7 essential home safety tips

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21 Jun 2013

The reality is that accidents do happen, which is why it's important that homeowners are prepared for any emergency situation should it arise.

Ensure that your home alarm systems and fire alarms are in working order and test them regularly.

“As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’, and when it comes to the safety and security of a home and more importantly those living under its roof – it’s vital,” says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

There are a few safety and security pointers homeowners should consider:

1. Have a plan

Goslett says the first step is to mentally map out the rooms in the house and check each one for any potential hazards or areas that could cause accidents. Once any potentially dangerous areas have been checked and rectified, it's important to set out an emergency plan of action with the family, so that everyone knows what to do and is prepared in an emergency situation.

2. Check inside and outside

Once the inside of the house has been checked, look at the garden and surrounding areas of the home. Ensure that swimming pools have safety coverings or perimeter fencing and any garden tools or flammable liquid is sealed and stored away in a locked garden shed or garage.

According to Goslett, packing away garden tools and items such as ladders is important to ensure they can’t be used to break into the home, as these items often make it an easier target. He notes that palisade style fencing is a good option for home protection as it makes intruders visible to people walking by. It is also good to keep entry areas clear of foliage which can provide hiding places for burglars.

3. Test alarms and other equipment

Strategically placed and easily accessible fire extinguishers can help prevent or reduce the danger of a fire reaching an uncontrollable point.

A security alarm system or smoke alarms are only worthwhile if they are in good working order, so it is important that they are checked regularly, Goslett says. It is no use having a remote panic button if the batteries are flat or a smoke alarm that doesn’t trigger during a fire. Ensuring that these elements are in working order is vital to the safety of the home and its occupants and they should be checked and tested regularly.

Goslett notes that most security systems will have a list of system check instructions printed on the keypad/system or in the manual. “Alternatively the homeowner can contact their contracted security company and ask them for instructions on how to test their security system,” he says.

4. Equip home with fire extinguishers and a first-aid kit

A small spark can lead to devastating affects if it results in a fire, which is why it is important for homeowners to keep fire extinguishers handy. Strategically placed and easily accessible fire extinguishers can help prevent or reduce the danger of a fire reaching an uncontrollable point. Goslett says each family member should be aware of its location and how to use it.

Another essential item for safety is a first-aid kit. It can be useful for treating minor injuries or a life or death situation. Other than the essential requirements, the first aid kit should include information on CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver and emergency telephone numbers. A list of emergency telephone numbers should also be kept near the phone or in a central place like on the kitchen fridge.

The contents of a first aid kit as specified by Netcare 911 should include 4 packs of sterile gauze, adhesive, hypoallergenic tape, bandages in several sizes, 2 triangular elastic bandages, 2 crepe roller bandages, 1 large and 1 small, 2 large and 2 small sterile dressings and sterile eye dressings. It should also have eye pads with bandages, a pack of cotton wool swabs, plasters, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic cream and a pack of paracetamol tablets, including liquid paracetamol.

Turn off or unplug unused electrical items to avoid overloading power points and fuse boxes and baby and pet proof all electrical outlets to prevent accidents.

Rehydration sachets are essential, as well as extra prescription medication, tweezers, scissors, safety pins, a face cloth, a thermometer, 2 pairs of gloves and a torch and spare batteries. A space blanket (foil blanket) is also always a good idea for any emergency kit.

5. Check electrical points

Where possible, turn off or unplug unused electrical items to avoid overloading power points and fuse boxes. Goslett says it is worthwhile to have electrical faults seen to as soon as possible by a professional, as problems such as faulty lights or plugs could be a potential fire risk.

“For homeowners with small children, baby proofing electrical outlets is vital,” he says. Pets should be protected from electrical hazards around the household, especially young animals that are curious and inclined to chew exposed wires.

6. Make friends with a neighbour

Having a trusted neighbour as a friend can help ensure the safety and security of the property and those who live there because they can act as a second pair of eyes, especially when the homeowner is away on holiday. Neighbours can check on the property, turn on lights, feed pets and collect post and can also provide assistance should any emergency situation arise. 

7. Educate children about safety

Goslett says it's important for homeowners to teach their children how to use the telephone and show them where the list of emergency numbers is kept. “Children will need to understand which emergency number pertains to which situation - a brief explanation of what each number is used for could be vital in a crisis,” he says.

Children and adults should know that in order for emergency services to provide assistance in the shortest time possible, details like the physical address (which children should learn off by heart) as well as the name of the nearest cross road to the property and a brief summary of the situation will need to be given.

Goslett says that although there is no foolproof method of guaranteeing the safety of a home’s occupants, taking the necessary steps to prepare will ensure that they are ready to successfully negotiate any situation.

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