.
Mistake 7: Failing to secure topple-prone appliances
One child dies every two weeks from a piece of furniture or a TV falling on top of them, Holtzman says. These deaths, and injuries, are easy to prevent.
Fix: Secure TVs, appliances, bookcases, dressers, ranges, refrigerators, fish tanks and other heavy items using anchors, braces, brackets or wall straps, Holtzman says. Carefully follow the manufacturer instructions on how to secure each item.
Mistake 8: Leaving windows wide open if you have kids
Each year, falls from windows send more than 3,000 kids to the hospital, according to nonprofit group Safe Kids Worldwide. Most people don’t know little ones can fall out of a window open just over four inches — and screens offer zero protection, Holtzman says.
Fix: Install window guards on all windows and use quick-release mechanisms on any window you might need to use as a fire exit. A cheaper option: Use window stops to prevent windows from opening more than four inches. And call your local fire department to check your area's building and fire codes to be sure you comply, she adds.
Mistake 9: Leaving your tot alone in the tub
Every week, a child dies by drowning in a bath tub, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. But only 1 percent of parents say they’re worried about drowning, and one in eight parents has left a young child alone in the tub for five minutes or more, according to one report.
Fix: Before turning on the tap, grab everything you need to give your child a bath, including soap, shampoo and towels, Artuso recommends. “Give your child your undivided attention.” Same goes if your child is in the blow-up pool in the backyard.
Mistake 10: Leaving a burning candle unattended
Fires started by candles cause over 100 deaths and 900 injuries a year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). So don’t ever leave a burning candle unattended, Artuso says.
Fix: Keep a close eye on a lit candle and blow the flame out before you leave the room, go out or fall asleep. And keep candles at least a foot away from bedding, drapes, upholstered furniture or anything else that can burn, the NFPA recommends. Or, consider using flameless candles. They’re just as pretty and less risky.