Home Safety Checklist: What to Do When
Do you know when to change those smoke alarm batteries or test that CO detector?
Making sure your home is safe for your family is likely high on your priority list. And checking items off lists can be oh so satisfying. Follow this checklist to make sure you’re not forgetting any important home safety tasks throughout the year, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re covered.
Once a month
- Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to do this. Also, visit the National Fire Protection Association for tips on installing and using smoke detectors.
- Stock your first-aid kit and your emergency preparedness kit. The American Red Cross recommends supplies for first-aid kits, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips on how to create an emergency preparedness kit.
- Clean near heating and cooling vents. “Vacuum, dust and clean around them. Make sure furniture is not blocking the vents,” says Amy Artuso, program manager and home and community safety expert for the National Safety Council. She also suggests changing filters for air conditioning systems monthly.
Twice a year
- Change batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when you change your clocks. “Even if the batteries aren’t all used up yet, change them anyway,” says Artuso. Give yourself peace of mind knowing you have fresh batteries where they count the most. “Put the old ones in a toy or remote control and let them run out there,” she advises.
- Check your fire extinguisher for dents, cracks or corrosion around the seal on the neck. Replace an extinguisher that has any sign of damage, says Nick Gromicko, founder of International Association of Certified Home Inspectors Inc. “It's too critical of a tool. I would replace it for any reason possible. Sure it might work, but a dent means it was dropped and that could mean the trigger mechanism is damaged.” Check the label and the manufacturer’s info for expiration dates and recommendations for replacement.
- Practice your family escape plan. Just like a school fire drill, hold a drill at home to practice escaping due to a fire or other threat, including natural disasters. Everyone should know how to leave the house and where to meet. Practice the plan once a year, but review it more often. The National Safety Council offers a family fire escape plan with a grid you can personalize.
- Check your meds. “If you have young children, make sure all medications are up and away and out of sight,” says Artuso. Throw away any prescription medications you no longer use. Follow these guidelines for disposing of medications safely. The Food and Drug Administration recommends tossing expired meds, but other experts and organizations say some drugs can be kept past their expiration date. Check with your pharmacist for guidance.
- Check safety latches and locks around the house. Do they work? Is it time to install new latches in places toddlers can now reach? Consider adding this task to your spring cleaning to-do list, suggests Jamie Schaefer-Wilson, executive director of The Safety Institute and author of “The Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing and Safety.”
- Make sure cleaning supplies are safely stored. “Never put them in containers that aren’t labeled,” Schaefer-Wilson says. “Keep them in original containers and keep them out of children’s reach.”
- Check your radiators before cold weather hits. “Be sure you take off anything that’s sitting on top of the radiators. That’s a fire hazard,” says Artuso.
- Have your chimney and furnace inspected and cleaned.
- Check the clothes dryer vents for lint build-up at least once a year to prevent fires.
- Inspect wires around your home, including appliance wires. Are they frayed or worn out? If so, they’re a fire hazard. Replace appliances with worn-out or frayed wires or have them repaired by someone who is qualified, Gromicko advises. Don't try to repair with electrical tape.
- Review your circuit breakers. Are they properly labeled? “Make sure that people know how to shut them off in the event of an emergency,” says Artuso. She encourages parents to teach their children how to do that too, once they are old enough to handle that information.
- Check your extension cord and surge protector situation. Are you using too many extension cords? Are your surge protectors overloaded? If so, consider more evenly distributing your electric devices or decide which ones don’t need to be plugged in all the time.
- Make sure outdoor lights work. Check to make sure the lights at home entry points, over the garage and in motion detectors aren’t burned out.
- Remove tree limbs hanging on electrical wires or over your roof. Consider hiring a tree-trimming service for limbs bumping against your roof, but call the local electric company for any trees resting on wires.
Every 5 years
- Replace CO detectors every five years or as soon as you notice they’re not working correctly, says Artuso.
Every 10 years
- Replace smoke alarms.